Accellion has released a virtualised version of its namesake file transfer appliance, designed to help IT departments securely manage the transmission of large files that are often otherwise sent as email attachments.

The vendor's products previously came as on-premises devices, with a mid-range A500 model costing $12,000, according to Paula Skokowski, vice president of marketing at Accellion.

In contrast, the AV500 virtual appliance costs $6,750 per year for 100 Web-based users, with support and maintenance included. Lower-end versions of the virtualised technology start at $2,000 annually, Skokowski said. She added that thus far, Accellion has sold three of the virtual appliances.

The virtual appliance software runs on any standard x86-based desktop or server system that is equipped with VMware's virtualisation technology. Accellion said the new offering is aimed at small and mid-size businesses that currently rely on file transfer protocol (FTP) software or email attachments, or even instant messages to send files.

Founded in 1999, Accellion competes in the managed file transfer market, which offers alternatives that are meant to be easier to use as well as more secure than the traditional approaches.

FTP can be technically tricky for some users, for instance. And Gartner said in a report issued in July that although it's possible to securely send files via FTP using Secure Sockets Layer encryption, FTP still lacks key automation and guaranteed-reliability features.

Meanwhile, Gartner predicts that 40 percent of the companies currently using email to send files as attachments will move to other technologies by 2010.

Accellion claims to have more than 300 enterprise customers for its on-premises appliance models, with an aggregate total of more than 1 million end users. Its customer base includes many media, advertising and engineering companies, where it's common for employees to send large files to clients and colleagues.

One of Accellion's options enables its software to work entirely in the background, stripping out email attachments from messages and storing the files on a virtual or physical appliance, and then giving the intended recipients secure links to the appropriate files.