There comes a day for many companies when it’s time to implement a managed file transfer (MFT) solution. Perhaps there are new compliance requirements to meet, new relationships with third parties and customers requiring advanced data exchange, or escalated internal needs among teams.
Regardless of the reason, the option of using open source managed file transfer software will likely arise. Many businesses use open source solutions for everyday needs, but what are the pros and cons of this approach? We dug into this question, and here’s what we found.
The Pros of Open Source Managed File Transfer Software
1. It’s free
Free is compelling when you’re staring down a long list of expensive IT projects, right? The price tag—or lack thereof—for any open source solution is typically the reason IT teams consider them. If your MFT software needs are short term or small in scope and you don’t have compliance requirements at play, this could be a viable option for you.
2. It’s got decent functionality
Although there probably aren’t any open source managed file transfer solutions with functionality comparable to commercial options, more mature products could still deliver most of what you need. Again, you’ll want to consider the caveats of #1 regarding your long-term plans for the application.
3. Community-based support and development
If you can find a solution used by many companies, there could be enough of a user community to find answers to your questions and advance development on an ongoing basis. Some of the open-source options available on the web today offer fee-based consulting and support packages.
4. You can develop the solution to your unique needs
If you have a large internal technical/development team you could push the functionality of your chosen open source solution forward in a way that matches your unique needs. This is the beauty of open source solutions in general—there’s no product roadmap or copyright issues to be worried about. While most IT teams can’t accommodate this type of project in their busy rosters, there are some companies that do have bandwidth.
The Cons of Open Source Managed File Transfer Software
1. There’s no guarantee of effective (or free) support
Although there’s no cost to the software itself, there are costs that can manifest in other ways. For example, if you run into issues, you won’t have a technical customer support rep at the ready with help. The user community may not have an answer for you. The options that offer support charge for this service, and the cost you pay could be comparable to buying a full-featured MFT solution. Make sure to do your homework on hidden fees.
2. It’s time consuming to set up and maintain
Depending on the maturity of the open source option, you could run into bugs or issues that hamper the productivity of the very people you’re trying to support. This could end up taking bandwidth from an IT team that doesn’t have it to spare.
3. It's potentially less feature-rich
Commercial MFT options have dedicated development teams making them better on a continual basis, typically with input from customers as well as ongoing industry best practices. Even if an open source solution is called MFT, it will lack some of the key capabilities of a true MFT solution. True MFT software features advanced capabilities for secure file collaboration and transfer, as well as a complete audit trail of all users and activities as well as configurable notifications of failed tasks.
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4. You could outgrow it quickly
You may find that open source MFT options can handle your ad-hoc file transfer needs but can’t accommodate business growth or increased complexity in your requirements. This means that just as you see an increase in daily file transfer needs you lose your ability to complete them effectively, putting your users in a bind.
5. It likely lacks security/auditability features
Security is of the utmost importance in today’s IT environment. If you must show compliance with any industry or governmental regulations, a proven Managed File Transfer solution can help with its detailed logging and advanced security protocols.
6. It could disappear
Open source software is the cowboy of the IT world: It’s wild and free—and could hit the road at any time. Maybe the developer who started the project decides to shutter the effort. Or the company that offers the free version you’re relying on has been acquired, and they want to focus on their paid software instead. Your open source MFT application could be nixed when you least expect it.
Related Reading: Six Signs Your Organization Needs MFT Software
How to Decide between Open Source and Commercial MFT?
Open source managed file transfer software has its perks, but it’s not right for every need.
The first step in determining how to move forward is to develop your business case. This will enable you to pinpoint your precise needs in detail and then evaluate both free and paid options against your criteria. This should make your decision clear.
There’s another important point to consider. While there are MFT products available in the open source landscape, they are few and far in between. You may have more luck with your file transfer requirements in the free or commercial MFT space.
Related Reading: Why Choose Managed File Transfer Over Free File Sharing Methods?
Get the Managed File Transfer Buyer’s Guide
Whether you go open source or not, our buyer’s guide for secure managed file transfer software gives you a comprehensive, vendor-agnostic look at all the factors to consider:
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