As those in the financial industry know, there’s no shortage of highly sensitive data to deal with, and efficiency, accuracy, and security are crucial elements for its successful management. Whether it’s ensuring all entries are correct on automated clearing house (ACH) transfers for employee pay or dealing with the intricacies of money management in a retirement account, ease of accomplishing file transfers is a daily necessity.
Headquartered in Wakefield, Mass., Sentinel Benefits & Financial Group offers personalized financial planning services for individuals as well as a complete benefits package for employers. Sentinel works with over 2,500 businesses to support the financial wellbeing of their employees. Offerings include 401(k) and 403(b) retirement plans, health savings accounts (HSAs), and insurance, in addition to the education needed to help people understand their options.
Sentinel relied on custom scripts before moving to GoAnywhere MFT in 2012. Douglas Walker, Assistant Vice President, Director of Software Engineering Services for Sentinel was involved in the decision.
"Before GoAnywhere, we had batch scripts all over the network on many machines," he said. "If something broke, you wouldn’t know. It was stressful. A user would come to you and say a file didn’t make it, and you’d have to find where that batch script was on the network and identify the problem. It was pretty hectic, and nothing was centralized."
The Sentinel IT team knew it needed a better—and more secure—option for managing all the file transfer activity because there was so much information to move internally on a daily basis.
When they were looking for solutions, the most pressing need was around security. "One of the big selling points was the ability to apply granular security levels to folders for individual projects so we could allow users to rerun a job if necessary," Walker said. "Previously, if there was a batch file sitting on a backend server, a user would have to contact us, and we would have to handle it. I specifically remember we would send these ACH (payroll) files to a bank on Fridays at noon and 1:30 p.m. Somebody had to be sitting at their desk during that time, waiting for someone to come over and say "Okay, it’s time to run the files."
Today, Sentinel has four personnel who can create and edit file transfer jobs using GoAnywhere, and 20 others who can run jobs across the company. This enables the team to keep an eye on security from a user standpoint.
"Because it’s all internal, we don’t want somebody who doesn’t know what they’re doing to edit a job accidently," Walker said. "We can control what they can do and specify they can kick off a job but not edit it. That was big for us."
GoAnywhere is being used for various workflows throughout the company. One example of this is for handling the deductions that need to be accounted for on each client’s payroll. "For each payroll, we get information from clients that says how much money people are electing to go into their 401(k) and flexible spending accounts," Walker explained. The employer has to send that money to a custodian (e.g., Fidelity, Schwab), and Sentinel works with the custodian to transfer the money. "We’re basically sending a file that says, ‘move this money over there’ and it will then fund the employee’s contribution and invest money where it needs to go."
Sentinel makes use of GoAnywhere’s advanced workflows for data translation as well. This involves using SQL to query a system to get a data set and then reformatting it into an XML file for another application. Before GoAnywhere, someone had to handle this manually, which was a time-intensive process.
"While it’s not an FTP job, it’s something we can use GoAnywhere for, and you don’t really need a developer," Walker said. "It allows one of the analysts to create that job and go through it without the technical expertise to write the code. And it goes a lot faster. GoAnywhere enables them to do that because it’s straightforward."
Another example of how this capability is useful for assessing the management fees related to retirement advisory arm of the business. These fees are sometimes paid from plan assets. Sentinel’s trading team has to go through each plan and post a fee transaction to pull money out to cover these costs. "Rather than doing this manually, we query our billing system, create an XML file, and put this in a format that can then be imported to create all the appropriate transactions automatically," Walker said. "This means completing 600-700 transactions in seconds versus someone going through every single one and doing it manually."
The file monitoring feature in GoAnywhere has become a favorite with Walker and his team. "At first, we didn’t realize that the monitors were such a big deal, but we love them today," Walker said. "We have monitors running every minute, and they do things when they need to be done. We’ve replaced a lot of different tasks with this. People just put a file in a certain spot, and it just goes."
This has saved a significant amount of time for the team. "We don’t have somebody who’s connecting to an FTP site and then manually uploading or downloading files," Walker said.
Walker considers GoAnywhere’s file movement and management capabilities a sweet spot for the product. "In general, it’s really good at file manipulation, file moving, and file management," he said. "We had another application that was searching the network for old files that didn’t meet certain criteria and archiving them. We rebuilt this easily using GoAnywhere, and it does it a lot more efficiently than the custom app did."
"We can use GoAnywhere to make a connection to a partner’s FTP site every X number of minutes and check to see if there are any files to download. If there are no files, it doesn’t do anything. If there is something to download, it grabs it and puts it in the right place on the network and handles whatever needs to be done. This might include sending an email saying it was received or putting the file in another system."
When it comes to assessing ROI, Walker believes GoAnywhere has eliminated a lot of issues due to its ability to centralize activity. "If something breaks or a job fails, the analyst team gets an email," Walker said. "We know before our internal clients. That saves a ton of time. It’s a lot more reliable than having batch files all over the network."
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Sentinel saves many hours each week by automating hundreds of jobs with GoAnywhere MFT. "Since midnight last night, 296 jobs have run successfully," Walker said. He notes two-thirds of these jobs are file transfer tasks such as looking for files on a partner’s FTP site or processing files that have been downloaded.
The company is happy with its MFT product. "I would recommend GoAnywhere to others looking for a file transfer solution," Walker added.
You can learn more about Sentinel Benefits & Financial Group by visiting their website.
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