Friday, December 12, 2008

Files On The Go

QUESTION: How do I electronically send large files to and from recording / mastering studios?
ANSWER:

The quick answer is that we prefer to use our own ftp (file transfer protocol) server and provide temporary user accounts to clients who need access. The drawback to this approach is that not everyone is familiar with using ftp and some handholding (explaining ftp client software, dealing with settings & addresses, assigning username / password) is required on the client side and some IT administrative effort is required on the studio side.

As an alternative, there is a myriad of file transfer services online. A quick search for the top online file storage / transfer services yielded over 50 services with the ability to deal with file sizes ranging from 50 MB to 2 GB and having a "file life" of 7 days to unlimited time before the files get wiped. Based on our direct experience with clients, we have been requested to use swapdrive, ibackup and yousendit in the past. Fred Kevorkian, who has a mastering room at Avatar, has been using our FTP server extensively for most of his work. Once in a while he receives a request to use iDisk (service offered by Apple) or yousendit. Having looked through some user forums, other services mentioned includes megaupload and DigiDelivery. By no means is this an endorsement of these services. Consider them just a sampling of what is used out there.

It is surprising that we have not seen a dominant industrial strength online file transfer service in the audio industry. The most often talked about service was DigiDelivery. Introduced in August 2002 by Rocket Network and Digidesign, DigiDelivery was an easy to use secure digital asset transfer service. The service requires the sender, recipient or third party in the data chain to have a network appliance to facilitate the transfer. Rocket Network was later acquired by Avid (parent company of Digidesign). In the last few years, we have used DigiDelivery maybe once or twice so we cannot honestly provide any comments. In September 2007, Avid sold DigiDelivery to Aspera, who now maintains the service today. I am sure there are other services out there used by the film and post industries. We just have not come in direct contact with them.

Whichever service you use, security is the most important consideration. There is no way to be 100% sure, but you should talk to the service provider to see what precautions they are taking to insure that files cannot be accessed by unauthorized users including the administrators. Being diligent about wiping the files once you have confirmed that the recipient got the files is also very important.

If any readers know of services that they like or use often, please let us know. We're open to evaluating services that will make our clients' lives (and ours as well) easier. Until then, I think we'll stick with ftp. For large volumes of data, shipping drives is still the proven method, even if it is so 20th Century.

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