AIRShip stands out for its well-balanced combination of user-friendliness, features and extensibility. We have described a ‘top ten’ of features in the Overview section of this website, but AIRShip offers much, much more. Here is a more in-depth list, divided into a series of logical sections (we have kept technical details brief, since more information is available in the Tech Specs section).
Setup & Management
- Once you are registered to use AIRShip, you can download/install/configure our Shipping Agent application on each computer you will be using to ship/synchronise/process your files;
- There is no proprietary hardware required;
- Shipping Agents are configured to manage a specific Location in the AIRShip portal you access;
- You use the portal to manage all shipping/synchronisation of your files between Locations, and any subsequent processing of them;
- You can set up your entire AIRShip infrastructure – including users, Locations, Projects and Relationships – prior to purchasing any licenses;
- You can define Private Networks in the portal, which are used by the portal when intelligently routing data between Shipping Agents;
- AIRShip offers unlimited scalability as your needs evolve, again with no need for licenses until you require them.
Shipping Agent (SA)
- You are led through the SA installation/configuration process by the portal when you access the home page (you are prompted for a Location Token, which Company Administrators can generate in the AIRShip portal and send to users via email if required);
- A command line tool is available for configuring SAs on headless systems;
- SAs can manage Locations in different AIRShip portals concurrently;
- SAs automatically check for firewall connectivity and report results to the portal, enabling Company Administrators to adjust their firewalls or opt to use a Transit Hub instead (explained in our Tech Specs section);
- SAs can be configured to have access to network drives and Windows shares (these are mapped to their IP address, not a drive letter);
- SAs upgrade automatically in the background when new versions are released.
- A license is required to activate each Location you will be using for shipping/synchronising files;
- These can be purchased online with a credit/debit card (you pay pro rata for the remainder of the month in which you purchase the bundle and then the full term at the beginning of the following month);
- Those purchasing larger quantities of licenses can request invoice terms;
- Simply buy bundles of any number of monthly/quarterly/annual licenses when you need them;
- You can send unlimited quantities of data, as fast as you like, all covered by the all-inclusive license fee;
- Licenses are used to activate Locations remotely via the portal, wherever they may be configured on Shipping Agents;
- Licenses can be re-assigned to other Locations to activate them, at any time.
Making AIRShip fly
- Shipping Agents deliver data via our accelerated TCP protocol, which uses multi-threading (up to 50 sockets) to completely mitigate the effects of round-trip time (i.e. AIRShip can always make full use of the bandwidth you have available, however far apart the sending/receiving Locations are physically);
- AIRShip can deliver at more than 1Gbps if the bandwidth is available and the computer hardware is up to it;
- We do not use UDP since, given our accelerated TCP protocol, there is no need for it (and many ISPs perform traffic shaping on it);
- You can ship/synchronise complex hierarchies of files/folders ‘as is’, without any pre-zipping;
- You can ship/synchronise numerous small files without any speed penalty (because we have eliminated the effect of TCP slow-start in our accelerated TCP protocol);
- You can ship/synchronise any number of files/folders (you do require sufficient bandwidth for the file list to be processed expediently);
- If a shipping or synchronisation Task is interrupted, AIRShip will auto-resume from the last 1MB delivered successfully when connectivity is restored;
- AIRShip can securely bridge public and private networks, where this is desirable;
- The AIRShip portal intelligently routes data via the optimum path available (taking into account any Private Networks that have been configured in the portal, and any port and IP address overrides that have been set for specific Shipping Agents);
- The AIRShip portal and Shipping Agents combine to optimally manage the bandwidth available, taking account of any throttle rate settings (this includes dynamically sharing out the available/desired bandwidth across concurrent transfers).
The image above illustrates Shipping Agent throttle rate management, which has been adjusted to reduce the amount of bandwidth this Shipping Agent uses during business hours, with none allowed in the first two hours each weekday
Projects, Relationships & Workflows
- Projects are used to define groups of users, Locations and Cargo – i.e. defining the users that can create Workflows in a given Project, the Locations between which they can ship/synchronise files, and which Cargo they can ship (if Cargo has been defined);
- A company can create any number of Projects, in a hierarchy that best suits their organisational needs.
- Organisations can use Relationships to connect with each other in an AIRShip portal, to share their users, Locations and Cargo (each of these can then be added to Projects, as required);
- Relationships are established in the portal by using a Relationship Token sent by one or the other organisation’s Company Administrators;
- Relationships can be terminated at any time if they are no longer required.
- Workflows are at the core of AIRShip, being the context in which all shipping/synchronisation/processing of files proceeds;
- A Workflow consists of two or more Tasks, selected from the following list:
- Source(s) – these can be files, pre-defined Cargo or Watch Folders, as required;
- Ship – ship one-to-one or one-to-many;
- Synchronise – select one or more Locations that will have the contents of their Watch Folders synchronised;
- Push to AIRSpace – select Cargo you want to push to a remote Location, such as a cloud-based server, for subsequent on-shipping;
- Authorise – nominate one or more users who have to sign-off progression of the Workflow;
- Process – triggers the launching of third-party applications, which can then process the files that have been selected/shipped/processed once the previous Workflow Task has finished.
- AIRShip incorporates a number of default Workflow Templates, from which you can select:
- Ship files;
- Ship files (with pre-delivery authorisation);
- Ship files (with post-delivery process);
- Push to AIRSpace;
- Synchronise files.
- You can create your own Templates, selecting Task types that reflect the real-world tasks you need to manage, and the order in which they should progress (these can include branching data flows, as shown in the example below);
In this example, the top branch could be a rendering process, while the bottom branch could be archiving of originals
- Workflow Template Task names can be customised on a per-Template basis, if desired;
- You can adjust the priority levels of your Workflows – and individual Tasks within them – such that they take precedence over other Workflows/Tasks already submitted (priorities can be adjusted at any time, even when Tasks have started);
- AIRShip Shipping Agents are capable of managing unlimited concurrent deliveries (if bandwidth and firewalls allow it) – i.e. one-to-many shipping of your files is possible;
- You can set a date/time which determines when an entire Workflow – or individual Tasks in a Workflow – will proceed;
- AIRShip is designed to require no supervision of computers using AIRShip for shipping/synchronising (data arrives, and an email is sent to appropriate users to confirm its successful delivery).
- Shipping is conventionally direct between Locations managed by Shipping Agents;
Files shipped direct from source Location to destination Location
- If a direct connection is not possible between Shipping Agents (usually because of firewall restrictions preventing an outbound connection from one to the other) a Transit Hub can be used (explained in our Tech Specs section);
Files shipped from source Location to Transit Hub (TH) and shipping already in progress from TH to destination Location
Files shipped from Transit Hub to destination Location
- You can include notes and meta data when shipping files;
- You can make collections of files (we call these Cargo) available for authorised users to access remotely, storing the Cargo locally or in the cloud (where they remain encrypted until delivered);
A piece of Cargo we use for testing – 1,000 x 1MB files – has been selected for shipping
- You can push or pull the Cargo to selected Locations, including remotely managing the delivery if required;
- You have the option to set AIRSpace Cargo to LiveSync such that, prior to on-shipping the Cargo, any updated versions of the files on the source computer are uploaded to the AIRSpace (ensuring that the latest files are always shipped).
- Our Shipping Agents incorporate a synchronisation algorithm, which is our own implementation of rSync (and which we have turbo-charged by integrating it with our accelerated TCP protocol);
- AIRShip enables the synchronisation of data between two or more computers (simply select any source Watch Folders and computers you want to be in your synchronisation Workflow);
- Synchronisation works by only sending the differences – known as deltas – between the sets of files on each computer participating in the synchronisation Workflow (which saves a significant amount of time if only a small percentage of file data has changed);
- There are several configuration options, which determine what is synchronised and how previous versions of files are managed (including archiving, where desired);
- Each time the contents of the Watch Folders changes, a new synchronisation event is created and progresses.
Administration & Troubleshooting
- The AIRShip portal enables live progress tracking of all stages of your Workflows via any browser:
- Live reporting of disk space available on all computers configured with a Location;
- Live bandwidth reporting on the computers involved in shipping/synchronisation;
- Operating System visual notifications on the computers involved in a Workflow, which confirm the completion of Tasks or any error messages being output by their active Shipping Agents;
- Emails notifications inform appropriate users about Workflow activity, including any consistent errors being reported by the Shipping Agents, and completion of Tasks and Workflows;
- The portal maintains a permanent audit trail of all AIRShip activity.
In addition to the error reporting tools described above, AIRShip provides additional resources to help resolve any problems:
- A comprehensive online Support Centre, which also enables the submission of support tickets to our team;
- Shipping Agent configuration options, which can resolve issues inherent in specific operating systems, such as:
- Filename mangling – this enables specific characters to be filtered out of names and file paths created when shipping and synchronising (avoiding non-standard character issues);
- Mac resource fork and Windows thumbnail file filtering – the default is not to ship/synchronise these files, since they are unnecessary and, indeed, can cause problems when being transferred to an operating system where they are not native file formats.
- Shipping Agents can be run in debug mode, to generate additional error messages that can be used to help diagnose problems;
- Our technical support personnel can instruct individual Shipping Agents to upload their log files to the AIRShip portal, such that they can be analysed to help diagnose problems.
Security & Data Integrity
- We have implemented SSL*, RSA-2048 and AES-256 encryption protocols and algorithms direct in our code, and all keys are managed separately from the data they protect (* we use OpenSSL libraries for SSL);
- Data is always encrypted in transit (using AES-256), and while at rest on any intermediate servers in the delivery chain;
- All encryption keys are stored in our portal, completely separate from the data being encrypted;
- You can use AIRShip to encrypt files onto portable media, which can then be sent by conventional courier – e.g. in situations where you have too much data and limited bandwidth – so that they are secure in transit, and such that you have an audit trail of their delivery (simply select the AIRLift option when selecting destination Locations in a shipping Workflow);
- All data remains encrypted when stored in the cloud as Cargo or intermediate data being shipped via a Transit Hub (explained in our Tech Specs section);
- You can create secure Relationships with other organisations using the AIRShip portal, with fine-grain rights management to control who can do what at all times (and the ability to review and remove those rights at any time);
Your own Company’s Relationship Token is listed in the Company Details page
Simply paste the Relationship Token sent to your by another Company to create a secure Relationship in the portal
- We track all user portal logins (including the IP addresses of the computers being used to access the portal) and record the portal activity of users while they are logged in.
- If you cancel a Workflow partway through shipping some files (e.g. you made a mistake choosing files or destination Locations), the AIRShip portal instructs the Shipping Agents involved to delete any partial or complete files that have already been delivered to the selected destination Locations;
- All data stored on Transit Hubs (explained in our Tech Specs section) is deleted once the data has all been shipped to the selected destination Locations.
- AIRShip incorporate lossless compression, to reduce the amount of actual data being shipped/synchronised (we use similar compression libraries to those used by Winzip);
- AIRShip uses CRC16 checksums to verify every packet of data and MD5 checksums to verify every 1MB block of data being delivered (if the sums didn’t match up, the Shipping Agents involved would stop transferring and post an error to the portal);
- Our synchronisation mechanism uses both weak (CRC) and strong (MD5) checksums to identify and verify deltas when comparing files at each end.
Extension & Integration
Our Workflows functionality incorporates a number of Task types from which you can select, to build a Workflow specific to your needs (we also provide a selection of default Templates, which cover many popular use cases). The Process Task automatically triggers third-party applications to process your files before or after delivery. It uses a Script you have provided to it (written in the language of your choice such as Perl, PHP or Python), and runs that Script at the appropriate time. You can save Scripts for re-use, and make them available on a Project-by-Project basis, to ensure that only authorised users can build Workflows using functionality that can make significant changes to your files.
AIRShip’s Script editor
Our API enables seamless integration with third-party applications, such that AIRShip functionality is accessed via their interfaces. It is available to organisations commissioning a private portal. We provide more information about the API in the Tech Specs section of this website.