How to Find the Best Managed File Transfer Software

How to Find the Best Managed File Transfer Software

Shopping for managed file transfer software vendors? This comprehensive buyer’s guide shows you the best option for your organization.

What is MFT software? Managed file transfer software is a program or service that manages the secure transferring of data and files from one person to another via a network. Many large enterprises use this software rather than FTP or HTTP.

Enterprise File Transfer

The term managed file transfer (MFT) is used to describe the process of transferring digital files between two or more systems over a network. Managed file transfer solutions are typically cloud-based solutions that are designed to provide more secure and reliable file transfers than traditional FTP (File Transfer Protocol). These solutions can improve overall file transfer success rates and security. They also often provide other features such as encryption, data compression, logging, auditing, and archiving. MFT solutions can be used to transfer large files and folders between systems, as well as data between applications and databases.

Why Is Managed File Transfer So Important for Enterprise Businesses?

File transfer is an integral part of enterprise business in our data-driven world. Just moving files from one place to another is not enough, however. Enterprise businesses call for advanced tools to schedule and secure their file transfers, and to gather insight from how their people interact with that data.

Initial file transfer protocols, namely FTP, did not come complete with security features. Protocols like FTP filled the gap by building an FTP solution with end-to-end encryption so that data transmitted over public networks couldn’t be read if intercepted.

At the enterprise level, however, several additional considerations play into file transfer:

  • Workflow and automation. Many organizations have complex workflows that trigger additional effects during file access and transfer. No singular file transfer protocol has that kind of power, but managed file transfer software typically does. Additionally, managed solutions can automate batch file transfers, logging, and email reporting based on user activity or time of day.
  • Compliance. Many compliance frameworks like HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) or SOX require logs and reporting around the security of files and who can access them. An MFT solution can facilitate a complete, big-picture view of the reporting, security, and risk involved with file storage and transfer.
  • Data growth. As businesses become more and more data-driven, the demand for secure, scalable, and compliant data solutions also grows. A proper MFT can provide that kind of scalability across multiple infrastructures and endpoint devices.

How Managed File Transfer Works

MFT is a type of technology that securely exchanges files between different users, systems, and organizations. MFT ensures that the files are transferred with high security and reliability, typically using encryption and digital signatures.

The MFT workflow typically involves generating a secure connection between the sender and recipient systems and establishing an appropriate security protocol to protect the transfer. The file is then uploaded to the MFT system by the sender, who is usually provided with a confirmation of the file transfer upon successful completion. The MFT system then verifies the authenticity of the file against the sender’s digital signature and authenticates the recipient against the set parameters. Upon authentication, the file is transferred to its designated recipient, and the process is completed.

MFT also adds additional features such as automated notifications, logging, and scheduling to ensure secure, reliable, and repeatable file transfers. This makes it easier for organizations to manage their secure file transfers, as well as track, audit, and report on the status of those transfers.

Benefits of Using Managed File Transfer Solutions

Organizations that use MFT to transfer files cite many business benefits, including:

  • Secure Transfer of Files: Managed file transfer solutions provide secure transfer of files. They encrypt data during the file transfer process and use authentication protocols to verify the identity of the sender and recipient. This ensures that only authorized individuals can access the data.
  • Automation: Managed file transfer solutions allow for automation of file transfers. This allows users to schedule and automate the transfer of large volumes of data without manual intervention.
  • Improved Efficiency: Managed file transfer solutions enable file transfers to be completed quickly and efficiently. This eliminates the need for manual intervention and allows businesses to save time and resources.
  • Improved Visibility: MFT solutions provide organizations with insight into file transfer activities and provide visibility into data shared between departments or outside of the organization.
  • Increased Scalability: MFT solutions are scalable and can be used to process large amounts of data. This makes them well-suited for businesses of all sizes, from small startups to large enterprises.

Types of Managed File Transfer Software

Managed file transfer software comes in all shapes and sizes. MFT solution types vary by and large on business need. On-premises MFT solutions for example require infrastructure and maintenance, but provide greater control and security. Cloud-based MFT solutions, by contrast, are hosted in the cloud and offer scalability and flexibility, but may have limited customization options. Hybrid MFT solutions combine the benefits of both on-premises and cloud-based solutions.

Ultimately, the best MFT type for an organization depends on an organization’s specific needs and requirements. For organizations that prioritize security and control, on-premises MFT solutions may be the best fit. For those that need scalability and flexibility, cloud-based MFT solutions may be the better option. Hybrid MFT solutions may be ideal for organizations that need a combination of security, control, scalability, and flexibility. It’s important for organizations to evaluate their needs and priorities before selecting an MFT solution. Here are some of the different types of MFT software:

Server-based Managed File Transfer Software

Server-based MFT software is installed on a server within the organization’s network. Users access the software through a web interface or client software installed on their computers. This type of MFT software is suitable for organizations that have a large number of users who need to transfer files securely.

Cloud-based Managed File Transfer Software

Cloud-based MFT software is hosted on the cloud and accessed through a web interface. This type of MFT software is suitable for organizations that need to transfer files with external partners or clients.

Hybrid MFT software is a combination of server-based and cloud-based MFT. This type of MFT software allows organizations to use both types of MFT depending on their needs.

Ad Hoc MFT Managed File Transfer Software

Ad hoc MFT software is used for one-off file transfers. It allows users to transfer files securely without the need for a formal MFT solution. This type of MFT software is suitable for small organizations or individuals who need to transfer files securely.

Mobile MFT Managed File Transfer Software

Mobile MFT software is designed for mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. This type of MFT software allows users to transfer files securely while on the go.

FTP Replacement MFT Managed File Transfer Software

FTP replacement MFT software is used to replace traditional FTP (File Transfer Protocol) software. This type of MFT software provides enhanced security features and is suitable for organizations that need to transfer files securely over the internet.

The type of MFT software an organization chooses will depend on its specific needs and requirements for file transfer security and compliance.

What Are the Differences Between Managed File Transfer (MFT) and File Transfer Protocol (FTP)?

Many organizations question the need to invest in an MFT solution when they already utilize FTP. There are several key differences between the two communication channels. Here are just a few considerations:

  • Managed file transfer (MFT) provides more efficient and secure data transfer compared to File Transfer Protocol (FTP). MFT includes various features such as encryption, data integrity, auditability, and user authentication, which are not present in FTP.
  • MFT systems provide automation and scheduling capabilities, while FTP is a manual process.
  • MFT solutions often support multiple protocols (e.g., FTP, SFTP, AS2, etc.), while FTP is limited to its own protocol, so MFT is more flexible.
  • MFT solutions often are composed of a comprehensive set of integrated tools, including file transfer and transformation services, while FTP is limited to file transfer only.
  • MFT transfers allow for large files to be securely and orderly transferred, while FTP is limited due to its limited data transfer capabilities.

Key Managed File Transfer Automation Features

Managed file transfer automation can help organizations streamline their file transfer processes, reduce errors, and improve efficiency. The following list highlights key MFT automation features that organizations should consider when looking for an MFT solution.

  1. Workflow automation: The ability to automate file transfer workflows and ensure seamless integration with various systems and applications.
  2. Scheduling: The ability to schedule file transfers to run at specific times and intervals, ensuring prompt delivery and efficient execution.
  3. Monitoring and visibility: Real-time monitoring and visibility into file transfer activity, ensuring prompt identification and resolution of issues.
  4. Secure file transfer: Encryption, authentication, and other security measures to ensure secure and confidential file transfer.
  5. Notifications: Instant notifications and alerts to relevant parties when file transfers are initiated, completed, or encounter issues.
  6. Integration capabilities: Integration with a wide variety of enterprise systems and applications, including ERP, CRM, and financial management systems.
  7. Compliance and governance: Tools for compliance with regulations such as HIPAA, Sarbanes-Oxley, and PCI DSS, as well as auditable logs and reports for governance and documentation purposes.
  8. Scalability and performance: Ability to handle large volumes of file transfers, high-speed data transfers, and support for multiple file transfer protocols to ensure efficient performance and scalability.
  9. Centralized control: Single-pane-of-glass management and control over file transfer workflows, users, and permissions, ensuring streamlined operations and enhanced security.
  10. Error handling and recovery: Automatic error detection and recovery features, including retrying failed transfers, ensuring maximum file transfer reliability and availability.
  11. Self-service capabilities: The ability for users to initiate file transfers themselves using self-service portals, reducing IT workload and improving productivity.
  12. Reporting and analytics: Advanced reporting and analytics capabilities to track file transfer activity, identify trends, and optimize operations for maximum efficiency and performance.

Overall, these key managed file transfer automation features ensure secure, reliable, and efficient file transfer workflows, which are essential for modern businesses to operate effectively in today’s fast-paced and data-driven environment.

What Kinds of Security Do MFT Solutions Usually Include?

While not all secure MFTs are created equal, many of them come with a basic set of security protocols and features that allow them to carry the name “secure.”

Some of the more common protocols include:

  • SSH FTP and/or FTP over SSL: Secure and direct peer-to-peer file transfer using SSH or SSL security (respectively).
  • Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS): Secure web content delivery for intranet portals and other internal file directories shared over web browsers.
  • Odette FTP (OFTP): A secure file transfer protocol created in Europe and built to handle push and pull requests, request signed receipts, and data compression.
  • Applicability Statement 2 (AS2): Secure transmissions of business-to-business data used by large retailers.

Through these protocols, most secure MFTs should be compliant with many regulations, including HIPAA.

What Should I Look for in a Secure MFT Vendor?

The real benefit of secured MFTs is the combination of security and enterprise-level tools, like the following:

  • Authorization and validation: Many MFTs can include least-privilege authentication, FIPS validation compliance, and secure enterprise storage. These aspects can help with compliance requirements, including HIPAA or FedRAMP.
  • Encryption and decryption: Many advanced enterprise secure MFTs will come with advanced encryption and hardened storage for decryption keys.
  • Antivirus software: MFTs worth their salt will have mechanisms to perform virus scans and quarantines to isolate any malware introduced to your system.
  • Secure file governance: Solid MFTs will provide secure file storage and governance tools that don’t compromise security. Flow authoring access controls (to work with advanced workflows), granular file access roles and user policies, and regular logging are all important.
  • Data analytics: Many MFTs come with built-in analytics and dashboard tools to help you gather data about your data. Use this to meet compliance standards, such as HIPAA compliance, and optimize file management through automation or minimizing data scope.

Best Practices for Choosing Managed File Transfer Software

Managed file transfer (MFT) software is an essential tool for organizations that need to securely exchange data with partners, customers, and suppliers. With so many MFT solutions on the market, selecting the right one can be a daunting task. In this section, we’ll discuss the best practices for choosing managed file transfer software.

Identifying Your MFT Needs and Requirements

The first step in selecting an MFT solution is to identify your needs and requirements. You should consider factors such as the volume and frequency of your file transfers, the types of files you’ll be transferring, your security and compliance requirements, and your integration needs. It’s also important to consider the level of technical expertise you have in-house and whether you’ll need a solution that’s easy to use or one that requires more advanced technical skills.

Evaluating MFT Vendors and Products

Once you’ve identified your needs and requirements, you can start evaluating vendors and products. Look for vendors that have a proven track record in the MFT market and that have experience working with organizations in your industry. You should also consider factors such as the vendor’s support and training offerings, their implementation methodology, and their customer satisfaction ratings.

Conducting MFT Proof of Concepts (POCs) and Demos

Before making a final decision, it’s important to conduct proof of concepts (POCs) and demos with your shortlisted vendors. POCs and demos allow you to evaluate how well the solution meets your needs and requirements and how easy it is to use. During the POC or demo, you should test the solution’s performance, security, and reliability. You should also evaluate the vendor’s support and training offerings to ensure that they can provide the level of assistance you need.

Negotiating MFT Contracts and Pricing

Once you’ve selected a vendor and solution, it’s time to negotiate contracts and pricing. You should work with the vendor to ensure that the contract includes all the necessary terms and conditions, such as service level agreements (SLAs), data protection and security requirements, and termination clauses. You should also negotiate pricing based on factors such as the volume of file transfers, the level of support and training you require, and the length of the contract.

By following these best practices, you can select an MFT solution that meets your needs and requirements, is easy to use, and provides the level of security and reliability you need to transfer files with confidence.

How to Successfully Implement a Managed File Transfer Software Solution

Once you’ve determined your organization’s specific needs for file transfer, including the types of files you need to transfer and the frequency of transfers, it’s time to choose a vendor. This requires researching and selecting an MFT vendor that meets your organization’s specific file transfer requirements and takes into consideration factors like security, compliance, architecture, integration, and other specifics.

Now it’s time to deploy, roll out, and drive adoption of your chosen MFT solution. To ensure a successful MFT implementation, consider these recommended steps. For the successful implementation of managed file transfer software in an organization, you will need to follow these steps:

  1. Install the software: Install the MFT software on your servers or in the cloud. Configure the software to integrate with your existing infrastructure.
  2. Set up user accounts and permissions: Create user accounts for the people who will be transferring files and set up permissions to ensure that only authorized users can access and transfer files.
  3. Configure workflows: Configure workflows to automate file transfers and to ensure that files are transferred securely.
  4. Test the system: Conduct thorough testing to ensure that the MFT system is functioning as expected and that files are being transferred securely.
  5. Train users: Provide training to users on how to use the MFT software and best practices for secure file transfer.
  6. Monitor and maintain the system: Monitor the MFT system to ensure that it is operating efficiently and effectively. Perform regular maintenance tasks, such as software updates and backups.

What Makes Kiteworks’ MFT Capability Unique

The Kiteworks Private Content Network provides organizations with secure, compliant, and efficient file transfer and file sharing mechanisms including managed file transfer, SFTP, email, file sharing, web forms, application programming interfaces (APIs), and more. Kiteworks’ secure managed file transfer solution prioritizes three critical capabilities:

  1. Security and compliance: Kiteworks’ secure MFT solutions include encryption, granular access controls, multi-factor authentication, integration with your existing security infrastructure, and a comprehensive audit trail. These features help keep your organization compliant with some of the most important regulations out there, including the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC), the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the UK’s Cyber Essentials Plus, and Australia’s Information Security Registered Assessors Program (IRAP), as well as standards like the National Institute of Standards and Technology Cybersecurity Framework (NIST CSF), the International Organization for Standardization (ISO 27001), Good Manufacturing Practice (GxP), and FedRAMP. You can also consolidate third-party storage and communications across all your email, file transfers, web forms, and other channels by routing them through the Kiteworks platform for comprehensive protection of your most sensitive content.

  2. Automation: Enterprise file transfer workflows require extensive logical controls and security tools. Kiteworks enables organizations to automate their secure file transfer workflows including agents to complete complex tasks at scale without any coding.
  3.  Visibility: Kiteworks gives your organization the ability to manage file access and transfers with a high-level view of your system. Using a CISO Dashboard or security information and event management (SIEM), you can run reports on total access, locations, transfers, and threats through a normalized syslog.

Schedule a customized demo today to see how Kiteworks’ MFT solution can solve your organization’s managed file transfer challenges.

Additional Resources

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