The big difference between attachments and links

Let me start by saying that any attachment in an email should be replaced with a link. Although there are very few exceptions, this is the general guideline.

I have found that this subject is difficult for people to embrace. I believe that the reason for that is the fact it requires a bit more work in the short term, although it saves a lot of work and confusion in the long term.


Why shouldn’t we use attachments?

  • It kills our email box: we all have limited size for our mail box. The more attachments we have, the quicker our mail box would run out of space. The attachment affects all people on the email distribution list – both To and CC.
  • People down-the-conversation can’t access it:  when the email thread continuous, the attachment is not there anymore. So if a person was added to the email thread down the road, the attachment won’t be accessible for her/him. What usually happens is that person sends another email on the thread requesting to add the attachment, which both adds email traffic to everyone and adds another attachment which reduces the mail box size for the entire distribution list. Lose-lose…
  • Any update requires another attachment: this is the classic case – people sometimes have comments on the attachment and therefore they reply on the email thread while putting an updated attachment with their remarks/changes.
  • Scanner sometimes filters it: scanners don’t like attachments, so the organization virus scanner many times filters it.

4 lose-lose cases that can be easily avoided by sending a link to the file instead of attaching it to the email.

Exceptions for using an attachment

There are 2 specific exceptions for putting attachment into emails:

  1. Privacy: suppose you have a confidential attachment to send and you have no organizational storage with permission policy to put it into (for allowing only specific people accessing it). In that case, you must use an attachment. For example, I want to send excel file with salary information to my colleague. I don’t have any place to put it in for my colleague to access it without anyone else being able to access it. Therefore, I’m sending the file as an attachment.
  2. Reading document outside of the network: when I want someone to read a file, but I know that person doesn’t have access to the organization network, I need to send my file as an attachment. For example, I want to send my boss an important status report in excel file. My boss is on vacation and only has email access through smartphone. In that case, I need to put the file as an attachment.


P Before attaching document to this email, kindly think about your colleagues and their mail box

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Erez Morabia

I’m an engineer and a leader in the computer software industry which is passionate about leading teams, embracing new technologies and improving soft skills for work efficiency.

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