Star Wars trailer a threat to your network?
(IDG) -- As if that gyrating dancing baby and a steady stream of holiday e-cards weren't enough, network professionals have another potential problem on their hands in the form of downloadable movie trailers forStar Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace.
Forget the title: There's nothing phantom about this menace. The film won't be in theaters until next month, but variations of the trailers are already circulating via e-mail attachments. Weighing in at an eye-popping 11 to 25 megabytes, these two-and-half-minute QuickTime clips will chew up more bandwidth and disk space than a nursery full of dancing babies (2 megabytes per baby).
The official trailers are available at www.starwars.com, and rogue versions dot the Internet like so many Ewoks. According to the Apple Web site, which has permission to carry the trailers, more than six million copies have been downloaded.
While a random survey of e-mail administrators turned up no Star Wars-related service disruptions, a few have powered up their lightsabers to meet this foe head on.
"I'm a Star Wars junkie, and I know the number of science fiction fans we have here," says Julian Smith, vice president of IS at Thompson & Co., a Memphis advertising agency. "I knew this would be a problem, just like I knew everyone would try to download Internet Explorer 5.0 when it was released."
Smith posted a copy of the trailer on his company's intranet and let internal Star Wars fans know where to go to get their fix, thus "eliminating a waste of precious bandwidth."
One e-mail outsourcing company, AllegroNet of Dayton, Ohio, has seen an increasing number of trailers snagged by its MailZone filtering and virus-detection service. "We're talking about a huge file here," says AllegroNet executive Richard Bliss. "It's like a pig going through a boa constrictor." MailZone was born in January as a countermeasure to similarly frivolous .avi and .exe files that had plagued AllegroNet customers during the holidays. Bliss reports that his customer base has grown from 200 to 800 companies in just three months.
There is clearly a heightened sense of awareness among IT professionals to these types of resource-sapping files. A Star Wars trailer "has already spread here," says David Byrkit, e-mail administrator at ITT Avionics in Clifton, N.J.
"With single-instance message store [on a Microsoft Exchange Server], mailbox limits and a good amount of horsepower, I'm not too concerned about it," Byrkit says. "It will probably increase our help desk calls for people who aren't used to exceeding their mailbox limit."
A certain battle-weariness has set in among those charged with keeping the e-mail flowing smoothly.
"We've seen gluts of this type of stuff before, mainly from our student population," says Travis Berkley, supervisor of LAN support services at the University of Kansas. "We got bitten only one time with a huge file blocking things up because we were low on disk space."
Berkley sees a solution in newer e-mail servers that allow administrators to nip these abuses in the bud.
"Many Simple Mail Transfer Protocol servers are now letting you limit the size of inbound messages, and some -- such as [Novell's] GroupWise -- let you limit it for certain users or groups of users," he says. "So target your 'problem children' and leave the legitimate users free and clear."
Some administrators, however, say they don't have the option of setting maximum file sizes for anyone.
"Due to the nature of our business [real estate investment], we can't limit the size of attachments," says Jim Santiago, assistant vice president of IS at AEW Capital Management in Boston. "The only thing we can do is to send reminders telling employees not to abuse the e-mail system."
The movie trailers may be a nuisance, but it could be worse. What happens, for example, if the sequel to this story turns out to be Star Wars Meets Melissa? "We all saw what happened with the Melissa situation," says Mike Dunn, e-mail administrator at Boston University. "If a monster file such as Star Wars had been attached, it would have complicated matters significantly.
Protect yourself from the next Melissa
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