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What to Consider when Selecting Managed File Transfer Software

 selecting the right managed file transfer software

Does this scenario sound familiar?

You’re at work, at least five programs open on your computer as you tweak the custom Linux shell and python scripts that allow you to transfer dozens of company files from one destination to another. Commands pour from your fingers as you check the transfers for successful delivery. Some of them failed; you troubleshoot why, then hit submit and mop the sweat from your brow.

You dream about finding the time to automate your file transfers. But even if you could manage it around your dozens of other tasks, you’d still be missing support for the network protocols you want, and you’d still need to check the transfers manually.

As the file transfers requests continue to pour in, endless and mind-numbing, you take a second to stare into your empty coffee cup and wonder when you saw daylight last. This morning? Yesterday afternoon? You can’t quite be sure.

You also can’t help but wonder if there’s a better way to manage these file transfers. Surely all this manual work isn’t the only answer.

Introducing Managed File Transfer

Thankfully, for the sake of all system administrators and IT teams, there’s an alternative to this nightmare. Forget custom scripts, a plethora of programs, and failed file transfers. With the right managed file transfer (MFT) software, these things will be relics of the past, replaced by an all-in-one solution that supports the use of multiple secure protocols, sends alerts via email or text whenever transfers fail, and helps you meet rigorous compliance requirements.

Many organizations, in industries from healthcare to retail, are switching out their scripts and old programs for a powerful MFT solution. Why? Managed file transfer can:

  • Improve the efficiency of your file transfers
  • Automate your file transfers and workflows
  • Send multiple (or just large) files to outside networks and locations
  • Translate data to and from popular formats, like .xml, .xls, and .csv
  • Connect to servers using standard network protocols (including HTTPS, FTP, SFTP, FTPS, and SNMP)
  • Save organizations time, money, and valuable resources

 And much, much more...

Managed file transfer software also supports and strengthens file transfers to meet stringent company, state, and federal policies and regulations. While scripted file transfers run risk of compromise, MFT allows administrators to set password policies, authenticate users against LDAP, AD, IBM i, and other IAM solutions, automatically encrypt all data in transit and at rest, specify folder level permissions, and keep control of key management, among other features.

Pre-Search Considerations

Before starting your search for a managed file transfer solution, think about the qualities that matter to you and your organization. A list will help you keep your “must haves” in mind as you compare and weigh your possibilities.

Actual considerations will depend on your specific needs, but here’s a few questions most companies focus on when making their final decision:

  1. What’s your budget for an MFT solution?
  1. What’s your daily file transfer volume?
  1. How many hours a day do you spend performing manual transfers?
  1. Do you want the flexibility to add on modules for emails, forms, or folders?
  1. What sort of information are you transferring? Sensitive PII or credit card data? (Depending on how important the data is, you may need an SFTP over a FTP MFT solution, for example)
  1. What level of software support will you need? Is an MFT solution with a reliable support team priority for your team?

Features to Look for in MFT Software

Understanding the benefits of managed file transfer and making the decision to implement it in your organization is the easy part. The difficult part? Choosing the right MFT software to meet your growing IT needs.

Tip: Use our Buyer's Guide Checklist to compare the MFT vendors and products you’re considering.

There are many solutions on the market, and they all bring different pros and cons to the table. When it comes to selecting the one that works for you, here’s what you should look for.

Advanced Audit Logs and Reporting Metrics

Depending on the size of your organization and the industry you work in, you could be processing hundreds, maybe even thousands, of file transfer requests a day. How do you currently record all that information? How much time does it take you to sort through it?

A managed file transfer solution with advanced auditing will help you track the onslaught of data you touch, leaving you free to pursue more important endeavors (like filling that empty cup of coffee). Even better, that solution should then generate a log that shows all file transfer and admin activity whenever you need it, so you can see who did what all day long.

If advanced auditing is the peanut butter of an MFT sandwich, then reporting metrics are the jelly. With just a click of the mouse, you can select a date range and export a PDF with charts or graphs of your file transfers, user statistics, and completed jobs. Then, distribute the PDF to your key stakeholders or trading partners—and you’re done! No Powerpoint, Photoshop, or math skills necessary.

Some MFT software offer basic reporting functions, others offer an entire list of reports to choose from. Select the solution with the auditing and reporting features that best fit your organization’s needs.

Integrated Clustering

Have you heard of clustering? It can give you greater high availability (HA) and support for load balancing, which helps ease the burden of traffic for and distribute your workloads across multiple systems.

Imagine you have dozens of important file transfers to take care of, day in and day out. Now imagine a crucial system goes down. If your file transfers don’t route to a backup system, you could be in for a headache. But with the right MFT solution, this scenario is avoidable. Just configure your systems into a cluster, and they’ll pick up the slack for whatever system goes offline, meaning you’ll never have to miss a file transfer.

In the same vein, clustering allows you to distribute a heavy workload (including workflows, data transfers, user activity, and so on) across all grouped systems. Each inbound connection to your file servers will be sent to systems as they’re available, increasing performance and throughput without impacting your work.

Cloud Support

The cloud as we know it grows more prominent by the day. As more and more organizations move their applications, data, and file transfers to a cloud platform and start looking for a way to secure their data off-premises, integratable MFT solutions become a valuable asset.

Managed file transfer software not only secure data in transit and at rest, they align with cost-saving strategies for companies that plan full or hybrid migration to the cloud. The right MFT solution should deploy on common cloud computing platforms, like Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services, run on multiple operating systems, and support popular file transfer and encryption protocols. Optionally, you can also search for software that monitors folders in the cloud (like Amazon S3 buckets) and pulls/syncs updates automatically.

Some MFT software can be 100% deployed to the cloud, leaving you with nothing to run in house. Others can integrate with your cloud computing platform of choice while still being monitored from a central, browser-based interface. Determine which type you’re looking for before your search, but don’t be afraid to ask questions! Many companies are happy to talk with potential customers and figure out a solution that works best for them.

MFT Agents

Some managed file transfer software support MFT Agents. What are MFT Agents, you ask? Well, Agents allow you to automate your file transfers and workflows throughout your organization. They’re managed by a central deployment of the software, where you can configure and schedule business processes at ease.

Agents can reside on-premises or in the cloud. Those that reside at remote locations and on trading partner systems automatically monitor folders and transfer files, so you don’t have to.

Finally, look for MFT Agents that can be grouped together. Grouping Agents allows you to deploy a change, or roll out a file, to several locations at once—a great time-saving tip for the busy system administrator.

Browser-based/Mobile-based Web Client

Let’s face it: you lead a busy life. Between normal work tasks and putting out fires, you probably have a full schedule … not to mention the homelife after 5 p.m. that’s also important. So, what happens when system failures and workload errors throw everything off? How do you address those wrenches thrown into your routine when you’re in transit or outside work hours?

Ease your burden with MFT software that has a browser-based interface and is mobile friendly. If a file transfer fails and you’re not at your workstation, just log in to the admin dashboard from home. Or get an alert sent straight to your email or smartphone, so you’re updated the moment something goes wrong.

Security is always a concern, but accessing your MFT solution can be 100% secure with the right measures in place. Look for managed file transfer software that blocks questionable IP addresses, provides a list of recent web activity, shows what active connections you have open, and encrypts your activities with the proper network protocols.

These features are just a few of the things you should consider when shopping for MFT software. As you look at and compare products, consider giving GoAnywhere MFT a whirl. Contact us to set up a demo or go straight for a free, 30-day trial. We’d be happy to show you around our innovative managed file transfer solution—and free you, once and for all, from those maddening custom scripts and manual tasks.

 

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