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Governor limits prevent downloading files larger than 3 megabytes using HTTPRequest.

Is there any other way to download a file from an external resource is Apex?

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What exactly is your use case? Can you provide a link to the external resource in Visualforce or a custom field that points directly to it, instead of trying to funnel the data through APEX? –  Michael Welburn Feb 1 '13 at 17:40
@Michael Welburn: I need to integrate Salesforce with an external service. At some point Salesforce will ask the service to perform data processing and that results in a file that can potentially be rather huge. Salesforce has to somehow get hold of that file. The most direct way is to just use HTTPRequest. –  sharptooth Feb 4 '13 at 6:41

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