What you can do with the Transmit file transfer tool for Mac

The Transmit file transfer tool takes advantage of the cloud's convenience. Derek Schauland shares his experience using it with Amazon S3 to create storage buckets for users.

With the emergence of this entity called "the cloud" and many who cannot agree on what the cloud really is, I offer my own definition: (Noun) - A computer or datacenter accessible via the network or Internet that is accessible to users.

I use this loose definition because really the cloud is any computer or service that I (or anyone) can use that doesn't live on the desktop. So the iPad I am using to compose this post is not specifically in the cloud, but the storage space at Dropbox where the document is saved -- that is in the cloud.

The biggest benefit of the cloud for most consumers is the ability to share email and photos. For technology professionals, it is email and storage. Keeping files in the cloud allows you to leverage a provider's backup, recovery, and maintenance for all of the stuff you keep out in the cloud, rather than owning and supporting it all yourself. Server down? Not your issue -- the cloud provider handles that. Power outage at your house? Any Starbucks nearby can get you access to the web and your files. Try that with a huge external hard disk.

Transmit is an application for the Mac that allows you to transfer files, and leverage the power of the cloud.

Old school file transfer

Transmit supports FTP and its more secure sibling SFTP. These technologies are pretty great. For example, Sage SalesLogix is a client server application that manages customer information. It supports local, LAN-connected users who can enter, edit, and review any information about their customers.

It also supports remote, disconnected users. These users receive partial copies of their information at the outset and use synchronization technology to exchange records with the home office Saleslogix server.

Synchronization can use an FTP server to pass files back and forth between the server and the remote users.

The FTP server is a great technology for this because it can happen in the background without really disturbing the user. Where I find Transmit to be useful in this scenario is at the point where there are problems with the installation on a remote PC. I can use Transmit to upload the installation files for Saleslogix to our FTP server. When the upload completes, I can work with the user (or share a session with them) to download the files and help get them installed. Because Transmit works as a dedicated client, I do not need to worry about it much once the upload has begun.

What about other services?

FTP is just one piece of the puzzle that Transmit helps with. It can also connect to WebDAV servers which allow document management and collaboration (think SharePoint) via HTTP on rather standard web servers and Amazon's S3 storage service to allow access to buckets on S3.

Recently I created an account at S3 to improve download speed for some of the files I might normally have used FTP to transfer to remote users. The Internet connection at my office is not exactly the most rootin' tootin' hook up, but it gets the job done most of the time.

Once the account was configured and buckets for each user created, I dug into Transmit and logged into S3. Because Transmit treated this much the same as the FTP servers I have used in the past, exposing the file structure shown in Figure A, I had no trouble with the controls to upload the files.

Figure A

Connected to S3 with Transmit (click to enlarge).

So it is an FTP client with S3?

Transmit leverages multiple connections for simultaneous upload, meaning it can take advantage of the bandwidth available to ensure maximum performance, even on less than desirable connections.

Another feature that is great in concept is the ability to mount remote connections in Transmit as local drives. They show up in Finder just like other drives attached. For some reason, I had better luck using the standard method of transfer right inside the Transmit client than the mount as drive option. While it didn't quite work for me, it is something I plan to keep trying as revisions move forward. Linking a network drive to an Amazon S3 storage bucket could be very useful.

After getting set up on S3 and browsing the buckets with Transmit, I got a great opportunity to see both in action. A co-worker mentioned that there were issues with their remote Saleslogix database. Normally, I would have to recreate a new database and get it on CD (or put it on our FTP servers) but the storage space on S3 seemed a great candidate.

Once the database was created, I began the transfer to S3. I figured it would take the better part of a day to complete so I went off to do some other work while it copied. Much to my surprise, the file copy with Transmit completed in just about two hours.

Note: Normally this would be slow, but on a 1.5Mbps Internet connection it was pretty tolerable.

The benefit this allowed was a 20-30 minute download from S3 by the end user. Instead of being in limbo for a day or more, the multi-threaded file transfer capabilities of Transmit to S3 improved this experience tremendously.

Transmit details:

Cost: $34/user with volume discounts available

Specs - Mac OS 10.5 or higher

Trial Period: 7 days

Do you use cloud based storage for your important data?  If so, would Transmit be something you'd consider?