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Sending Files by Email: Why it's a Bad Idea

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Do you use your email as a filing cabinet? Email makes sending files around the world very simple. This convenience also makes it very tempting to send large files through email. Most email systems have size limits restricting the total file size of a single email.

Why the Limits?

It is not because your IT department wants to make your life miserable.

MIME encoding is used when sending binary attachments, this will cause the files to expand by 33%. So when you send a 20MB attachment, it actually requires almost 27MB plus the message body and headers.

If you send this attachments to 25 people, this single email (27MB x 25 = 675MB) requires a massive amount of data transfer. A regular CD holds 700MB. Let's assume 8 of those recipients work for the same small company. If they have a T1 internet line it will consume their entire bandwidth for almost 19 minutes. If they have a 10 meg fiber connection, it still hogs the line for almost 3 minutes. This single email can impact an entire companies productivity.

Stress on the Database

That same email must also be stored in the email database. Let's say the other 17 recipients are internal to your company (27MB x 17= 459MB). You just increased the database by half a gigabyte with a single email. This has a ripple effect as it increases the size of each mailbox and the time required to restore the database during an outage. 

What are the Other Options?

Luckily there are very easy (even free) alternatives to sending these massive files in an email. Services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, and One Drive offer public links to private files. You can upload the files to these services then retrieve the public link via various menu options. You can then email your recipients just the link. They will then be able to download the file without going through the email system. As a bonus, they will only download the file if they actually need it.



One Drive (Microsoft)


 Google Drive


If you have further questions, I would be happy to assist you. You can contact me at ethompson(AT)ali-inc(DOT)com.

Tagged in: Best Practices Email
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