Software for transferring large files

Transferring data among machines or over the Internet can be tedious. Gigabyte Express (GBX) 2.0 for Windows from Niwot Networks is an IP-based file transfer program that lets you transfer large files in a small amount of time. The software uses a GUI to simplify the file transfer process and is more user friendly than a typical FTP text interface.

My test copy of GBX arrived on a floppy with a two-user license. Each machine you use the software with must have a unique serial number that you supply during installation. If you have two machines with the same serial number, the machines will refuse to transfer files. Installation took about 1 minute for each machine, and GBX 2.0 created the Start menu entry on my Windows NT system.

When you launch GBX, it starts a session to answer any inbound connection requests for your machine. Remote users can then connect to your machine and transfer files. To connect to a remote machine, you select the Dial option on the menu bar and provide a phonebook entry to connect to. The phonebook, which you set up, maps IP addresses and connection routes (i.e., LAN and Remote Access Service­RAS) to a physical name for easy connections.

After you establish a session with a remote computer, you need to select files for transfer. You click files to select them and then click Add to add them to the list of files you want to send, as shown in Screen 1. Clicking on a folder explodes the folder. After you have selected all your files, click Done, and the transfer process starts.

GBX does not recognize NT security. However, you can put files into and get files from only specific, GBX-controlled subdirectories on your system. These directories let you control which files remote users can access and include the inBasket, where your system receives files, and the outBasket, where you put files you want others to retrieve. Beyond this basic protection, GBX does not have security. You cannot restrict access to certain machines or to specific files in the outBasket based on a connecting machine name. Thus, GBX is not a good choice for transferring files over the Internet, although it is unlikely an unauthorized user will know you have GBX running on your Internet-accessible machine.

GBX's performance over both a LAN and a dial-up RAS connection is excellent. However, some minor overhead affects throughput when you transfer several files in the same session. Throughput for transferring large single files on a LAN commonly exceeded 2600Kbps. When I used the software to transfer a batch of files, performance dropped to 2300Kbps because of intersystem communication when I started to send a new file. During my testing, I moved a copy of NT Server Service Pack (SP) 3 (roughly 18MB) from my Internet dial-up machine to my NT Server box, which took about 50 seconds.

GBX has a couple of downsides. The first is the product's price. Your initial purchase must be at least a two-user version, because the software is proprietary and will not talk to any other software, such as an FTP server. This price is high for software that appears to offer only file transfer capabilities. However, when you're evaluating the software, consider how much it will save you in transfer costs—a significant amount if you are calling a long-distance dial-in server rather than a local unlimited-use Internet Service Provider (ISP) link.

Another downside of GBX is its implementation on NT. Rather than running as a service in the background, the product runs in a window in the foreground. (However, if you minimize the window, the product remains active.) This implementation can cause problems. For example, to establish a connection to a remote system to transfer files, the remote user must have the software loaded and operational, rather than simply having NT monitor for connection requests on an inbound IP port. This choice of implementation might result in connection failures if the remote user forgets to leave the software operational or logs off, which closes all active programs.

If I were in the market for a file transfer program, I would not consider GBX. Several other products offer more features for a lower price. I'm in no rush to transfer large files over my LAN or the Internet; my LAN is free, and my ISP offers inexpensive service. I can always minimize my file transfer program and do something else on my machine when I'm transferring a large file.

Gigabyte Express 2.0
Contact: Niwot Networks 303-444-7765 or 800-657-3278
Web: http://www.niwot.com
Price: $495 single user, $695 two users, $1990 ten users
System Requirements: Windows 95 or Windows NT