Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Maximum E-Mail Message Size

Here is one that never seems to fail or always seems to fail. The customer requirements are to limit the maximum message size to 50 megabytes in all the various places it needs to be set (for simplicity). The consulting that sets it up enters 50000 kilobytes, a little short.

The customer complains that 50 meg messages don't make it through, they bring in the senior consultant who reviews the requirements and sets the maximum size to 512000 kilobytes per the customers requirements.

It seems that there are too many consultants out there that can't convert megabytes to kilobytes, but while that is often the complaint, another issue is harder to explain to the customer. I'll go on.

The customer complains again and claims that the contract has not been fulfilled. As proof, they sent themselves an e-mail with exactly 25 2 megabyte jpeg files from their digital camera. The original consultant is on the case, and knows exactly what the problem is, 25*2 = 50, but they didn't take into account the size of the rest of the message, you know, a few k for the header, body, etc.

The customer complains again, they tested with 24 2 megabyte files and a 1 megabyte file, surely the header and empty body isn't a full megabyte, and it still gets rejected. Senior consultant gets involved and explains to the customer in words he hopes he understands, "Some attachments must be converted to text format and this conversion increases the size of the message." The customer still doesn't get it, so, as the consultant, I recommend that they change their system requirements to support 67 megabytes (and that the actual setting should be 68608, since it is in kilobytes) to allow for up to 33% content conversion overhead and advertise their maximum message size as 50 megabytes.

This is often a failure at the requirements gathering phase. As a consultant, you want to build the system to meet the customer's requirements, but what the requirements say, and what the customer really wants are often two different things.

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