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YouSendIt provides useful, secure transfer service

YouSendIt's approach to transferring files

Security Strategies Alert By M. E. Kabay, Network World
July 24, 2007 12:05 AM ET
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In my work as program director of the MSIA at Norwich University, I frequently have to receive large files from course developers and reviewers and to send them to the instructional designers responsible for putting the materials into our teaching platform.

Typically the compressed files take several hundred megabytes for a course - far too much to upload to my university Web site because our VPN has a limit of 50MB per upload. It is possible to break WinZIP files into pieces automatically and reconstitute the pieces into a single archive, but I have no way to upload all of them in a single operation through our VPN, so that process becomes a nuisance. I have no access to an FTP site, so until recently, we’ve been sending CD-ROMs through the mail or, if it’s a rush job, via courier. Those methods are slow and expensive.

Recently I received a 100MB file from an undergraduate student for a class lecture. Akhan Almagambetov was away in Europe at the Combined Endeavor military communications exercise and sent me an excellent narrated presentation that everyone enjoyed. His link was via a site I had not heard of, YouSendIt.com. The site offers a range of options for uploading files and having them available for download by selected recipients.

The free service (“Lite”) limits files to 100MB, restricts their stay on the server to seven days, keeps the download limit to 1GB total in any 30 days, and limits downloads to a maximum of 100 per file.

I signed up for the “Plus” plan at $4.99 a month; it raises the maximum file size to 2GB, extends their stay on the server to 14 days, ups the download limit to 40GB total in any 30 days, and allows up to 200 downloads per file (you can always upload the file with two different names, I guess).

“Business” and “Business Plus” plans at $19.99 and $29.99 per month, respectively, offer correspondingly greater maximum download limits (80GB or 200GB) and removes the limit on the number of downloads per file.

Subscribers to the free account receive a unique URL per uploaded file and can track who downloads each file. The “Plus” account also removes ads from the download dialogues. The “Business” account allows inclusion of a company logo or brand and speeds up response to technical support queries to two (!) days. A “Business Plus” account adds a secure dropbox where other users can leave uploaded files for you to retrieve.

Even with my relatively inexpensive “Plus” account, I can upload an encrypted file, provided my recipient has the appropriate software for decryption. If I wish to add password authentication to restrict access to the uploaded file, that costs $2.99 per file. It’s also possible to require login by recipients before they can download a file; this “Authenticated Delivery with Tracking” costs $2.99 per file. Finally, removing the limitation on the number of downloads during its 14-day life on the server costs $5.99 per file.

All in all, I think the service is so useful I simply paid for it myself without even asking my employer to reimburse me. I can use it not only for my university work but also for sending large groups of pictures to family and friends and for my consulting work. Used carefully, with due attention to security requirements, I think it’s neat!

M. E. Kabay, PhD, CISSP-ISSMP, specializes in security and operations management consulting services and teaching. He is Chief Technical Officer of Adaptive Cyber Security Instruments, Inc. and Associate Professor of Information Assurance in the School of Business and Management at Norwich University. Visit his Web site for white papers and course materials.

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