So what is file compression? When you mention file compression, a lot of people immediately think of media compression. This article, however, is about file compression which is lossless compression of files and folders for storage and security purposes.

File compression has been available for many years but with the explosion of online communication in all areas of life, the technology has now become a tool for the masses and includes AES-encryption which enables you to protect files that you store or share online.

Compressed file formats have many names, but most often you´ll come across files such as:

  • .zip
  • .rar
  • .7z
  • .tar

Benefits from using file compression

The topic sounds nerdy and boring but in fact there are several great uses of file compression from which you can benefit at home or in the office.

Some file compression programs offer many other features but in this article I´ll focus on the following features:

  1. Encryption for secure online file sharing and e-mailing
  2. Conversion of multiple files into one single file for e-mailing and sharing purposes
  3. Multi-part compression for increased data security
  4. Secure archiving
  5. File size reduction

Secure file sharing and e-mailing

WinZip quick-share optionsDo you sometimes have that nagging feeling that the security of cloud storage is not quite there yet, or whether it is safe to send files or images in an e-mail?

These days many of us send and receive endless amounts of files via e-mail, social media, cloud shares, etc. Mostly the files are of a non-sensitive nature, but sometimes the files are either personal or confidential.

File compression software, such as WinZip will help you to secure your files by encrypting them before you upload your files to cloud storage, before you send them off in e-mails or before you add them to long term storage.

Many e-mail and cloud services are doing a good job of creating a safe file sharing environment. Well, at least it seems that way. The problem is that in the end you don´t really know for sure.

This way of sharing files and information have come to stay whether we like it or not and all we can do is to be clever about it.

Compression and encryption

The data security of online services is out of our hands. We can choose to trust it blindly, or we can do what we can ourselves to ensure that our files do not get into the wrong hands.

An easy way to increase the data security of our personal or work related files is to utilize file compression and encryption.

You can do this with a multitude of different programs, but the best known programs is probably WinZip which has been around for as long as I can remember during my years as a computer user.

WinZip user interface.

The way it works is that you collect one or more files which will then be compressed into one compressed folder. This process can then be expanded to incorporate encryption which means that a password is needed to open/decrypt the file container.

Sometimes you can add other operations to the compression process. With WinZip, for example, you can add:

  • Watermarks to certain file types such as documents and PDF
  • Automatically convert applicable files to PDF
  • Automatically reduce the size of images

Sending multiple files as one

Apart from data security this technology also has a couple of very practical uses.

E-mailing one or a couple of files is no problem, but when you have several files adding the individual files separately quickly becomes annoying.

File compression adds the incredibly convenient ability to send off a large number of files as one file. You can convert any number of files into one. All you need to think about is whether the combined file size exceeds the allowed file size with your e-mail host.

If the file size becomes an issue you can always create more compressed portions or use the, before mentioned, multi-part compression option.

Alternatively you can use a cloud services which allows for larger file sizes.

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Multi-part compression

If you need to increase the security even further you can add an even more bullet proof feature.

A compressed file can actually be broken up into any number of parts. These parts can then be shared through different channels and be collected and de-compressed at the destination.

Obviously this is a more cumbersome process, but in some cases added security measures are worth the effort. If you have invented the wheel, you may not want the world to know about it before you get the patent registered.

It also means that the recipient needs to have access to the same software to re-assemble the parts into one.

Archiving

Compression tools are also great for archiving old files. Even though you will not always experience a noteworthy file size reduction, it will simplify your file system when you can convert any number of files into one.

Be aware that it takes some time to compress large amounts of data and that the process is very processor intensive. However, high quality programs such as WinZip take advantage of multi core processors.

Saving disk space

Saving disk space is obviously a good thing and especially if you work on a laptop with a small SSD drive.

In general you shouldn´t expect too much in regards of file size reduction because many file formats are already highly compressed. However, with some file types you can experience handsome compression rates of 30% or more.

With compressed media files formats you´ll be lucky if you can reduce the file size by 5 %. This is typically music, photo and video formats such as:

  • Mp3
  • H264
  • JPG

Examples of file types where you can reduce the file size significantly are non-media files and uncompressed media files, such as:

  • .raw image format
  • Lossless video files
  • Office document file types
  • Program and system type files

5: Receiving compressed files

Most of you have tried receiving zip or similar compressed files from work or when you buy digital products online. Perhaps some of you have also tried not being able to un-compress the files.

Having this option ready at hand is quite practical even though you may not receive compressed files that often. But when you do it is pretty annoying not to be able to unpack the file.

Opening mainstream compressed file formats such as .zip and .rar does not even demand paid software. This option is included in some operating systems or you can download it for free. Please read the next chapter.

Please note that you do not need to buy software only to unpack most compressed files. Some operating systems include de-compression of .zip and other mainstream compression formats and if it is not included, unzip software is free. You can even get free unzip software on Amazon.

But when you need to create compressed and encrypted files yourself you need to buy the software.

Software and pricing

WinZip is surely the best known file compressor around. You can get WinZip as a stand-alone license in a standard and a pro version that cost 30 and 50 USD respectively. They offer a risk free trial version and a 30 day money back guarantee.

Added functionality

Winzip extra featuresIf you decide that you want to purchase a full stand-alone version copy of WinZip you will also get a selection of added features such as:

  • Watermarks (Added to applicable files such as images and PDF´s)
  • PDF conversion (Conversion to PDF from applicable files such as images and documents
  • Computer cleanup stuff
  • Backup
  • Photo size reduction

Warning!

By all means, look out for good deals if you decide to buy WinZip or similar software.

But be careful with all the free download offers. All the nasty scammers out there know all too well that people don´t really care for spending money on this kind of program.

Therefore you will very likely run into all kinds of pests such as auto installed pc-cleaners, antivirus software, browser phishing etc.