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IFX Group


Truth About Email Attachments

It is a fact, there is no provision in the SMTP (Simple Mail Transport Protocol) standards for attaching a binary file to an Internet email message. The trick used by email clients is called MIME encoding. This is simply a method of turning a binary file into text so it can travel through the text-based Simple Mail Transport Protocol (SMTP) servers. The process of turning binary information into text causes it to grow in size which uses more bandwidth to send your message and more space to store it on the receiving end. This is a bad idea.

There are already plenty of protocols available for sending binary files in their original format from one place on the Internet to another. The File Transfer Protocol (FTP) and even Hypertext Transport Protocol (HTTP) are both well suited for sending binary files. The real problem is communicating this to users that only understand the little paper clip icon in their email program when trying to send those 50 Megabyte baby pictures to the whole family.

The best solution we have found to date that allows users with lower than average technical ability to avoid email attachments is a service called Virtual Drives. These are web sites that allow users to create and maintain personal storage space. The space available for free normally ranges from 5 to 100 Megabytes. Advertising banners often help fund the operation so please click some of them if you want to keep these free services online.

Since we operate our own full time servers, we have not had a need for this services and can not comment on the quality or reliability of any individual provider. We strongly suggest trying several Virtual Drive providers before offering endorsements to your customers.

If you are an ISP, please consider offering space on your FTP or web server for your customers. Teach them how to place files on their web or FTP server and how to send a link to that file through email. This helps in at least two ways. The most noticeable to you will be a lower load on your mail server because the emails will be a smaller size. The second is that email will take up less space on the Internet and less space in the receiving mailbox. Both are very good things.

First published 2007-01-31. The last major review or update of this information was on 2008-08-18. Your feedback using the form below helps us correct errors and omissions on this page.