Altiris Helpdesk: Practical Limit of 63 Characters for Attachment Filenames
Spent the last couple of hours looking into an issue with the Altiris 6 Helpdesk. As I couldn't find the issue reported elsewhere, and its bitten me before I thought I'd just pop this in the blog.
In summary, be aware that for practical purposes the limit for attachment filenames in the Altiris Helpdesk is 63 characters. If you are using Microsoft Exchange for your enterprise email services, internal users mailing into the helpdesk with attachment filenames exceeding this limit will have their attachment silently dropped.
The evidence of a ticket having a dropped attachment is found in ticket history: it will state that ‘the following attachments were added:’ in the incident update without stating the filename (as would normally be the case).
The workaround we put in place is to have helpdesk email going to an mailbox which is then automatically forwarded to the helpdesk. This allows our helpdesk staff to extract the attachment to the ticket directly when the encounter the empty attachment field.
For several years we’ve seen a strange scenario where user emails can have their attachments silently dropped by the helpdesk, depending on which mail servers they’ve been passed through. As we’ve had a few mailservers around it’s been difficult to figure out what’s going on. Although rare, it is reproducible if the same user is asked to send the same attachment again.
Today we made some progress in understanding the issue. It seems that Exchange does ‘something’ to internal emails which results in the Altiris helpdesk email interpreter falling over when the attachment filename exceeds 63 characters. The same email sent from Google or Yahoo into the helpdesk does not suffer from this problem. The same email sent via other internal mailservers may, or may not, suffer from this problem –it seems to depend on the email server vendor and version in question.
So what we know for sure is that this issue is the result of how Exchange (and possibly other mail servers) deal with attachment filenames once they get to 64 bytes. And whatever is happening here, the Altiris helpdesk email interpreter doesn’t understand it (despite being able to understand attachments with long filenames originating from the likes of Yahoo and Google).
There are references out there on the internet of Exchange becoming a bit frustrating when dealing with long filename attachments, but no resolution in sight.
So for now such attachments will continue to go missing, and we'll have to re-attach them as before when that happens. But, at least now we can do so with a bit of reassurance that there isn’t much we can do about it. ;-)