We have had a number of enquiries this week from clients currently working from home due to the Covid-19 lockdown around the world. How to get round the problem of uploading large audio files when your broadband is not very good?
Here is our guide. In essence, if you have not got the time to read this article – the best option is to download Switch from NCH, convert your file to an MP3 and then try again.
How large is the audio file?
Look at the file you are trying to send. How large is it? If you need to check and are not sure how, here are examples for the iPhone (and iPad) and Windows systems. File size is the problem with over 99% of issues we experience with clients trying to send us files. For example you cannot send a digital audio file as an email attachment in most cases if it is more than 15-20MB.
In Voice Memo (or wherever you have the file saved) tap the … or Share button (in the lower left corner of the screen) and you should get to see a file size as part of the information – eg Research Interview 1 – 15 MB.
Open File Explorer. If there is no “Size” column showing, click the column headings with your right mouse button and select it.
File Size Matters
If you are trying to upload a 50MB file and you have a broadband upload speed of say 10MBs, it is not going to take very long to upload the file. You can check your broadband speed here – (this is not a paid click – just a service we have found useful over the years!). Do not confuse download speeds with upload speeds.. Upload speeds are the time it takes to send data packets from your PC to an external source, download speeds are the time it takes external sources to send data packets to your PC.
If you have a 3GB audio file to upload with a 10MBs upload speed then this may take some time. You also need to bear in mind that if you are trying to use your mobile phone as a personal hotspot than uploading a large audio file will be eating quite a large chunk of your allowance..
There are parts of the UK where the upload speed is dire and can be painfully slow. Ofcom says that 33% of properties in the UK had download speeds of less than 10MBs in 2018 which means that upload speeds are barely adequate to upload anything of more than 20MB at a time.
How to Reduce File Size
The easiest way of reducing upload speeds and making the files more manageable is to compress them. The simplest method of compressing a file is simply to zip it. To zip using a windows PC: open File Explorer, right click the audio file you want to zip and click “Send to”. Select “Compressed Zip Folder”. Your PC will automatically zip the file and save as a zipped folder. Upload the zipped folder. Zip files seem to be around 85% of their original size, so this option will not perform miracles.
Convert your Audio File
Some audio files use an amazing amount of disk space to do exactly the same as other types of audio files.
There are three major groups of audio file formats:
- Uncompressed audio formats (eg WAV)
- Formats with lossless compression (MPEG-4, .m4a, .wma)
- Formats with lossy compression (eg MP3)
Uncompressed audio formats are the largest files and formats with lossy compression are the smallest files.
In order to make your audio file smaller, it can be worth converting it to a smaller file size. So converting a .wma or .wav to an .mp3 file can make a big difference.
Conversion websites may be an option if you have an audio file that does not require any security. https://online-audio-converter.com/, https://www.zamzar.com/convert/wav-to-mp3/, http://www.convertfiles.com/convert/audio/WAV-to-MP3.html are all options.
If you have a file that requires a higher level of security we would recommend downloading a very nifty piece of software from NCH in Australia called Switch. This is our preferred solution – works impeccably well. https://www.nch.com.au/switch/index.html
Don’t be Impatient
When we started out in digital transcription back in 2001 clients would upload files to us. Our transcription manager sometimes had to leave her PC on for 6-8 hours to download the files and these would occasionally go on for days at a time! Fortunately we are out of the Stone Age, but sometimes huge files uploading can take a number of hours to complete. Be patient – sit back, make a cup of tea. Write a novel…
We are sure that 90% of issues uploading files can be resolved simply by converting your audio file types to a smaller file type. The most reliable and fastest free upload service seems to be Dropbox by the way (if you are not using our own SSL secure servers to send us audio files to transcribe and instead trying to upload a video of a dancing dog to your grandma).
University Transcriptions are happy to assist with any problems you may have, particularly if you are trying to upload a file to send to us. Remember – if you are really struggling then there is always the option to resort to the old fashioned solution of saving your audio file onto a memory stick and posting it to us.. For assistance please contact us.