Accellion enhances file transfer box

Accellion has added new features to the software for its Courier File Transfer Appliance.

A file transfer appliance that was designed as a better alternative to FTP (file transfer protocol) servers is effectively being retrofitted with one feature of FTP in new software for the device.

In the Version 4.5 software for its Courier File Transfer Appliance (FTA), Accellion is adding a shared "File Cabinet" where multiple users in an organization can access files stored for transfer at different times, said Yorgen Edholm, president and chief executive officer of Accellion. The company left that function out of its software at first because on FTP servers it tends to cause security and file-management headaches, he said.

The Courier FTA is a purpose-built device for exchanging files that are too large for e-mail systems. Rather than sending the content via e-mail or putting it on an FTP server, a user can store it on the Courier FTA and send a smaller e-mail message that contains a URL (uniform resource locator) for the file to be shared. After clicking on the link, the recipient can download the content over the Internet, Edholm said. The system offers SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) and SSH (Secure Shell) methods of encryption.

FTP servers, though inexpensive, often are time-consuming to manage, Edholm said. Among other things, files left on them usually pile up unless removed manually, he said. With the File Cabinet feature on the Courier FTA, stored files can be set to expire and access can be limited to certain users.

The shared File Cabinet feature is likely to be a time-saver at Critt Graham and Associates, a graphic design company in Atlanta, according to systems administrator Jon Wyche. Some files need to be sent frequently by different employees, and right now each employee has to upload a copy of the file to the Courier FTA. Critt Graham, which designs many corporate annual reports, adopted the appliance last year after having e-mail attachments blocked by clients' spam filters and seeing files corrupted on its internal FTP server, Wyche said. The Courier FTA's encryption also helps ease clients' minds about security, he said.

Accellion has also redesigned the user interface to integrate several elements that previously appeared in separate pop-up windows. From a single screen, users can now compose an e-mail message, attach files and view a progress bar for the uploading of files to the Courier FTA.

The company offers an important capability that will only become more critical as more enterprises start using their data networks to make VOIP (voice over Internet Protocol) calls -- and send large digital voicemail files, said Michael Osterman, a messaging analyst at Osterman Research Inc., in Black Diamond, Washington. However, Accellion may not be alone for long: It's the sort of thing that a bigger player such as Microsoft Corp. or IBM Corp. is likely to delve into, he said.

The new software version is available immediately. Accellion sells the Linux-based Courier FTA worldwide through both direct sales and channels. It comes in four sizes, ranging from a model for as many as 50 users to one designed for 5,000 users. The appliances also can be clustered. Including installation, prices typically range from about US$5,000 to US$50,000, Edholm said.

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