, also called sneaker net
, is an informal term for the transfer of electronic information by physically moving media such as magnetic tape
, floppy disks
, optical discs
, USB flash drives
or external hard drives
, rather than transmitting it over a computer network
. The term, a tongue-in-cheek
play on net(work)
as in Internet
, refers to walking in sneakers
as the transport mechanism.
Alternative terms may be floppy net
, train net
, pigeon net
A USB flash drive
allows the transfer of data between individuals without use of the Internet.
are a popular physical medium for transferring files and have become smaller in size as technology has advanced
Summary and background
Sneakernets are in use throughout the computer world. Sneakernet may be used when computer networks are prohibitively expensive for the owner to maintain, in high-security environments where manual inspection (for re-classification of information) is necessary, where information needs to be shared between networks with different levels of security clearance, when data transfer is impractical due to bandwidth limitations
, when a particular system is simply incompatible with the local network, unable to be connected, or when two systems are not on the same network at the same time. Because Sneakernets take advantage of physical media, security measures used for the transfer of sensitive information are respectively physical.
The United States Postal Service
offers a Media Mail
service for compact discs
, among other items. This provides a viable mode of transport for long distance Sneakernet use. In fact, when mailing media with sufficiently high data density such as high capacity hard drives, the throughput (data transferred per unit of time) as well as the cost per unit of data transferred may compete favorably with networked methods of data transfer.
in 1983, it received articles via tapes sent from the United States to the University of Sydney
, which disseminated data to dozens of other computers on the country's Unix network.
In later USSR
, the operating system called DEMOS
was created and adapted for many types of Soviet computers by cloning versions of UNIX
that were brought into USSR on magnetic tapes bypassing the Iron Curtain
. This allowed to build Relcom
network to provide global Usenet
access for Soviet users which led to the registration of .su
("Soviet Union") top level domain
In September 2009, Durban company Unlimited IT reportedly pitted a messenger pigeon
against South African ISP Telkom
to transfer 4 GB of data 60 miles (97 km) from Howick
. The pigeon, carrying the data on a memory stick
, arrived in one hour eight minutes, with the data taking another hour to read from the memory stick. During the same two-hour period, only about 4.2% of the data had been transferred over the ADSL
A similar experiment was conducted in England in September 2010; the "pigeonnet" also proved superior. In November 2009 the Australian comedy/current-affairs television program Hungry Beast
repeated this experiment. The experiment had the team transfer a 700 MB file via three delivery methods to determine which was the fastest; A carrier pigeon with a microSD
card, a car carrying a USB Stick
, or a Telstra
ADSL line. The data was to be transferred a distance of 132 km by road. The pigeon won the race with a time of approximately 1 hour 5 minutes, the car came in second at 2 hours 10 minutes, while the internet transfer did not finish, having dropped out a second time and not come back.
similarly offers its Data Transfer Service to customers to migrate data to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure or export data from it.
Wizzy Digital Courier provided Internet access to schools in South Africa with poor or no network connectivity by implementing UUCP
on USB memory sticks. This allowed offline cached email transport and scoops of web pages to back-fill a web cache.
Data analytics teams in the financial services sector often use sneakernets to transfer sensitive corporate information and information obtained from data mining
, such as ledger entries, customer data and financial statistics. There are several reasons for this: firstly, sneakernets can generally provide very high security (and possibly more importantly, they are perceived
to be secure) due to the impossibility of a man-in-the-middle attack
or packet sniffing
; secondly, the volumes of data concerned are often extremely high; and thirdly, setting up secure network links between the client business and the analytics team's facilities is often either impossible or an extremely convoluted process.
The Rigsum Sherig Collection project
uses a sneakernet to distribute offline educational resources, including Kiwix
and Khan Academy
on a Stick,
to hundreds of schools and other educational institutional in the Kingdom of Bhutan
. Many of the schools in Bhutan have computers or IT labs, but no Internet connection (or a very slow one).
The sneakernet, facilitated by teachers, distributes about 25 GB of free, open-source educational software to the schools, often using external hard disks
dissidents have been known to smuggle flash drives filled with western movies and television shows, largely in an effort to inspire a cultural revolution.
El Paquete Semanal
is a roughly 1TB compilation of media, distributed weekly throughout Cuba
via portable hard drives and USB memory sticks.
In 2015 Amazon Web Services
launched AWS Snowball, a 50 lb (23 kg), 50 TB device for transporting data to the AWS cloud;
and in 2016 AWS Snowmobile, a truck to transport up to 100 PB of data in one load.
For similar reasons, there is also a Google Transfer Appliance and an IBM Cloud Mass Data Migration device.
— Fred Gruenberger, Computing: A Second Course
The first USENET
citation is July 16, 1985
and it was widely considered an old joke already.
Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon
full of tapes hurtling down the highway.
— Andrew S. Tanenbaum
Other alleged speakers included Tom Reidel, Warren Jackson, or Bob Sutterfield.
Although the station wagon transporting magnetic tapes is generally considered the canonical version, variants using trucks or Boeing 747s
and later storage technologies such as CD-ROMs
, or SD Cards have frequently appeared.
- The Terry Pratchett novel Going Postal (2004) includes a contest between a horse-drawn mail coach and the "Grand Trunk Clacks" (a semaphore line) to see which is faster to transmit the contents of a book to a remote destination.
- William Gibson's novel Spook Country (2007) also features sneakernets, with iPods being the storage device used to clandestinely move information.
- In Cory Doctorow's novel Little Brother, the main character uses the term sneakernet to describe how he and his friends distribute the fictitious XNet software for encrypted communications.
The "valuable data file" has become a common MacGuffin
in action films and television programs (the motif of the "valuable letter or documents" (pre-electronic information storage technology) dates back hundreds of years).
- The film Johnny Mnemonic (1995), based on the short story by William Gibson, stars Keanu Reeves as a digital courier with 320 GB of corporate data transported in his head.
- The film Live Free or Die Hard (2007) depicts a digital thief attempting to download 500 TB of financial data to a suitcase-sized package.
- In the episode "Amen" of The Newsroom (2012), associate producer Maggie Jordan, after being told "it's 2011, we don't run film manually", is told that the video is taking too long to render on the local machine. It cannot feasibly be transferred over the network in raw form and must be run to the newsroom manually on a USB drive.
- In the film Elysium (2013), produced, written, and directed by Neill Blomkamp, Matt Damon as Max Da Costa downloads sensitive data into his brain implant in a data heist.
- In the film Snowden (2016), the titular character is seen evading security by carrying a data chip concealed in a Rubik's Cube.
- In the James Bond film Skyfall (2016), MI6 sets up a sneakernet due to security concerns.
- A large portion of the game Fallout: New Vegas involves a courier recovering and delivering a stolen casino chip containing part of a program for an anti missile defense system.
- ^ "Oxford Dictionary". Retrieved 2016-09-09.
- ^ Boutin, Paul (2002-08-26). "Sneakernet Redux: Walk Your Data". Wired News. Archived from the original on November 19, 2009. Retrieved 8 June 2010.
- ^ Munroe, Randall. "FedEx Bandwidth". xkcd what if?. Retrieved 18 September 2019.
- ^ Marquis, Bret (1983-03-29). "Australia joins USENET". Newsgroup: net.news.newsite. 467@sdchema.UUCP. Retrieved 14 February 2016.
- ^ Apuzzo, Matt & Goldman, Adam (May 13, 2011). "How bin Laden emailed without being detected by US". The Washington Times. Associated Press. Retrieved June 29, 2012.
- ^ McCullagh, Declan (May 13, 2011). "How bin Laden evaded the NSA: Sneakernet". Privacy Inc. CNET. Retrieved May 17, 2011.
- ^ "SA Pigeon 'Faster than broadband'". BBC News. September 10, 2009.
- ^ "BT feathers ruffled over pigeon-based file transfer caper". The Register. September 17, 2010.
- ^ Pigeon flies past broadband in data speed race, BBC News Technology, September 16, 2010
- ^ "The Great Australian Internet Challenge". ABC Television/Hungry Beast. 10 November 2009.
- ^ "Google helps terabyte data swaps". BBC News. March 7, 2007. Retrieved May 23, 2010.
- ^ Farivar, Cyrus (20 March 2007). "Google's Next-Gen of Sneakernet". Wired. Retrieved 5 February 2013.
- ^ "Offline Media Import / Export". Retrieved 29 January 2016.
- ^ "Overview of Data Transfer Service". Retrieved 30 April 2021.
- ^ "A Conversation with Jim Gray". ACM Queue. 1 (4). July 31, 2003. Archived from the original on December 5, 2009. Who would ever, in this time of the greatest interconnectivity in human history, go back to shipping bytes around via snail mail as a preferred means of data transfer?
- ^ "Seeking Riches From the Poor", Megan Lindow, 04.23.04, Wired.com
- ^ Rigsum Sherig Collection
- ^ Khan Academy on a Stick
- ^ "Only a Third of Government Schools Have Internet Access". Kuensel. April 18, 2013. Archived from the original on June 15, 2013.
- ^ Fighting The State, Without The Web: North Korea's Sneakernet Insurgency
- ^ https://www.wired.com/2015/03/north-korea/
- ^ How One Man Wants to Free North Korea With USB Drives and Pirated Movies
- ^ North Korea’s Secret Movie Bootleggers: How Western Films Make It Into the Hermit Kingdom
- ^ Balloon activist sends 'thousands of copies' of The Interview to North Korea
- ^ In Cuba, An Underground Network Armed With USB Drives Does The Work Of Google And YouTube
- ^ Kastrenakes, Jacob (October 7, 2015). "Amazon made a huge plastic box called Snowball so people can ship data to the cloud". The Verge. Retrieved October 8, 2015.
- ^ Dignan, Larry (November 30, 2016). "AWS' Snowmobile data transport truck highlights why cloud giant is so damn disruptive".
- ^ Sharwood, Simon (19 September 2017). "IBM packs 120TB into a carry-on bag, for snow-balling cloud uploads". The Register. Retrieved 19 September 2017.
- ^ "The Hidden Shipping and Handling Behind That Black-Hole Picture". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2019-04-14.
- ^ Mearian, Lucas (18 August 2015). "Massive telescope array aims for black hole, gets gusher of data". Computerworld. Retrieved 2015-08-21.
- ^ Gruenberger, Fred (1971). Computing: A Second Course. San Francisco: Canfield Press. p. 138. ISBN 978-0063834057. Retrieved 24 January 2017.
- ^ "Updated Textbook Explores Theoretical Basis of Networks". InfoWorld. 6 Feb 1989. Retrieved 16 April 2019.
- ^ Tanenbaum, Andrew S. (1989). Computer Networks. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall. p. 57. ISBN 0-13-166836-6.
- ^ Poole, Steven (August 18, 2007). "Sign language". The Guardian. London: Guardian Media Group. Retrieved September 24, 2009.
- ^ Ben Hui (March 1, 2006). "Haggle". University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory. Archived from the original on June 28, 2015.
Look up sneakernet
in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Last edited on 4 June 2021, at 22:57
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