hightailicon

At Photofocus, our general policy is to only review products we like.  There are so many great products out there to help photographers.  In this case though, I am making an exception based on recent experiences with a company.

Many of us need to send large images or video files between clients and team members as part of our jobs.  Previously, I used Hightail for this.

Hightail (aka YouSendIt)

I have been a customer of YouSendIt (now Hightail) for at least five years.  I have also highly recommended it for years as an easy way to share files and send things to clients.  Sure, Dropbox works well, but Hightail and YouSendIt were easier to manage and I didn’t need to go in and clean out files.  I could set them to auto expire as well as get return receipts once a file was downloaded.

hightailwindow

Recently, the service has taken a dramatic turn for the worse. I have seen delivery speed crawl to ridiculously slow rates.  Last week, the company slipped to download speeds that rival the best of the Internet… at least if it was 1992.

The Problem

I am a heavy Internet user. Last Friday afternoon, one of our team members sent me a file I needed for a client.  The file was large (700 MB) but not huge.  The download speeds at my house are 78 Mbps on average.

Hightail download speeds were  .73 Mbps.  Yes that’s a decimal point in front of the 73.  I was able to download files at less than 1% of my available bandwidth. That was 10+ hours to download a 700 mb file.

Sure, every server can have a hiccup.  But now, nearly one week later, the service is still only delivering downloads at 3.6 Mbps.  But my real beef? One would expect for a service that you pay more than $300 a year for that they would provide some real support. It was my experiences in trying to resolve my problems with the company and their lack of professionalism that were the impetus for this review.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Let me give you 6 reasons why professionals can’t depend on Hightail to deliver their digital files.  I excerpted several direct quotes from the company and my support sessions.  I used this method to contact them so I’d have a written record of their responses.   I’ve edited it down… but included the most relevant parts.

#1 Transfer Speeds

Your clients and your team expect things to download reasonably fast.  Getting download speeds that are 1-5% of your bandwidth is ridiculous.  Clients were asking us if something was wrong with the website.

downloads

#2 Hiding Problems

If an online services company has problems (or suspected problems) I’ll check their status page.  This is a quick way to determine if the problem is on my end or theirs.  Or perhaps it was a scheduled service update that I was warned about.

status

At Hightail, the company’s status page hasn’t been updated for over four months.  If you look in their support forums, there are numerous complaints about the service.  The company insists though that every thing has been perfect for months.  The support agents I talked to denied any problems, but I’m pretty good with the whole Internet thing and was able to show them they did indeed have a problem.

  • Support: As of the moment our status page is not yet updated but you can see the update on this link http://learn.hightail.com/t5/Site-Status/bg-p/SiteStatus
  • Me: I have been having download issues for 8 hours. How long does it typically take you to update a status page. Is that also 24-48 hours?
  • Support: Usually the site updates once there’s a known issue
  • Me: For the record. the last time that page was updated on Sep 7, 2013 12:49 AM. There are NUMEROUS reports in your forums of people posting about issues.

That status page — http://learn.hightail.com/t5/Site-Status/bg-p/SiteStatus still denies there were ever any problems.  This is despite my tech support contact informing me that he’d escalate that issue too.

#3 The company seems to be trying to cut costs 

The economy is tough.  I get it.  But you can only trim things so far until there’s a big problem. After I contacted support (and the company denied any problems) it took a while to get any real answers.  They finally admitted that there were server problems. Sounds to me like they don’t have enough servers.

  • Support: I really do apologize Richard but it is reported that we have an issue with our two servers
  • Me: *two… Seems like you guys have been having “ISSUES” a lot’

Here’s a screen shot to show you.  Richard was the name of the support representative for this part of my support “experience.”

chat1

#4 They don’t understand business needs. 

 I informed Hightail that I was going to miss delivering my files on time to my customer.  That I was not going to make my deliverable time due to the ridiculously long download time.  While the file said 10 hours… the estimate kept going up.

  • Me: I am about to blow a contract. It’s 2 am here… How long am I going to be staying up and waiting. I have an 8 am delivery (deadline).
  • Support: we really do apologize for this inconvenience that may have caused you
  • Me: So give me specifics. Do I need to call my client at 2 am and tell them that we’re about to miss their deadline? When are your servers expected to be fixed
  • Support: Please do give them a head’s up that we’re having an issues with our servers
  • Me: I am about to lose a few thousand dollars because of your servers

#5 They don’t solve problems very well.

I always try to find a solution to a problem.  In this case it sounded like the outbound connections to servers were malfunctioning.  But perhaps they could access my data and move it to a different location over their local network. I asked if my files could be accessed from another server.  Support said yes, but that only a Level 2 tech could solve this problem.

I spoke to two support people on this issue to verify the situation.

  • Me: Okay. Move my files to a server that works
  • Support: the only people that can do that is on our Tier 2 support
  • Me:  AND?!?
  • Support: I will escalate your case to then and they will reply to you via e-mail
  • Me: I pay hundreds of dollars for this and have multiple accounts in my company. I don’t want email support. Connect me with a real person either via chat or phone now. I am about to lose a client because of your cra**y servers.
  • Support: Sorry Richard, but there’s no available phone support as of the moment and for me to connect you to our Tier 2 support, I’ll need to escalate this issue.  (I’ll) write down the issues and they can respond to it
  • Me: Is your tier 2 support currently working
  • Support: They are here Monday to Saturday 6:00AM to 6:00PM PST.

So, your company’s ENTIRE business model is about delivering files.  But your Level 2 Tech Support (the ones who can do more than offering soothing statements) only works 42.8% of the time.  If it were my company, I think I’d keep people around who can actually solve problems.

#6 They break promises.

I was promised that someone from support would be in touch the next morning.  That request to speak to a manager that was also promised… still hasn’t happened more than a week later.

  • Support: I understand your frustration. But there’s no available tech on chat and phone. I need to escalate your issues using my tools here so they can respond to your concern.
  • Me:  And how long is it going to take to get a response
  • Support: ETA would be 24-48 hours, but as soon as they get my escalation, they will respond to it.
  • Me: I want a phone call from a manager on Monday
  • Support: yes, I will let them call you please provide me your phone number
  • Me: 703-6XX-4XXX

When did I get a call?  Six days later. But from that support tech who was supposed to call the next AM.  This was only after I publicly complained to the company twice on Twitter. Of course then they said they didn’t have my number.  Despite it being a part of the original report and appearing on my customer profile.

That request to talk to a manager… more than a week later and still hasn’t happened.

The bottom line

It’s really sad when a website which specializes in digital delivery can’t keep up with its promises. Especially when things like traditional courier and even overnight shipping offer faster delivery speeds.Additionally, I would expect that a request to have a manager call me to discuss my service would have resulted in at least some attempt at communication.

The resolution to the story?  I had to call the team member at home at 3 am and wake them up. They then had to login to a different service and resend me the file.  I pulled an all-nighter and made my deadline.

At this point, I can no longer recommend Hightail (aka YouSendIt).  What once was a great service has become completely unreliable.  I expect that if I pay a few hundred dollars a year for a service, its customer support can actually help me.  It also seems off that it took a company six days to reach out at all and all of my attempts to discuss their poor performance have resulted in zero response.

I’m looking for a good digital delivery company that’s not Dropbox (we already use them). Something that just emails clients a link to click and download (and then gives a return receipt).  Please post any suggestions in the comments below.

______

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Join the conversation! 30 Comments

  1. FWIW, I dropped them last summer for similar reasons. Though it is more cumbersome, I created a password protected XFR folder on my corporate websites. I now use FTP to upload a large file, then send an email, asking them to let me know when they have downloaded the file. I then FTP back on to delete the file.

    At least this always works. As it happens, I have 3 different web sites, each on a different ISP, so if one is giving me headaches, I just upload to a different one. I LOVE redundancy… :)

    (I use Drobo for all local data, and CrashPlan + Time Machine to backup everything daily too)

    Reply
  2. I use mailbigfile this end..

    Reply
  3. wetransfer.com has always been good to me with upload/download speeds and they offer some big file sizes (10GB) with a paid account and 2gb when you use the free service

    Reply
  4. Try Box.com (not to be confused with Dropbox). I think you’ll find them a breath of fresh air on the support front and their service is business-oriented.

    Reply
  5. For years I have used my own FTP site (part of my website hosting pkg) to deliver files without any restrictions. However, with some customers having occasional problems logging into the site I have starting transitioning over to WeTransfer.com and have not had any problems. I also like the benefit of receiving an email that let’s me know when the file has been downloaded.

    Reply
  6. I use wetransfer all the time, usually for video files of 1gb plus. never had a problem.

    Reply
  7. We use hightail on a daily basis for sending/receiving files up to 2gb in size and haven’t had a problem. It sounds to me that the problem could have been on your end of a fluke.

    Reply
    • Hi Joel

      Glad you actually read or even looked at the article. I show screenshots where Hightail admits they have a problem and their own testing utility shows a delivery problem. Of course after writing 40 technical books for the photo and video industry, it’s probably just user error on my end. Not.

      Reply
  8. I can recommend ShareFile for this (disclosure: I’m a Citrix employee). Not only an enterprise-grade service, but also a support team that’s constantly being graded as one of the best in the industry.

    Reply
  9. I also recommend ShareFile (and I am not in anyway affiliated with Citrix). I’ve been using it since I first heard about it on TWiT over a year ago and haven’t looked at any other services since. I routinely send 1GB +\- files without problems.

    Reply
  10. I too have been with them for a while. No real issues but I complained about the name change. Confusing to me and to clients to have two names! Thanks for posting this I will look in to Sharefile and Wetransfer.

    Reply
  11. Can I recommend our app DIgital Pigeon? We go to great lengths to ensure the best transfer speeds with global upload servers. There is also the option to show instant media previews on your branded download page. For photographers it’s often a contact sheet. We focus service on businesses to ensure better support.

    http://www.digitalpigeon.com

    Reply
  12. I am curious, with such a tight deadline why you did not change up how your client delivered the file to you? One way of dealing with being stuck in traffic is to go a different route. I do appreciate the article. I have been a yousendit/hightail user for many years and in general prefer it to BOX, but I have noticed similar download issues. I thought Verizon was slowing my download speeds, but after testing my upload and download speeds I realized it was hightails issues. Thanks for the article and sharing the experience.

    Reply
  13. I was using Yousendit just just for a way to backup my archive and store files. Also I liked being able to sign documents. I stopped using it due to lack of speed. I must say the new branding looks great and I like the option to have your own custom branded page but if it’s still going to be super slow and id I can’t look at images without downloading, then that defeats the purpose. Leaning towards Box.
    Mosaic seems nice but I don’t use Lightroom.
    Wetransfer is fine for sending but I want unlimited and affordable storage for my archive which has been an endless search.
    I’ve been using Zenfolio for unlimited jpeg/tiff storage and I like how clients can log on and decide which size they want to download. Only wish I could store Raws- which is why I’m leaning towards Box.
    However, if it’s just back up, Hightail isn’t bad if you’re not in a rush. Just imagining they will never bother to fulfill our requests such as being able to preview images without downloading and whatnot. They also cap you off at 200gb/month so if you want to store 1tb of images, it would take close to a year to upload.

    Reply
  14. HI Richard! Could I recommend you take a look at http://www.getalink.com? We were recently featured on the home page of Master New Media, and I think we fill the void nicely. Up to 4GB upload for free, no account or e-mail needed, fastest upload speed available, Amazon S3 based, and a strong independent artist outreach. Check it out and let me know what you think.

    Reply
  15. I use Hightail too and it has gotten dodgy since the cutover from YouSendIt. I was using Box.net a while back but had some sync issues so I avoided it. But they recently had a major overhaul and basically did what Western Digital did, rebuild into a robust entity. They offer a YouSendIt/DropBox scenario that is quite good now IMO. In fact, I saw they have a promotion again similar to what that they ran 3 years ago, to garner interest: if you sign up with their iPhone app, your starting space is 50GB, all for free, no strings attached (no, I don’t work for them, lol!). I’m an IT guy/wannabe photographer that’s tired of cheesy software, but Box.net is looking pretty good right now. That promotion ends somewhere in February, not sure what date.

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  16. Haha, ouch Richard, you crushed them. And ranked so high in a search… prolly be contacting you for free VIP membership or something. Beautiful blog design btw, love the font and clean layout.

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  17. You nailed it! Hightail has been very problematic for us, including billing us AFTER we closed our account. Twice. Not dependable.

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  18. Check out Filemail.com – I can send 30GB for free without registering there. Speeds could be faster I guess, but I still like it a lot more than wetransfer/hightail.

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  19. Richard….I couldn’t agree more. YouSendIt was fine and wonderful. How could this High Tail have destroyed it so completely ? !!!

    I’ve been looking at the other recommended programs here and sampling them. One feature of YouSendIt that I liked and which doesn’t seem to be around is the ability to send folders with multiple files inside. Any recommendations in that direction? Tx David

    Reply
  20. Another vote for wetransfer.com. I work in post-production (TV/film) and regularly use them for sending large files. The download confirmation email is a nice bonus too!

    Reply
  21. I would not recommend Hightail as well. Why they have to fix something that is not broken? It became entirely a different thing.
    I would recommend wetransfer.com and brick ftp. Brick we use as our main server but the latter has been having problems so I switch to Brick and it runs smoothly for months now. No problem or issues. Like it lots as can use it both running an ftp program or the browser. Well, I still like to use ftp program

    Reply
  22. I started using yousendit, this seemed to work for my needs as a designer, sending my illustrations and spec sheets, today, I had a catastrophic problem that lead to my late submission and subsequently lost a major account worth well over 250K in revenue for my company, I begged my client to allow me to fed ex my illustrations to their office in los angeles, and of course this request was denied as I would be not compliant with the deadline to submit…i learned a very important lesson..now im going to register with drop box, but gone are the days of compressing my work and e mailing it, back to sending my illustrations so I can actually track the prgress with a tracking number…a very expensive lesson learned today

    Reply
  23. […] Estava quase fechando com a Hightail até encontrar um post detalhado de um cliente relatando problemas com a velocidade de upload e por isso saiu da nossa preferência. http://photofocus.com/2014/02/01/why-i-cant-recommend-hightail-to-send-large-files/ […]

    Reply
  24. Have you tried Syncplicity? Works great for me. I got a enterprise edition for my employees and they like it. We were using box in the past, but used to have trouble syncing and accessing from mobile devices.

    Reply
  25. I agree completely re the changer from Yousendit to Hightail being a disaster – slow download, unhelpful helpline, badly-organized website (from some pages I have found I have had to log out and log in again to get where I want to go because there is no appropriate link option), and it scares away those who I send files to (some get angry – no simple click on the file name and it will download, but a series of options that confuses people – such as “save” which does not save to their computer but tells them they are not subscribers!). Default period for storage on any file that you send is extremely short – and if you want longer you have to log in to your file activity – but even then you cannot change the expiry – if you then go to see all file activity from that page you can do it there. Designed by geeks for geeks, not for humans. A formerly good system that has been wrecked.

    Reply
  26. I’m wondering it Yousendit was acquired and profits being plumped up to re-sell to someone else. It wouldn’t be the first time a good company was destroyed for short term profits.

    Reply

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About Richard Harrington

Richard Harrington is the founder of RHED Pixel, a visual communications company based in Washington, D.C. He is the Publisher of Photofocus and Creative Cloud User as well as an author on Lynda.com. Rich has authored several books including From Still to Motion, Understanding Photoshop, Professional Web Video, and Creating DSLR Video.

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