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What is MFT and How Does It Work?

What is MFT and how does it work?

Compared to using a variety of standalone FTP and SFTP tools and scripts, managed file transfer (MFT) technology allows professionals to streamline how data is transferred. MFT helps organizations send and receive files in the cloud and across their private networks, create and control workflows, automate business processes, and centralize management from a single system.

What is MFT?

Managed file transfer solutions are a type of software that use industry-standard network protocols and encryption methods to streamline the management of company data. The "managed” in MFT refers to how the solution can automate and transfer your data across your organization, network, systems, applications, trading partners, and cloud environments from a single, central interface.

Related Reading: Get a high-level overview of MFT in this white paper >

Why Using an MFT Solution Makes Sense

MFT file transfers reduce costs, improve the quality of your data transmissions, and help you comply with stringent requirements like PCI DSS and HIPAA. MFT software also simplifies your system-to-system, user-to-system, and user-to-user file transfers—and keeps security at the forefront of everything it does.

So we know what MFT is and why you should use an MFT solution, but we haven’t discussed how MFT works. How do managed file transfers exchange sensitive information? How do they benefit and secure your organization?

How MFT Works

Step One: Original File is Sent from the MFT Program or Plugin

Say you need to send a confidential document to someone in a remote office. Maybe it’s a seasonal restaurant menu for another retail location, maybe it’s an audit report for a trading partner, or maybe it’s a financial document for a homeowner. Whatever the scenario, you can send the file to a third party by using an MFT solution.

The file’s journey from you to your recipient can start in many ways. You can:

  • Securely send the file through an MFT email plugin
  • Send it through a web client (access to the MFT solution from a browser)
  • Automatically send it directly through the managed file transfer workflow
  • Place a file in a dedicated folder that the recipient can connect to securely for download

Whatever method you choose to send your file, MFT software ensures the data is transferred quickly and securely.

Step Two: Your MFT Solution Encrypts the File

After you send the email, upload the file to your browser, or drop it in a monitored folder, your MFT solution receives the data and secures it in a few different ways. Managed file transfer can encrypt your files using FIPS 140-2 compliance AES ciphers or the OpenPGP standard, among others. To protect your file transmissions, MFT can use SFTP, SCP, FTPS, AS2, and HTTPS protocols to encrypt the data you send. And an MFT solution like GoAnywhere MFT allows you to zip compress files before transmission.

Once your data is properly protected, you can use your MFT software to schedule file transfers (e.g., XML data transfers), translate sent and received data to popular formats like Excel, XML, and JSON, update and pull files from monitored folders, and more.

Step Three: Encrypted File is Delivered to the Recipient & Decrypted

When the MFT file transfer leaves your server, it's sent to whatever location you indicated for the recipient, whether that be a designated folder on another server, an email address, or so on. The recipient at the remote office can then grab the file, decrypt it, and even translate it as needed.

For peace of mind, MFT solutions often include audit logs that store and track crucial audit information. This helps with PCI DSS and HIPAA compliance, but it also allows you to track the movement and activity of the file that occur once it leaves you, so you never have to wonder if the transfer was successful, if it failed, or if the file was even opened.

If the recipient has a file to send you, they can repeat the process, starting the journey all over again.

And that's what MFT is and how it works! Pretty cool, right?

Your MFT Glossary: Terms to Know

Get an In-Depth Answer to "What is MFT" in Our MFT 101 Webinar

Still curious about managed file transfer solutions and how they can benefit your organization? Watch our on-demand webinar, "MFT 101: Securing, Automating, and Managing File Transfers," to explore current industry trends, identify file transfer challenges, and learn what to look for in an MFT solution.

Watch the Webinar

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