What Kind of File Transfer Solution Do You Need?

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Car Keys and New Car

Will this car hide my bald spot, make me younger, slimmer, and more appealing in every way?

So, what kind of file transfer solution do you need?  It can be a seemingly tricky question, with all the options on the market today.  More and more services emerge with what’s been called the “sync bubble”, and we all know what happens to bubbles.  No need for confusion, or to get wrapped up in the hype – let’s figure out what solution you need by taking a step back and talking about what you need it to do…

We all buy cars, right?  When we’re thinking about buying a car, what is (hopefully) a key question in our decision-making process?  Right after, “Will this car hide my bald spot, make me younger, slimmer, and generally more appealing in every way” don’t we usually ask ourselves what this car needs to do?  Does the car need to drive through 2 feet of snow, uphill, both ways, during the winter?  Are you also planning to run a part-time piano moving service during the summer with your new car? If you find yourself answering yes to those questions, while test driving a Yaris, you may actually be in the market for a truck.  The Yaris is a lovely car in its own right, but 2 feet of snow is probably over the hood, and your piano service better not line up any cargo bigger than my two-year old son’s toy keyboard.

All kidding aside, I can tell you that EFFS and MFT solutions are different, but I’m probably only really helping you if I’m telling you what each is best suited to help you achieve.

What is EFSS?

Enterprise File Sync and Share (EFSS) services tend to focus on person-to-person synchronization, along with some collaboration and user management. Some solutions may provide some visibility/auditing features, depending on the vendor and subscription tier. A key defining trait of an EFSS service is that it is typically designed for, marketed to, and sold to end users, with IT folks left in the dark. Many EFSS vendors have recently added some administrative tools to appease IT managers, who are frustrated by the loss of control over their networks and the inherent security risks.  Rumor has it at least one major EFSS service even uses the same encryption key for all of their users (which is kind of silly, if the intent is to keep people outside of your organization from reading your stuff).  This is so well-known in enterprise IT that “just store it in (insert major EFSS vendor)” is a running joke for workers in the data protection field.  Regardless of efforts to enhance security, EFSS services are still end user focused, resulting in many enterprise IT managers actually blocking EFSS services from their corporate domains to maintain control of their networks.

What is MFT?

Managed File Transfer (MFT) solutions support person-to-person file sharing with added security and visibility, and they really shine with automated system to system file processing capabilities, including file transportation, translation, encryption, sorting, filtering, routing and compression, to name a few. You won’t find file processing automation tools in the sync bubble, beyond your basic synchronization.  IT managers can also configure transfer workflows over all the standard, established protocols, using an MFT solution.  The right MFT solutions (who are we kidding…certain Ipswitch MFT solutions) won’t have (any) transfer size limits, whereas EFSS solutions and even many other MFT solutions will have file size limits that won’t support many large file types (high def videos, MRIs, CAD/design files).  Think piano in a Yaris.

MFT solutions have to work – and work well – for end users. But they also provide the robust administrative toolset that IT managers need to ensure security and compliance.  While EFSS services aren’t typically backed by an SLA offering uptime guarantees and credit schedules for downtime, MFT solutions offer robust SLAs, guaranteeing access to your business critical files.

Which solution should I use?

Let’s consider some use cases and which solution might be right in each situation:

When it comes to moving and processing files, you’ll need to know where it’s going, how it’s going, and what happens to it upon departure, en route and upon arrival.  Will you be exchanging files with colleagues, customers, or patients? Just with yourself, between devices? With friends and relatives? Do you need to be able to see every single person, action and file that touches your solution in audit logs, for compliance reasons? While not an exhaustive list of questions, these are key ones to ask.  Do you need to move a piano?

These issues matter because they help determine the capabilities and service availability that you’ll need in your solution.

  • Your automated file movement may be triggering order fulfillment for your products. If the files don’t make it from location A to B, you may lose orders, customers and money…
  • You may be processing 5GB videos, from around the world, and need to get them turned around in a matter of hours for your end clients.  If the videos don’t make the transfer or take too long that video content gets stale, and loses value…
  • If you’re a medical oncologist and you can’t review your patient’s latest MRIs because the service is down or the data corrupted, you may not be able to treat your patient…
  • If you’re sharing baby pictures, your parents won’t lose clients, money or patients if they can’t see the pictures for a few hours…

In the first few cases, what you’re planning requires the enterprise class 4WD truck, to move your piano in an automated and secure fashion that your business depends on.  In the latter, you’re likely well suited with the Yaris.  They do get great mileage…

In my next post, I’ll cover what to look for in a service level agreement for this type of solution.

As you consider your MFT and EFSS options, check Osterman Research’s white paper: Evaluating Managed File Transfer in the Cloud: http://resources.ipswitchft.com/Evaluating-Managed-File-Tranfer-in-the-Cloud.html

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