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20 February 2012
FileSender success creates need for more implementations
The increasing use of FileSender means that implementations are needed at more locations

FileSender, a web-based application for sending large data files, has seen a significant increase in usage recently with usage quadrupling in the past six months . FileSender is running as a production-level service at AARNet (Australia), ARNES (Slovenia), Belnet (Belgium), FCCN (Portugal), HEAnet (Ireland), i2CAT (Spain), Srce (Croatia), UNINETT (Norway) and the TERENA Secretariat, with pilot implementations at other organisations. National Research and Education Networking organisations (NRENs) are encouraged to set up their own FileSender implementations, especially the NRENs from countries with a significant FileSender user base.

Since a stable version of the FileSender software was realeased in 2011, the use of the application has been increasing rapidly. “Most NRENs with a FileSender implementation offer it as a service only to their own constituency, that is, to users from their own national identity federation,” states Dick Visser (TERENA System & Network Engineer). “The federated set-up of the implementation at the TERENA Secretariat allows users from various identity federations to use the service. That explains why universities are contacting TERENA to promote FileSender to researchers, teachers and students in their institutions." The federations whose participants can use the FileSender implementation at the TERENA Secretariat currently include Kalmar2 (Nordic countries), SIR (Spain), UKfederation, IDEM (Italy), SURFfederatie (Netherlands), and eduGAIN.

FileSender is a direct and simple example of the benefits of identity federations. For instance, in the January 2012 issue of the Belnet Newsletter, a spokesman of the University of Hasselt explains that the use of FileSender was the first and very popular result of his university joining the Belnet R&E Federation. However, the growing success of FileSender could lead to problems due to, for example, lack of storage space. It is for this reason that TERENA encourages NRENs that do not yet run a FileSender implementation to set one up.

How it works

Researchers and teachers often want to exchange very large data files, for example, medical data, genome sequences or astronomic observations. It is not easy to send files of Gigabyte size: e-mail attachments are often limited to a few Megabytes and techniques like Anonymous FTP and open web directories are being used less and less due to increasingly strict security measures. There are websites that offer file transfer, but they are not for free, and it is unclear where the data are stored on their way from sender to receiver and how secure the data are when using these services.

FileSender allows the academic community to transfer large files in a fast, reliable, secure and trusted way. It enables authenticated users to send arbitrarily large data files to other authenticated users. In addition, users without an account can be sent an upload voucher by an authenticated user. FileSender is a federated service, meaning that a user authenticates via his or her standard credentials. The sender uploads the file to a secure location, where it is available for download for a certain amount of time, after which the file is automatically deleted. FileSender therefore does not offer a permanent file publishing platform.

Background

FileSender is open-source software developed in a project that originated in TERENA’s task force TF-Storage. The project was initiated in 2009 by AARNet, HEAnet and UNINETT, with SURFnet (Netherlands) joining as a major contributor in 2010. The latest production version of FileSender is 1.1, released on 5 November 2011, using HTML5 for large uploads.

More information about FileSender can be found at www.filesender.org.