Why Is File Compression Important on the Internet?

By Eric Novinson

Internet-capable devices store limited amounts of data.
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File compression includes methods of reducing the space necessary to store a file on a computer system. Compressed files require significantly less storage space than uncompressed files, although compression may lead to the loss of some data. File compression is intended to reduce the storage requirements of data that provide no additional information, such as white space on a page.

Data Transfer Speed

File compression increases data transfer speed. High-speed internet such as cable and DSL connections are not available in all locations. Many computers use much slower communication systems such as modems that cannot transfer data very quickly. In addition, even a system that can handle large amounts of data transfer is still slowed down when a lot of users connect to it at once. The longer the file takes to send, the more likely it is that the transfer is interrupted, or that the transfer is corrupted and the user receives an unusable file.

Server Disk Space

Disk space required on Internet servers is reduced by file compression. Internet servers require physical storage media, such as hard disk drives, and file compression allows the storage of more information on these devices. Compression also reduces the amount of time an Internet server needs to find the files stored on its hard drives. Even if a client computer is connected to an Internet server with a high-speed fiber optic cable, the client still must wait for the server to locate files in its own storage system.

Data Security

File compression can also hide information. Not all computers can read information stored in compressed files and list them in a file index. This can be useful if an Internet server stores information that is not intended to be available to the public, especially if the file compression method is not reversible by commonly used computer software. In addition, encrypting a file so that unauthorized users cannot read it increases the required storage space for the file, so compressing encrypted files is also helpful. Many organizations such as banks and Internet stores use strong encryption to handle financial transactions, so using a compression method reduces their storage costs.

Energy Conservation

File compression conserves energy. Every step of a file transfer on the Internet uses power, from the power necessary to operate the hard drive of the Internet server to that used by the modem, the router, and every other intermediate network device before the information reaches the end client's computer. File compression reduces energy bills associated with many devices.

Server Requirements

File compression is mandatory on some Internet servers. Server operators may not allow the transfer of uncompressed files, since they want to conserve space on their systems. This requirement means that Internet users will require a file compression program, both to upload data to these Internet servers and to read data that is downloaded. According to Boston College, file compression is useful when sending email message attachments, which frequently have file size restrictions.