Programmer Thoughts

By John Dickinson

Friday fun at work, part 2

May 08, 2009

I finished something up at work today that I have been working on part-time this week. My boss really likes it, and I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. I call it attachment scrubbing.

Last week, a friend and I were talking over lunch about some email woes our company was having. Specifically, some people were emailing around some large attachments, and they were putting a lot of strain on our mail server. By the time we finished eating, we had come up with the idea of putting something in place on the mail server to intercept attachments from emails. A user can send an attachment as usual, but when it gets to the email server, my program grabs it. I remove the attachment from the email, upload it to a web server, and put a message with a link to the attachment back in the email. When the recipient gets it, their email program won’t choke on some large file, and our servers are happier because we will only be storing one copy of the attachment for each message.

The real beauty of this system is that the user sending the email doesn’t have to do anything differently. And although the idea didn’t come from a desire to make external users happier, it can make their email experience more pleasant by not clogging up their inbox.

This was pretty fun to work on for the past week and a half, and it provided an interesting diversion from some mundane system administration I’ve had to do lately. I now have a lot more understanding of how my company’s email system is set up, and I think I could set up a similar system pretty easily. Email servers are pretty complicated, but there is nothing like installing your own and customizing it that will teach you how it works.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

The thoughts expressed here are my own and do not necessarily represent those of my employer.