Graphic Arts’ IT Guy

Q. Our company just upgraded our Microsoft Exchange server and I can no longer send attachments. If I attach a jpeg, it arrives as zero K in size, unless I send it as a zip file. Is there a workaround?

A. The Internet deals best with ASCII text files. However many of the files we deal with regularly are also binary files. When a binary file is transferred on the Internet via an email program or via FTP transfer, the file may become corrupt. To prevent corruption, the files should be “encoded” into a text format before they are transferred.

When you create a “zip” archive or use stuffit “.sit” or Apple’s disk image “.dmg” you are in fact storing the file into a format that will survive transfer on the Internet. When you attach a file to an email client, the client will normally encode the files based on a default set up.

I recommend that all users of Microsoft email clients set the default attachments to “Windows base64/MIME” format. Apple Mail users can choose “Windows Friendly Attachments”. This is an encoding that all Windows machines understand. Windows computers comprise about 80% of all computers, so conforming doesn’t affect Mac users that much. In the case of the Exchange Server, the base64 formatted files will remain intact.

Q. We recently had our Network Storage Drive fail and we managed to copy the files to a hard drive. How can we share the files with the rest of our workgroup?

A. Network Storage drives are an inexpensive alternative to having a full-blown file server in your office. They normally run on a version of Windows and can publish shares via Apple FileSharing Prototcol (AFP), the Windows version of Samba (SMB), FTP, and HTTP, the latter two being Internet protocols not really designed for office file sharing.

The problem with the above-mentioned systems is that people generally don’t think about backing them up in case of disaster. If the system fails, you can get at the data without removing the hard drive and voiding the warranty. If the drive fails, you may not be able to recover the files at all. So no matter what solution you choose, you should always have a systematic back up to tape or to another hard drive.

If you can afford it, you can put in a File Server, like an Xserve with a RAID system. A RAID is a collection of hard drives and a controller computer that create a live back up of the existing data. They can be set up to Mirror, where a file is written to two identical hard drives, or they can be set up with Parity, where a group of three or more drives contains a snapshot of the contents of the other drives. With mirroring, the contents are identical, so if one drive fails you can get the information from the second. With a parity set (aka RAID 5) if a drive fails the system does not stop. It runs at 80 percent and gives you time to replace one of the drives. When the drive is replaced the controller rebuilds the contents on the new drive with information saved on the other drives.

With a proper server like an Xserve you can also set up shares, put users into workgroups, and control access to the files with access control lists. Such controls can be necessary if you have production, sales, and administration using the same server. You control who can access certain areas of the server, no matter if they are coming from a Macintosh or Windows computer. Servers can also manage printers, mail, ftp, and web, as well as many other services.

If you don’t have the budget for a full-blown server or you have a small workgroup, you can use a plain Mac and download SharePoints ( SharePoints allows you share folders to groups you create in the same fashion as the Mac OS 9 Finder. Mac OS X uses Unix POSIX permissions so that normally a file and folder belongs to their creator. This method is very secure, however, when working in groups, files and folders need to be accessible to the members. SharePoints makes the Mac act like a file server. As a result, members of the group have complete control over the files.