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.
Big Blue Thinks Small
IBM aims a host of products right at you.
I f there's any company innately associated with big business, surely it's IBM. But now Big Blue is making a big effort to reach the vast small-business market. Building on its legacy as the leading supplier of computers for small companies, IBM is spending $100 million on marketing its new Web-based services designed to help those firms make the most of e-commerce.
These services are all part of the IBM Small Business Program, available via the company's Web site (http://www.ibm.com/smallbusiness). Some are supplied by IBM itself, others by a growing list of partners. Use the company's Home Page Creator service, and within days you can be processing credit-card orders on a new, customized Web site that costs between $24.95 and $200 per month. And say you want to know how the security of your firm's site stacks up against others'. As part of the service, IBM can send a team of "ethical" computer hackers to test your site's security provisions. Pass and you'll be entitled to IBM's seal of approval, which could make visitors feel more confident in ordering from you online. There's also help available for preparing and distributing your press releases.
Some of the services are purely technical. IBM offers a data-vaulting service for PC-based firms. For just $9.95 a month, you can store the entire contents of your desktop or laptop PC's hard drive on remote IBM-run computers. Then, if trouble strikes--a laptop gets stolen, for instance--all your data is available via the Web.