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Wikipedia says:

Sneakernet is a tongue-in-cheek term used to describe the transfer of electronic information, especially computer files, by physically carrying removable media such as magnetic tape, floppy disks, compact discs, USB flash drives, or external hard drives from one computer to another

Has anyone actually used Sneakernet in their professional job? Is it a common practice or is this done rarely?


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13 Answers 13

up vote 27 down vote accepted

Nothing beats sneakernet when it comes to bandwidth -- I've achieved blazing speeds of 1.7 Gbps when carrying a 500 Gb hard drive to a machine 10 min away.

However, latency sucks -- from 5 min in the same building up to 40h worldwide.

Love the latency bit! – Chealion May 15 '09 at 6:23

Obligatory Data Transfer By Snail story link.

I love it! Too bad I already chosen a answer. Regardless, here's an upvote. :) – MrValdez May 15 '09 at 10:21
Direct link to the original article: – CesarB Jun 30 '09 at 17:49

I do it whenever it makes sense based on how long a transfer over the network will take. Which is a day or two a week from just transferring via an external hard drive to FedEx'ing overnight a couple terabytes of info to another company.

Check out Jeff Atwood's post on The Ecnonomics of Bandwidth for an example of when it really makes sense.


Air gapped networks: sneakernet is common for anyone who runs a network that can't be connected to the Internet or even their own intranet.

Some of my current employer's customers use this setup to help keep data that they are processing safe from hackers or butter finger slip-ups. It typically archives of another firm's email that is being searched in relation to a lawsuit.

Wikipedia also has some more examples of air gapped networks.


I use it all the time. Sneakernet is very necesary when you are a consultant who works on their own machine which is not connected to a customers network.

I am currently carring on me: a 1 TB external drive, an 80GB smaller drive, a 4GB and a 2GB USB key all for sneakering.

High speed usb is heaps quicker than a slow network for large ISO images for example.

I remember a television story from a few years ago where in country NSW someone transferred a ~500gb file quicker using a carrier pigeon with a SD card than using Telstra broadband.

All encrypted securely, right? :-) – Matt Simmons May 28 '09 at 17:50
Scarily probably not. – Bruce McLeod May 29 '09 at 13:46

I'm waiting for my "sneaker" to arrive as we speak, there simply was no better way to get >150GB from Ohio to California.


Google does it. (or at least used to)

I did it this week, burning three DVDs to get a bunch of user data across town, since one of the offices can only access the internet via a slow vpn conection.


I used to run a video company back in the 90's when everyone had 56k modems and ISDN was, like, really cool!! Sneakernet (or Taxinet we used to call it) was the only way to get many things done...

+1 whoops, i didn't see that - i just posted something similar. it's still the only way to get things done. you're not going to be transferring 4K video by email. even copying it to an external drive is a pain – username May 18 '09 at 1:00
just deleted my answer so as not to steal the glory. fwiw, i posted "Talk to to someone in video production! For those guys FedEx and UPS are transfer protocols." – username May 18 '09 at 1:02
lol! Back then, '4k video' meant bits per second! – avstrallen May 18 '09 at 11:26

Given the size modern portable HD and other media such as SD cards or USB memory sticks. It is a very cost effective way to transfer data. Also not every device has network connection. There also can be a security aspect. It is easier to verify the physical security of an object that to ensure a message was not intercepted. The military used to prefer physically sending tapes or disk with classified data. This was a few years ago so things may have changed. If nothing else I doubt there are too many devices still using tape drives or paper punch tapes.


Linux distributions on DVDs sent by regular mail, would be a form of sneakernet.



twas the night after win7 7100 release all was quiet in the mancave and not a mouse was stirring i was trying to get my winxp laptop into the win7 homegroup after failing to do that, went oldschool for workgroups but still couldn't print out of the printer attached to the win7 pc!!

like a bolt of lightening it hit me, SNEAKERNET!! trusty flashdisk in hand, i said fdisk! and just transfered the files from laptop to win7 and printed my docs. sneakernet saved the night. will figure out why win7 wont let me print from winxp workgrouppc later this weekend when i have time.


Using sneaker net (with a multi GB thumb drive for the physical layer) for interim solution for a low speed DAQ system right now.

Should have internet into the experimental hall in a couple of months. In the mean time, someone will carry the updated DB out on once or twice a week...

No worries.


Instead of uploading 2 TB to the data center at 100Mbps, I brought a TeraStation to the data center and plugged it in..

Saved us DAYS.


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