Just what is managed file transfer (MFT)? It’s easy to think of MFT as little more than file transfer on steroids, or a super slick FTP server. But MFT is more than that because the problems IT administrators solve with MFT demand more. Our customers don’t move files for fun – they move files to get work done.
MFT is a category of middleware software that ensures reliable, secure and auditable file transfer to enable critical business process. But even though File Transfer is at the core of MFT, it’s the M in MFT that sets the category apart.
Back in the Day…
There was a time when an organization in need of file transfer infrastructure would reach for a basic FTP server by default. That was the answer if you needed to make files available to partners, create a space where partners could drop files into a process, and script all around those activities to keep things moving while maintaining some sense of security. But as file volumes went up, and the range of processes that involve file exchange broadened, so too did the number and variety of software solutions that could help to accomplish the goal.
In recent history, we have seen the emergence of a new category, so called Enterprise File Synchronization and Sharing (EFSS). This category of mostly personal tools helps individuals share files between their myriad devices, including smartphones, tablets, home and work computers. While easy for end users, these mostly cloud services have become a real problem for IT departments. That’s because the simplicity, openness, and device-friendliness they allow come at a real costs to the control, visibility, and security protections that are the IT department’s responsibility.
New Demands for Security and Compliance
In addition to pleasing end users, IT also has to please the businesses they serve, and on that side of the ledger things have grown more complex too. Today, the variety of business processes that depend on reliable file transfer is up and the volume of transfer activity is up. The need to manage all of this activity under a tighter security and compliance regimen means nothing can be left to chance.
Where simple FTP was once sufficient, today IT has to reach for more capable infrastructure that mixes the end-user simplicity of EFSS with the reliability of FTP and the business-process focus of integration middleware. But they need to do this in a way that doesn’t inadvertently make what has traditionally been a solvable problem into a messy, bespoke custom development situation. The last thing they want to do is to engage “solutions vendors” with their bag of forty tools, complemented by expensive internal developers and systems integrators.
This is where MFT fits in.
MFT is a purpose-specific class of middleware focused on the reliable transfer of files between business parties, using simple, secure protocols and easy-to-understand models of exchange. But it’s fortified with security, manageability, scalability, file processing and integration, and business-reporting options that allow IT to deliver more sophisticated, controlled file-transfer solutions without slipping into the custom-code abyss.
In a series of upcoming posts, I and my colleagues will explore each facet of MFT, including:
- Tools for end-user access: The ways users can participate in MFT-driven business processes using the skills they already possess, and tools that leverage already familiar activities, like sending email attachments or working in local folders.
- File-transfer automation and workflow: Explores the ways that file transfer can be put to work, either through the handling and preparation of files for further processing, or the standards-based handoff of files, metadata, or both to the next step in a business process.
- Reporting and analytics: Will look at the importance of visibility into the volume, history, and current activity of a 24/7 MFT flow into and out of your business, and the importance of end-to-end visibility in linking that traffic to your business.
- MFT administration: Will explore a range of topics, from security and compliance to topologies that deliver high availability, performance under load, and efficiency of operations.
So stay tuned…