You've just written up a lengthy contract and need to show it to a far-flung group of clients ASAP. Or maybe it's a complex business proposal you've prepared--with complicated spreadsheets, a set of PowerPoint slides and maybe even a narration you've recorded on your computer's hard drive. You could send paper copies or computer disks by overnight mail, but there's no time. Faxing the papers would be faster, but your slides would arrive only in black and white. Oh, you say, just send the materials via regular e-mail. Alas, beyond a couple of megabytes in size, large files often fail to traverse the Internet intact. And e-mail delivery is neither guaranteed nor traceable.
One solution: Use one of the Web's new document delivery services. They're specifically designed to transfer large digital files--up to a full gigabyte--with complete, intact and secure delivery guaranteed. By employing their own powerful servers as relay stations, these services get around the limits that many ISPs and corporations impose on the size of e-mails they'll handle. And like their physical counterparts, such as FedEx and UPS, they provide notification when your intended recipients open the files you send them.
Among the companies offering these courier services: The docSpace Company Inc. (http://www.docspace.com), Tumbleweed Software Corp. (http://www.tumbleweed.com) and e-Parcel LLC (http://www.e-parcel.com). Each has its own pricing, technical features and distribution strategy. Tumbleweed is available through UPS (http://www.exchange.ups.com), for instance, while Compaq Computer (http://www.compaq.com) is a main distributor of e-Parcel's service.
To send a file containing 100MB--a typical size for a large, digitized color photograph--e-Parcel charges $5. After registering for the service, you and your intended recipient install the company's software. Then you use that program to transfer the photo from your computer to e-Parcel's server. Because this process runs in the background, so to speak, you can continue to use other programs. The data will be forwarded to your recipient automatically when the file arrives at e-Parcel, with no need to visit a Web site for retrieval.
And there's more. For 25 cents each, e-Parcel can copyright files to help prevent unauthorized copying. And for extra safety, the firm even offers a digital shredder for disposing of unwanted files.
John W. Verity reported and edited for 10 years at Electronic News, Datamation and Business Week. Since 1997, he has been freelancing from his Brooklyn, New York, home.