Organizations often have legacy systems in place for moving files around, and even though they lack good audit trails and security, there can be a tendency to keep those systems around too long. There are times though when that's simply not an option.
This was the situation faced by Northwestern University, a prominent U.S. center for higher education based in Chicago, when the old Solaris server running Unix that the university had relied on for years to handle their file transfers was dropped from support.
"We had custom scripts on it that handled transfers," recalls Ron Blitz, senior systems administrator in Northwestern's IT Administrative Systems Enabling Technologies department, "but the hardware was old and administration wanted us to transfer to a different platform with a better user interface anyway." In addition, some of the scripts the original server used were more than a decade old.
Scot Milford, distributed application platform service manager, was among those tasked with finding a new solution. "We decided we needed to look for an application with good but easy reporting and something that provided a framework for standardization and more structure," he remembers. "We also needed something that wasn't overly complex and expensive. For example, IBM's offering in this area could handle all requirements for Fortune 500-type organizations, but we only need about five percent of that functionality. Extra functionality brings with it more operational complexity and cost, neither of which we wanted."
While some may not think an institution of higher learning to be a hive of business transactions, the truth is that colleges and universities need to move data files as much as any enterprise. "We have numerous systems we call enterprise applications," notes Blitz. "Student applications to the university, financial aid information, test scores, educational testing service results, W-2 forms and bank deposits, and Affordable Care Act data are some examples. A lot of very essential functionality of the university is funneled through our systems. At least 115 ongoing projects currently require FTP."
Another requirement was to protect that data. "We use secure file transfer for almost everything. We encrypt everything sent to outside vendors, for example," Blitz emphasizes. "The only exceptions are four jobs that transfer data from one database to another internally."
GoAnywhere by Linoma Software [now HelpSystems] proved to be an excellent fit for Northwestern's MFT needs. GoAnywhere's workflow features replace custom programs and scripts, single-function tools, and manual processes. The product automatically encrypts files with AES-256, compresses and decompresses files, connects to other secure FTP servers, and guarantees file delivery with connection retries and file auto-resume. GoAnywhere connects to most database servers, including SQL Server, Oracle, MySQL, IBM i, DB2, PostgreSQL, Informix, and Sybase. It also replicates data between database servers and translates between Excel, XML, delimited text, and flat-file or fixed-width file formats. The university now runs GoAnywhere on a newer Linux 5 server and is happy with the results.
"For every project it's helpful," Blitz points out. "For example, our parking garages wanted to change to an access-control system that lets people enter the garages by simply swiping their university IDs. GoAnywhere sends the encrypted university data to the company that runs the garage to validate users, and that automates controlling the parking garage entry arms in seconds. We haven't come across an alternative approach for automating that process in less time."
Northwestern is also happy with GoAnywhere's ease-of-use characteristics. "I can set up a file transfer in minutes, particularly because I can duplicate similar jobs and tweak them for the new transfers as most only have minor differences from each other," Blitz emphasizes. "Templates and the graphical user interface offer the ability to quickly customize FTP jobs that need it."
"I would say it's extremely flexible," Blitz continues. "It's easy to construct a script-like process without writing any code. Customizing transfers specific to each trading partner takes minutes and is often just a simple ‘drag-n-drop' or right-click away from being ready for Production."
Northwestern is also happy with Linoma's customer support. "The support team is good. They get back to us quickly and are very knowledgeable," Blitz notes.
Overall, "we're very satisfied with GoAnywhere", Blitz reports.
Northwestern University's main campus can be found just up the Lake Michigan shoreline from Chicago in Evanston, IL. It prioritizes international study for students and global collaborations for faculty, including a campus in Doha, Qatar.
Northwestern is committed to excellent teaching, innovative research and the personal and intellectual growth of its students in a diverse academic community.
The school currently boasts 21,000 enrolled students and 3,344 full-time faculty members.