File compression is a great tool for sending large files from one user to another. There are a variety of file formats available, with zip files being among the more popular. But there's so much more, so let's dive in to the world of file compression and learn how you can get the most out of file compression.
File compression basics
How it works
How does a file just magically shrink and then grow again on command? The data in a file is made up of bits and bytes, and these measurements of data are typically redundant, meaning many of the same bits and bytes are just repeated over and over again throughout the same file. This allows for two different methods of file compression:
- Lossless compression removes the redundant data and then uses the remaining bits and bytes to recreate the original form.
- Lossy compression essentially eliminates any bits and bytes that are deemed unnecessary and then rewrites that data on its own.
The process of compressing a file is performed by simple software tools. Most computers come equipped with an installed compression tool, and many additional compression tools can be downloaded, often for free.
The advantages of being able to compress a file are clear. But is there a downside?
Lossy compression prevents the file from being restored exactly as it originally appeared. You may not notice the change, as it is often unrecognizable. But because it is in fact technically different, this type of compression cannot be used for things such as software applications or databases.
Across the board, there are a few additional disadvantages to compressing a file.
- Security can be a concern for file compression. While many compression tools include an encryption feature, not all are of the highest level.
- The recipient's computer requires memory use and time to decompress the file. This can cause performance to suffer.
- File compression does not always work. Video and audio files are often unable to be compressed.
- Compressed files may not always be scanned for viruses and malware, leaving the recipient's computer vulnerable.
- The recipient may not be able to open a compressed file if they do not have the appropriate software to do so.
The alternative: Citrix ShareFile
A cloud-based file-sharing service such as ShareFile is an alternative way to send, store and receive large files. With the ability to send big files of up to 10 GB in bandwidth, there is no need for file compression software. Security is at the forefront, and the cloud-based nature of ShareFile allows for anytime, anywhere sharing, as files are sent with the ease of sending an email.