There are many file transfer protocols that organizations could use within their workflows. But most likely, organizations are simply looking for a way to automate their file transfers. Whether you send a dozen file transfers a week, hundreds a day, or even more, automation is a smart step for businesses. The benefits are simple: automatic file transfers cut down on user errors, reduce or eliminate the need for scripts, free up manual time spent on creating and maintaining jobs, and most importantly, get files where they need to go—and reliably, too.
Paired with encryption technologies like Open PGP, GPG, or AES, automation provides a secure way to push and pull files between an organization’s employees, clients, trading partners, systems, applications, and remote locations. With end-to-end encryption, ease of use, and detailed auditing for file activity, there are few reasons why IT professionals should opt for secure versions of FTP automation software to increase their file security and user productivity.
Learn more: Everything You Need to Know about PGP Encryption
What is FTP Automation?
FTP is the original file transfer protocol, which is implemented in order to exchange files over a Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and Internet Protocol (IP) network.
This file transfer method has been around longer than the World Wide Web (WWW) – and hasn’t changed much since its invention. FTP uses one channel (port 21) for sending authentication commands and receiving acknowledgements. It does, however, need to be opened with another port dynamically in order to transfer data – this is called the data channel.
What is SFTP Automation?
SFTP automation allows IT professionals to streamline their organization’s exchange of data over a secure SFTP connection. Automation can improve multiple transfer processes: projects and tasks to run, file monitoring, data exchanged with cloud or web services, recurrent file transfers, and file encryption.
With software for file transfer automation in place, administrators can quickly set up workflows and tasks that will provide end-to-end automation for SFTP file transfers. This means you can set up your transfers to run at certain dates and times, build a flow for how you want the project to function, and then shift your focus to other business-critical objectives while your automation software does the heavy lifting.
5 Things You Need to Know About FTP Before Pulling the Trigger
There are dozens of file transfer automation solutions available in today’s marketplace. Free software, open-source software, cloud-supported software, MFT and EFT software… The options can be overwhelming if you’re not sure which one to choose.
As you evaluate solutions on the web, here are five things you should consider about modern automatic file transfer software and why a traditional FTP might not be the best solution for organizations to use.
1. FTP is Outdated and Unsecure
In the 1970s, FTP was the powerhouse file transfer protocol organizations used to share files with each other. Security wasn’t a big consideration then. The internet was still new, and the words "hacking" and "data breach" didn’t have the same weight they do now.
As file sharing—and the information we include in these files—has increased, so has the interest in hacking. FTP was created during a time when security wasn’t as widely needed. Today, FTP is not only outdated, it has no security measures to help protect sensitive data in transit. A good example of this is the fact that FTP retains a user’s login credentials and presents it "in the clear" to anyone watching (aka "sniffing") network traffic.
Better, more secure options for FTP have been introduced over the decades. If you’re ready to safeguard your data in transit with secure server-to-server connections, it’s important to explore options for SFTP, FTPS, AS2, or HTTPS.
2. There’s More to FTP Automation Software Than Automation
Automatic file transfer software allows users to schedule when files should be sent or retrieved between systems, users, trading partners, applications, or the cloud. This software is frequently used to manage recurrent file transfers, especially if a high volume of transfers is processed a day, to allow the prioritization of other business-critical tasks.
But automation does more than just move files on a regular basis. With a managed file transfer solution in your organization, you can also use automation to monitor folders on-premises or in the cloud, receive email and SMS alerts when triggered events occur, and test and debug file transfer workflows.
Related Reading: 10 Ways to Achieve Automatic File Transfer
3. What’s Your Budget? FTP Automation Software can Vary in Cost
One thing you should have in mind when evaluating software is your budget. The automatic file transfer software available in today’s marketplace ranges from free to affordable to costly depending on the vendor you’re considering, how many licenses you need, what features you’d like to add, and what size your organization is.
Determining a budget for software is a personal decision. For a good idea at what kind of considerations you should add to your budget, this buyer’s guide to secure file transfer solutions can help. Use the free, printable checklist included toward the end to help work through a list of considerations for your organization.
Related Reading: Which is Better: Free SFTP Software vs. Enterprise-Level SFTP Software?
Free FTP Client for File Transfers:
If your budget is low or non-existent, and you’re certain FTP satisfies your requirements, you may want to consider our free FTP server and client solution for file transfers. We offer a free license of our managed file transfer solution, GoAnywhere MFT, that gives users access to our FTP server and is perfect for small organizations that don’t exchange sensitive files.
Learn More: Try Our Free FTP Client
4. What Do You Need? FTP Automation Software can be Basic or Robust
As we covered above, automation software can do the bare minimum and automate your file transfers, but it can also do more depending on your organization’s needs. While you search for a solution, consider if there are any other areas of the business that could benefit from a more robust file transfer product:
- Do you need to be compliant with requirements like PCI DSS or HIPAA?
- Would you benefit from being able to send ad-hoc files and packages via secure email?
- Do you need seamless integration with cloud applications or folders?
- Would you like an easy way to share files with internal teams and partners?
- Do you need to connect securely to remote locations and offices?
- Would your organization benefit for better user and admin security settings?
5. The Debate Around Open-Source Software
Are you considering open-source FTP automation software for your organization? If you’re only sending the occasional file transfer, or your files don’t contain sensitive information that must be compliant with industry or federal regulations, an open-source solution may seem like a positive choice.
However, it’s a good idea to be informed about open-source software before taking the leap for your business. Open-source software can have decent functionality, an ongoing community for support and development, and allow you to develop it to your unique requirements. On the other hand, there’s no guarantee of support for open source. These tools can be time consuming to set up, and you could outgrow it quickly if you decide to scale your environment in the future.
Related Content: ROI of Managed File Transfer Calculator
Whether you want to use an open-source FTP automation tool is completely up to you, but make sure you know what you’re getting into before you implement. You can explore the full list of pros and cons for using open-source software in this blog.
Migrating From FTP to SFTP: How to Enhance File Transfer Security
Whether you regularly receive 10 or 10,000 file transfers from your partners, it can be frustrating to go in and manually retrieve, unencrypt, and process documents. Not only is this process time-consuming, but manual work can also leave you open to user errors and security vulnerabilities, and often requires you to use other tools, like PC applications, to ensure everything is tracked in the event an unexpected business or compliance audit occurs.
Like most things, there’s a better way to handle small, medium, or large volumes of file transfers. And this way is through the implementation of SFTP automation.
What an Automation Workflow Looks Like
To get an idea of what a workflow for SFTP automation looks like, consider this: you set up a workflow to retrieve remote direct deposits from an SFTP trading partner every Tuesday morning at 8 a.m.
When the time comes, the workflow reaches out across the secure SFTP connection, accesses a secure folder on the partner’s network, and retrieves the documents you need. Once these documents are back in your network, the workflow then automatically decrypts these files, translates them into different file formats (e.g., CSV, EDI, XML), and drops them into a folder for your team to process.
3 Steps to SFTP Automation
If you’re ready to simplify your SFTP file transfers and ease up on the manual work they require, you’re a perfect candidate for SFTP automation. Follow these three easy steps to start automating file transfers in your organization.
1. Start the Search for File Transfer Automation Software
The best way to achieve SFTP automation in your organization, while also reducing your workload and homegrown processes, is to find and implement a file transfer automation solution. SFTP automation is frequently wrapped into a managed file transfer (MFT) solution like GoAnywhere MFT. In one single, centralized product, you’ll have the chance to automate your SFTP and other secure FTP connectivity (including FTPS, AS2, and HTTPS).
2. Evaluate the Software to Determine Which Features Appeal to You.
Not every solution with file transfer automation is built the same. As you evaluate different products to determine which one will best suit your needs, here are features to consider:
Tasks can be used to personalize the flow a project proceeds through upon triggering. GoAnywhere comes with 60+ tasks that help administrators improve the performance of their business processes. From compression to data translation, emails to loops, these tasks can be connected within a project and automate every aspect of your SFTP file transfers.
Most likely, you’ll want a solution that doesn’t require scripts, programming, or other technical knowledge to start building your SFTP automation processes. GoAnywhere’s setup of SFTP automation is intuitive. A built-in scheduler allows you to plan when your automated file transfers should execute, and calendars can be customized to ensure your projects don’t run on the dates you’d like to exclude (e.g., certain days of the week, holidays, etc.).
A file monitor can detect when new, modified, or deleted files are placed in a SFTP or FTPS trading partner’s folder for retrieval. It will scan specified folders regularly, as well as watch local folders if you need to process files added internally by different departments. The file monitor can also trigger a project to run whenever new files are found and notify you if errors occur throughout the process. Goodbye manual work, hello simplicity!
Related Watching: 10 Ways to Improve Your Processes with Advanced Workflows
3. Take the Software for a Test Spin and See its Benefits for Yourself.
Once you’ve found an SFTP automation solution and have checked that it comes with the features you need to streamline your file transfer processes, take it for a spin! Here are a few things to check out during a software trial:
- Is it easy to build new SFTP file transfers?
- How quickly can you execute and run a new file transfer?
- Can you execute multiple workflows for file transfers concurrently?
- Is the solution able to scale to match future automation needs?
- Are you able to easily resume a dropped SFTP file transfer