As companies recognize a need for a solution that meets their file transfer, automation, and encryption needs, the question often arises: what is managed file transfer (MFT) and how is it different from my current file transfer processes?
What "Managed File Transfer" Means
At its core, managed file transfer (MFT) is a secure solution that meets all aspects of inbound and outbound file transfers through the use of industry-standard file transfer protocols (e.g., SFTP and FTPS) and encryption standards (e.g., Open PGP).
The "managed" in MFT file transfers refers to how the software can automate, simplify, and streamline your transfers. This data can be exchanged by MFT across your organization, private network, systems, web applications, trading partners, and cloud environments from a centralized point of administration.
Read More: MFT Glossary
How MFT Differs from Other Tools
Unlike a simple FTP or SFTP solution, and more detail-rich than legacy PC tools or homegrown scripts, MFT (managed file transfer) solutions usually include the following features:
Extensive Security Controls
Enterprise-level security features, like the ability to set password policies and authenticate users with LDAP, AD, and other Identity and Access Management features, are part of a good MFT solution. You should also be able to easily block brute-force and DOS attacks, create SSL certificates and SSH/Open PGP keys, and retain compliance with strict in-house policies, laws, and regulations. In general, only authorized administrators should be able to configure these settings for the solution and its users.
Automated Batch File Transfers
Users can schedule batch file transfers to run at future dates and times using MFT’s built-in scheduler (or your existing scheduler software, if you have one). Projects and workflows can also be automated and execute whenever a monitor detects new, modified, or deleted files in a targeted folder. With a managed file transfer solution, projects can also run concurrently.
Support for Industry-Standard File Servers
MFT solutions often provide several file servers, including FTPS, SFTP, and AS2, for inbound customer, trading partner, and employee file transfers. These servers allow authenticated users to initiate a secure connection to your internal network and exchange sensitive files. An HTTPS server is also available for users who want to perform ad hoc file transfers through a web browser.
Read More on File Servers: Which is Better: SFTP vs. FTPS?
Advanced Auditing and Reporting
Advanced auditing and reporting functionality in a managed file transfer solution like GoAnywhere MFT will help you stay compliant with requirements like PCI DSS, HIPAA, HITECH, and the GDPR. Comprehensive audit logs can be generated for all file transfer and administrator activity, and the resulting details can be scheduled to export as easy-to-read PDF reports on completed job details, PCI security settings, expiring keys and certificates, and many more summary topics.
Reverse Proxy - DMZ Secure Gateway
Some MFT file transfer solutions offer a feature basic tools don’t: a reverse proxy, also known as a DMZ secure gateway, that will keep your file sharing servers (e.g., FTPS or SFTP) inside your private network and away from your DMZ. Reverse proxy software also helps keep your network’s inbound ports closed, which is an essential step for complying with the strict data security laws mentioned above.
Read More: Reverse Proxy Software Overview
Comparing MFT Solutions and Vendors
With a wide variety of products purporting to be managed file transfer solutions, there are some questions you may want to ask any vendor (and yourself!) before committing to a product:
- Does the solution use industry standard protocols for secure data transfers?
- Is the solution centrally administered, or are there PC components required for administration?
- Can I be notified in real time of certain events (e.g. errors) if they occur?
- How will this solution help me work with my customers, vendors and trading partners?
- Can audit reports be generated?
- What type of user security controls does the product have in place to allow separation of duties?
- Are there additional modules or add-ons that might need to be purchased?
- If our needs grow beyond our current platform, how does this solution grow with us?
As you research a vendor to handle your managed file transfer requirements, double check that you're selecting a vendor that can meet your needs today and for tomorrow.
A Secure Way to Meet File Transfer Requirements
A managed file transfer solution can be used by organizations of all sizes (including enterprise-level businesses) for needs ranging from a few dozen files sent or received a week to thousands or more exchanged a day. With strong encryption practices in place, IT and cybersecurity professionals can be sure MFT will protect their data no matter the size, contents, or frequency of the file transfer.
Watch the On-Demand Webinar: MFT 101: Securing, Automating, and Managing File Transfers
Managed file transfer solutions can also successfully replace old technology (e.g., FTP solutions that are used despite the risks posed by data that’s "sent in the clear"), time-consuming manual processes like PC tools and legacy scripts, and solutions with file access that’s too decentralized, making it hard for the team to control and manage the corresponding data.
Finally, the more complete MFT offerings on the market usually have the ability to handle critical file transfer requirements for sharing large files (often with no size limitation) via an accelerated file transfer protocol, on-premises collaboration features, or even a secure mail plugin for email clients like Outlook. Having all these options in one product accomplishes the goal of centralizing, managing, and tracking your file exchanges in one place.
Find the Best Managed File Transfer Solution for You
Need help choosing an MFT solution that meets your organization’s file transfer requirements? This ultimate buyer's guide to secure MFT will walk you through the evaluation process from start to finish.
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