Blog Post What is Managed File Transfer?

What exactly is "Managed File Transfer"? What makes "Secure File Transfer" different?

File transfer is a generic term that applies to the act of transmitting data over a computer network.

Managed file transfer (MFT) is a type of software or service designed to facilitate this file transfer. MFT is used to provide secure internal, external and ad-hoc data transfers throughout a network. MFT software is most often marketed to corporate enterprises as an alternative to using ad-hoc file transfer solutions, such as FTP, SFTP, or HTTP.

Secure file transfer (SFT) is another important term to know. It is typically a component of MFT. The word 'secure' simply refers to additional security-related capabilities. These capabilities include:

  • Encryption: The ability to encode data in a way that the only parties who can view it are the sender and the recipient.
  • Auditing: A breadcrumb trail of all previous file transfer operations, including file sender information, when the file was sent, the recipient, etc.
  • Non-Repudiation: The file transfer system can produce proof that a file was received by the intended recipient.
  • Time Savings: Files can be sent at a speed of your choosing. MFT applications provide unique, proprietary technology with the ability to send files up to 80x faster than FTP or HTTP.

Now that we have established the difference between MFT and SFT, it is important to know exactly how MFT applications can simplify enterprise IT management. 

MFT Core Features

Most MFT applications have either most or all of the following characteristics:

  • Support for multiple file transfer protocols, including AS2, FTP/S, SFTP, SCP, AFTP and HTTP/S
  • Platform-independent solutions with mobile device file transfer support for iOS and Android
  • Accelerated file transfer over high speed / high latency public and private networks, moving files up to 100 times faster than FTP
  • Secure file storage using multiple data encryption methods
  • Automation of file transfer processes between trading partners and exchanges, including detection and handling of failed transfers 
  • User authentication using existing user repositories such as LDAP, Active Directory, NTLM, PAM and databases
  • REST and Java-based APIs for managing the server, users and configuration settings
  • Capability to generate detailed reports on user and file transfer activity
  • A data loss prevention module that prevents the loss of control over sensitive data like credit card, SSN and bank account numbers
  • Capabilities for integrity checksum and resuming file transfer 

Three Basic Scenarios for MFT

Although MFT is fairly consistent in its offerings and features, each enterprise may use it in different ways and to different degrees. In order to illustrate the practical applications for MFT, below we've outlined three different potential situations examples of businesses moving data from place to place.

1. A business that regularly exchanges files, system-to-system.

This business needs to regularly transmit information from computer to computer, and to a wide variety of external companies, all of whom may have different formats and protocols.

2. A business that occasionally exchanges files, or transfers them from system to system. 

For this company's IT department, the most important MFT feature is its integration with existing applications through APIs and software development kits (SDKs), and that it can format and output the data from these applications and send it to another applications. When a file that contains the parameters of transfer is created in one application, MFT software can easily move it to where the other application can import it. 

3. A business that only transfers files ad-hoc, mostly relying on human-to-human transfers. 

At this company, the people and not the system are required to send large files securely, either through their email or using a web interface, to another individual for whom the company does not have a security certificate. The company can still use MFT solutions for these scenarios, as they do not require a security certificate. The only required addition was an email system with valid and functional security certificates in use on both sides. 

Benefits of MFT

Because of its powerful and secure functionality and its wide-ranging capabilities, MFT offers many unique benefits, including: 

  • Eliminating the risk of insecure file exposure. MFT will keep your data safe with a secure file transfer solution for ad hoc file transfers that no longer require time-consuming workarounds.
  • Eliminating the ever-present temptation to share enterprise information through unsecured methods. MFT does this by deploying a single, convenient and user-friendly solution for the entire organization. 
  • Saving time and sending files exactly when you need them sent. MFT applications provide patent-pending, proprietary acceleration to send files up to 80x faster than FTP or HTTP. 
  • The ability to easily send files from email, web and desktop applications with zero disruption in workflow. 
  • Quick and easy recall of the complete audit trail of all file transfer operations. MFT increases productivity by saving time normally spent waiting for files to upload and the challenges that come with it. This allows the team to get more done with faster upload speeds that won’t crash or lose upload progress.
  • Reducing the burden on the IT department and increasing its consistency of messaging. MFT eliminates the need to track workarounds, and helps enforce organizational IT policies related to performance, risk, audibility, and security. 
  • A centrally managed, single source for file transfers across the organization. MFT applications ensure end-to-end visibility of all activity within a single solution.

The Managed File Transfer Advantage over FTP

As mentioned above, FTP is a type of ad-hoc file transfer which could also be considered the predecessor of MFT. FTP has been around essentially since the invention of computers, and was initially developed as a way to move files from one computer to another. In today's IT environment, however, FTP simply cannot keep up with the acceleration and security features of MFT, and is often not sophisticated enough to maintain network compliance. Choosing MFT over FTP therefore brings with it the following advantages:

  • Security: FTP, public cloud-based sites, and USBs are dangerous alternatives for enterprise content, since they are not secure and outside of corporate information governance policies. Secure MFT provides a high-performance platform for easily sending and receiving large files safely and securely.
  • Reporting and Administration: MFT features include reporting and administration functionalities for errors or status of all file transfers, non-repudiation, audibility, global visibility, user activity, system utilization, scheduling, receipt monitoring, real-time notifications, and routing.
  • Centralization: FTP often lacks capabilities of checkpoint and restart, internal connectivity between various operating environments, content validation before and after file transfer, management and security of file movement for collaborative purposes, and metadata to ensure file integrity, centralized analytics. MFT checks all of these boxes. 
  • Automation: FTP doesn't include automated features common in MFT tools, such as onboarding of users, roll out to servers for rapid deployment and provisioning, workflow rules that dictate file movement from one job to the next, and events that would trigger action.
  • Easy Integration: MFT offers APIs that integrate with applications, middleware, email, and cloud.
  • Smart Routing: MFT offers the feature of routing files based on policy or content, file/data transformation, and file management with versioning capabilities to prevent data duplication or data loss, as well as built-in encryption, certification, and validation of data. FTP does not. 

Modern organizations hoping to keep up with the pace of digital transformation need to have a managed file transfer or secure file transfer solution in place. When increasing overall automation capabilities, most enterprises will benefit from combining MFT within their Workload Automation solution. Stonebranch offers automation software with built-in MFT capabilities and countless features and integrations that fit seamlessly into any kind of IT environment. To learn more about our MFT offerings, schedule a demo with us today. 

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