In my previous blog post, I proposed a new feature of DONATION that would allow you to backup your database to “the Internet” somehow. Fortunately, however, some of you readers informed me about significant problems with that plan, including conflicts between Canadian privacy laws and the US Patriot Act, that would prevent Canadian users from using this feature if the Internet storage service I was using was based in the USA or even if it was based elsewhere, but run by a subsidiary of a US company. There are also apparently other laws governing transferring of encrypted files across country boundaries that could be relevant and a problem for this plan.
So, I have given up on that plan as such.
Instead, what I’m working on is a facility to easily email database backups as an attachment, to whatever email address you specify, and of course to restore those attachments after you save them back to your hard drive. This actually provides some of the benefits that the Internet backup idea had, namely storage elsewhere (either in an email program on another computer, or on an email service such as Hotmail or Gmail), and database transfer between computers. (It won’t help if one of the computers you need to transfer the database to or from isn’t connected to the Internet, but neither would the Internet backups idea have helped with that.)
I would plan to compress the database backup before sending it as an attachment, to speed up your email sending and receiving and reduce store requirements. One question I have, because it seems difficult to find an affordable and reliable single program that both compresses and encrypts files (with strong enoung encryption to be worthwhile) is whether you would feel that it is necessary to encrypt your database backups before sending them by email. Please let me know with comments to this posting.
As a prior requirement for this feature, I will be adding a feature to DONATION to allow you to specify how you send emails via your Internet Service Provider (your SMTP setup, for those who know what this means), so that DONATION can send the emails directly. (Currently, when it sends emails, for instance to request a license key, it uses a trick to send it via the Software4Nonprofits.com web site. That would not be acceptable for multi-megabyte emails – too much traffic for me, and too slow for you!)
I’m going to make this email sending setup as simple as possible, by having the program try to figure out which email client program you use (for instance, Microsoft Outlook, Outlook Express or Windows Live Mail, or Mozilla Thunderbird) and read the settings from that program. If you don’t use an email client program, for instance if you only use webmail, I will prompt for your email address, and try to fill in the correct SMTP settings based on research I have done on the SMTP settings required by the major webmail providers like Hotmail, gMail and Yahoo.
This email sending setup will then give me a great start on adding the other emailing features I have been wanting to add to the program, namely individual or mass emailing of receipts and letters. I don’t expect those further features to be in the next release (though I might include a simple feature for emailing just one receipt at a time), but the building blocks will at least be there.
I welcome your comments about any aspect of this post!