The End of Email Attachments
The Cloud is Changing the Internet's Biggest Communication Medium
Like an errant asteroid, cloud storage is colliding with email attachments. The collision will wipe out the dinosaur of email attachments (though true that few tears will be shed). However, much like natural theory, where the dinosaur survives but in the form of birds, email attachments will continue in a new form, adapting to the new cloud storage paradigm and evolving into a more capable species.
Portents of the most significant change in the Internet’s most common file transfer technology are already in the sky. Here at mxHero we have been pointing to them at every opportunity. New Gmail users are immediately greeted with a suggestion to use Google’s Drive cloud storage when they first send or receive an attachment. Last year Apple’s Yosemite OS X release included a feature in the Mail email client that automatically delivers large attachments as cloud storage links. Microsoft has baked-in its cloud storage, OneDrive, into the latest revision of its immensely popular email client, Outlook.
However, a more profound transformation is underway. Faster than many suspect, the delivery of files as objects carried as “payload” in email will be completely supplanted by links to files stored somewhere else in the cloud. What today is generally an option to send an attachment as a cloud storage link, will be replaced by non-optional, automatic delivery of files as cloud storage links - much like Apple Mail does now for large files, but with every file added to a message.
The driving catalyst for this transformation is the rapid proliferation of cloud storage. Modern cloud storage provides the ubiquitously accessible platform for the delivery of data that is needed to match email’s own ubiquitous footprint. In other words, cloud storage links serve as a near perfect drop in replacement for traditional email file attachments, allowing easy access to files in messages received, forwarded or copied. In fact, after years of usage here at mxHero, files sent through email as cloud storage links are better than perfect substitutes of traditional attachments.
The sending of files as cloud storage links as opposed to traditional attachments has many obvious and a few not so obvious repercussions. These repercussions range from simple convenience to the disruption of entire industries and altering the fundamental power dynamics of how information is exchanged across the Internet.
"...disruption of entire industries and altering the fundamental power dynamics of how information is exchanged across the Internet."
Sending files as links in email provides several important conveniences. One convenience is the ability to share files larger than 10 megabytes in size - the commonly accepted maximum email size. Related advantages include the reduction in network and email storage required when files are no longer sent with and stored as part of the message - consuming resources equally for every recipient copied whether they read the message or not. In addition, because links to attachments rather than the attachments themselves are delivered, the ability to track file delivery becomes part and parcel of the email experience since recipients must click on links. Tracking delivery, which beyond obvious user benefits, gains importance in the context of regulated industries that require confirmation of document access.
The shift from standard email attachments to cloud storage links embedded in email will disrupt industries that have grown around the traditional attachment model. For example, many organizations required to adhere to regulations like HIPAA, GLBA etc., have had to adopt special software in place of their email to ensure appropriate delivery of files. This has given rise to a plethora of client portal solutions that help satisfy regulation in part by delivering files as links. As email natively incorporates file links to cloud storage, client portals will be displaced.
However, perhaps the greatest repercussion in moving from delivering files embedded in email towards delivering files as cloud storage links is the power shift from the recipient to the sender. In the traditional model, once a file is sent via email, the sender no longer has control of the file. The recipient receives an independent copy completely free from the sender. When files are delivered as cloud storage links, the opposite is true. The sender is in full control of file delivery even after the email is sent since only a link is sent to the recipient, a link to a file that the sender owns and controls. Here forward, the sender is in the “driver’s seat”. Senders will be able to time expire attachment access, require authentication, limit the recipient to “view only” without download, restrict the number of downloads, reveal and record delivery to mention only a few capabilities. Each capability spawning new possibilities and forcing incumbent companies in markets like email tracking, archiving, security and compliance scrambling to adapt.
The new file attachment paradigm greatly mitigates one of email’s most persistent and serious vulnerabilities, namely, that of the email repository. We should remember WikiLeaks or more recently Sony, where years of email communications exposed not only message content but their unprotected file attachments. If the attachments had been self-expiring or authenticated cloud storage links, history may have been considerably different.
So as natural history continues to be influenced by the errant asteroid, so are technologies subject to continual upheaval and email is no exception. However, each impact leaves the survivors stronger than the perished. After more than 40 years of near stagnation, venerable and tired email is undergoing some much overdue evolution.
mxHero is a leading developer of email to cloud storage technology. mxHero’s products and services gives companies, service providers and end users powerful new ways to control, use and analyze email. Apps developed for mxHero’s platform work with any email management program, including Gmail and Microsoft Exchange. Information on all of their Mail2Cloud product line can be found at http://www.mail2cloud.io. More than 3,700 companies with 1,000,000 users have added mxHero to their email. To learn more about mxHero visit http://www.mxhero.com. Find mxHero on Twitter: @mxheronet and Facebook: mxHero.netSTART YOUR FREE MAIL2CLOUD TRIAL TODAY!