Viewpoint: No eMail left behind

Cary offers myriad ways for campus IT leaders to protect student information.

Colleges and universities have come to rely on electronic communication as a way to quickly collaborate, exchange ideas, and share data. For the more than 10,000 students, faculty, and staff at Pepperdine University, sharing information digitally–often in the form of large documents, media files, or data files–is a key function of the learning process and critical to our institution’s success.

For example, faculty at Pepperdine frequently collaborate with faculty at other institutions, sharing large data sets and running analysis on that data.  From the student perspective, instruction at Pepperdine University is highly collaborative and team oriented; many student projects involve collaborating on large media files.

Exchanging files in student work groups is particularly challenging for the almost 4,000 fully-employed students in the graduate schools, who often have no chance to meet in person until class time.

University departments, such as campus planning, communications, and human resources, often have to transfer large files. The files for campus planning and communications are typically very large images for architecture, print, or video media.

The files transferred by human resources or the academic administration frequently contain data that is legally required to be encrypted in transmission, and yet the partner company or government agency receiving the file must be able to easily decrypt the file on receipt.

eMail, being easy to use and familiar to most people, is often the obvious choice for sharing files. However, the increasing size and volume of information being shared is taking its toll on eMail network bandwidth, driving up storage costs and slowing servers. The typical response is to institute file size limits for attachments.

This means that many files are too large to be practically transmitted as normal attachments, yet the standard enterprise alternatives to eMail are often arcane and just as insecure.

As a result of impractical attachment size limits, users will turn to other creative ways to share large digital files. For many, Instant Messaging, P2P, and USB sticks have become default file transfer methods.