GCN Lab Review

Appliance improves transfers of large files

But price tag puts it out of reach of many smaller customers

Transferring files in government agencies has become increasingly difficult. E-mail is an easy option, but it’s also an easy way to spread viruses and malware. And it’s a lot less secure than other methods.

Meanwhile, the files are getting bigger. A fairly average PowerPoint presentation file runs 5M or more. Multiply that by 1,000 users with in boxes filled with messages, some with file attachments, and you’ve got enough to swamp some e-mail systems.

The Defense Department last year banned removable drives and thumb drives, and although DOD is considering ways to allow their use, that file transfer option is still out for many.

So how do you transfer large files in a secure environment?

The Accellion secure file transfer appliance may be one solution for your agency. The rack-mounted appliance comes with software that lets you manage and transfer files securely. It has received the Federal Information Processing Standard 140-2 Level 2 certification from the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The Accellion product will likely interest two different types of customers: people who are tired of managing their FTP server and could seek out Accellion primarily as an easier way to transfer files, and people who need to reduce the file load on their e-mail systems.

The Accellion product also has three user types:

  1. Standard users, who have a license and have to follow settings prescribed by the account administrator.
  2. Restricted senders, who need to create a file and distribute it to your organization.
  3. Expert users, who are typically within the organization. They can specify how long a file will be available and other security options.

The appliance can easily handle files of up to 20G, and some users have reported success with files as large as 40G.

Although Accellion is not an e-mail system, it offers a plug-in to Microsoft Outlook as well as a Lotus Notes plug-in. Most users access the system through its Web interface at www.accellion.com.

Users can access up to 20 appliance locations. The system can determine which appliance should upload the document when the user logs in.

Accellion also walks through the setup with each customer to show them how the device works.

The account administrator has to set up your account with your e-mail ID and settings. For example, you might be able to upload files only or download files only, or both.

Once you type your e-mail and password into the Web site, Accellion takes you to the send file page, where you can send files and whole folders. It has a familiar e-mail look to it, with a subject line, “to” and “cc” lines and a space for your message and signature.

Accellion takes files from your computer, and uploads it over Secure Sockets Layer to the Accellion appliance. Accellion will then send you a note in your regular e-mail when the file you sent was delivered, opened or downloaded, with the date, time and IP address.

Security and bandwidth are on almost everyone’s minds these days, but so are budget constraints. At a $24,500 subscription price for the appliance and a per-user license fee usually in the $20 to $50 range, Accellion might be out of reach for many operations. But if secure file transfers ar a priority and you think your agency’s budget can handle it, Accellion is definitely worth looking into.

Accellion, 650-739-0095, www.accellion.com

Box score:

Performance: A

Features: A

Ease of use: B+

Value: B

Price: $24,500 subscription price for the appliance and a per-user license subscription that varies, but is usually in the $20 to $50 range.

Pros: Lets you transfer big files securely, cuts down on bandwidth-hogging files clogging your e-mail inbox.

Cons: Hefty price tag means it’s geared toward larger organizations and out of reach for many smaller customers.

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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