What Is Managed File Transfer & Why Does It Beat FTP?

What Is Managed File Transfer & Why Does It Beat FTP?

With the FBI wary of FTP, managed file transfer has become the new file transfer solution. Let us help you understand MFT, its benefits and best practices.

What Is MFT (Managed File Transfer)?

MFT (managed file transfer) is an approach to exchanging data between two systems or processes. It is a combination of software and hardware technologies that provide a secure and managed approach to transferring data over a network. MFT automates and orchestrates the movement of files between multiple systems, and also enables the tracking of file transfers and associated metadata. It includes features such as object level security, auditing, reporting, and automated notifications. MFT is used to speed up and increase the reliability of file transfers between parties and to meet regulatory requirements such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS).

What Is File Transfer Protocol (FTP)?

File Transfer Protocol (FTP), on the other hand, is a client-server protocol used for transferring files from one computer to another over a network or the internet. It is most commonly used to download files from a server, or to upload files to a server. FTP uses a client-server architecture where one computer acts as a server to store files, and another computer, known as a client, can download files from the server over the internet. To access FTP, users must use an FTP client program, such as FileZilla, which allows them to connect to an FTP server. Once connected, the client can download files, upload files, and navigate the remote file system.

What’s the Difference Between FTP and MFT?

FTP (File Transfer Protocol) is a widely used protocol for transferring files between a client and server on a network. It is used primarily to transfer files from a remote computer to a local computer, or vice versa. MFT (managed file transfer) is an advanced version of FTP that includes features such as secure file transfers, automated transfers, and workflow-based file transfer. MFT also provides additional features such as monitoring and reporting on transfers, audit trails, and performance metrics. It is more secure than basic FTP and provides a much richer set of features.

Why Is Managed File Transfer Important?

MFT represents an evolution in file management technology, specifically for SMBs and enterprise customers with data needs related to compliance or high-volume data transactions.

File management has always been a challenge for public networks for four major reasons:


Sending data over public networks like the Internet exposes that data to unlawful access or theft. This exposure is a problem under normal circumstances, but even more so for businesses in industries like medicine, government, or other regulated spaces where handling personally identifiable information and protected health information (PII/PHI) is common.


Sending PII, PHI, or even federal data over a public network doesn’t just involve security, but regulatory compliance too. And old, unsecured File Transfer Protocol (FTP) connections risk compliance breaches and possibly even fines.

Management & Automation

Many transfer protocols lack a certain robustness in terms of managing them. Common protocols like FTP don’t allow users to administer aspects of transfers like data transparency or workflows.


An MFT solution with advanced controls can also provide critical visibility for your data. That includes both analytics to support understanding data flows and access as well as methods to make data transparent across different departments or areas of emphasis in your organization.

MFT offers a solution where both security and management are taken care of so that users with specific data requirements can better handle their information transmission.

Why Use MFT Instead of FTP and SFTP Servers?

MFT (managed file transfer) is a secure alternative to FTP and SFTP servers because it provides an extra layer of security. MFT uses a secure protocol to transfer files, encrypts file transfers, and protects data with authentication and authorization features. Additionally, MFT offers automation capabilities, which allow for efficient file transfers and improved control over the transfer process. MFT also provides features such as audit trails and notifications, which can help ensure compliance with industry standards and internal policies. By providing additional security and automation, MFT can provide a more reliable, secure, and efficient way to transfer data.

Advantages of Managed File Transfer vs. FTP

To better understand MFT, it’s important to understand it as an evolution of file protocols, specifically FTP.

File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is one of the earliest standards for transferring files between two computers. It’s built on a client-server framework and works well with simple file transmissions, especially bulk transfers of large files.

One of the limitations of FTP is that it is inherently insecure. This fact isn’t necessarily due to a flaw in the technology, but rather due to the fact that FTP was never built with security in mind. FTP doesn’t include encryption or authentication methods, other than what would be included by a server connection point, sending “clear” data across network lines.

What does that mean for you? It means that any intercepted data sent over an FTP connection, including passwords, usernames, and file data, can be read immediately. It also means that the sender and receiver have little control over the data as it is sent. You simply send the data, and the receiver receives it.

Advantages of Managed File Transfer vs. SFTP

Managed file transfer is superior to SFTP as well. Here are just a few reasons why:

Enhanced Security

Managed file transfer (MFT) provides enhanced security capabilities such as dual-factor authentication, encryption of data in transit, and strong access controls. These features make it more difficult for unauthorized users to gain access to sensitive data.


MFT platforms are capable of automating routine file transfers, thereby reducing the time and effort it takes to manage multiple file transfers.

Auditing Capabilities

MFT platforms provide increased auditing capabilities, which allow organizations to monitor and track file movements, as well as detect any unauthorized access attempts.


MFT platforms are more reliable than SFTP, as they can be set up to automatically retry failed transfers and are more capable of tolerating network disruptions.


MFT platforms can be scaled up to meet the needs of larger organizations, allowing them to transfer large files quickly and efficiently.

User Controls

MFT platforms provide a secure portal through which users can request and manage file transfers, which can be configured to provide users with the specific access rights they need.

Secure Managed File Transfers: Security and File Management

Secure managed file transfers (MFT) are an important part of business data management, providing security and file-handling capabilities for data exchange between teams, clients, and partners. Secure MFT solutions come in a variety of different forms, including encrypted file transfers, signature verification, and automatic file management systems.

Encrypted File Transfers

Secure MFT solutions that provide encrypted file transfers are important for protecting confidential data. Encryption ensures that data is secure during transit and provides an additional level of security against cyberattacks. Some Secure MFT solutions also support digital signatures to verify users and the authenticity of files.

Signature Verification

Digital signatures are another way to verify users and the authenticity of files. Signatures can be applied to specific files or directories to prove their origin and integrity. Some Secure MFT solutions allow users to create multiple signatures for different files, giving them additional control over who is allowed to view certain files and folders.

Automatic File Management

Secure MFT solutions can provide automatic file management features that help manage large volumes of data. This includes features such as scheduling uploads and downloads, monitoring file transfers, and setting up alerts to notify users of any suspicious activity. Automated file management can also help to simplify data management and make it easier to access and store files.

Secure MFT solutions can provide businesses with an added layer of security, while also making it easier to manage and share data. By leveraging the security and file handling capabilities of Secure MFT solutions, businesses can help keep confidential data secure and work with partners and clients more efficiently.

How Does MFT Help With Compliance?

Compliance is a major concern for many companies, particularly those in regulated fields. That’s why MFT is an excellent pick for businesses in these industries who want to ensure that their file management methods keep them compliant.

Some of the industries where MFT supports compliance are:


MFT supports end-to-end encryption and is an absolute must for HIPAA and HITECH compliance. More importantly, MFT supports features like non-repudiation that meet requirements for reporting and privacy in healthcare law as well.


A robust MFT with high-level security will help your organization meet compliance with regulations like the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA). This is critical if your company offers solutions or data platforms for government agencies or contractors.


PCI DSS compliance dictates that merchants transmitting or storing customer data and payment information on public networks need to have encryption controls in place. MFT can serve as the backbone of a scalable transfer solution that is secure in this kind of environment.

Corporate Transparency

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 established a series of regulations on how corporations maintain accurate documentation on things like financial reports, security policies, and regulatory compliance. MFT supports SOX compliance with included controls like automated logging and non-repudiation features.

Compliance is not something to cut corners on. In some industries, especially healthcare, penalties for non-compliance can be steep, if not ruinous.

What Should I Look for in a Managed File Transfer Solution?

If you’re in the market for an MFT solution, then there are several capabilities to look out for that align with security, file management, and compliance:

Robust Automation

A solid MFT file transfer solution should include tools to automate key jobs, like batch file transmissions, data logging, and scheduling.

Simple Interfaces for Secure Transfers

An MFT solution that’s secure is one thing. A secure MFT platform that makes it easy to securely share files with external stakeholders in another. Find a platform that makes it easy to share files without compromising security.

Integrated Auditing and Compliance Features

Compliance audits can be a full-time job, depending on the industry you work in. Having an MFT solution that integrates audits, reporting, and compliance with a security framework can make that job much easier. Bonus points if the solution has a white-glove service to help you with that integration across your organization.

Data Visibility Across an Entire Organization

Stay on top of compliance issues or SLAs with your customers or vendors. Have a clear view (ideally through a simple dashboard) of what is happening where and the kinds of workflows your operations are running.


This might sound repetitive, but do not buy a solution that cannot support compliance in your industry. MFT can help you protect user and business data, but you have to find one that supports the level of security and data management you need.

Managed File Transfer vs. Other File Sharing Methods

Managed file transfer (MFT) is a secure method of transferring files between systems, networks, and applications and is typically used for large files. It includes features such as file audit trails, secure authentication, encryption for data in transit, compression capabilities, and storage of files in a secure location.

File sharing methods, such as peer-to-peer file sharing, do not offer the same level of security, as they rely on sharing files directly between users over the internet. These methods also do not generally offer the same level of document tracking and audit trails as MFT. They also do not offer the same level of control over who has access to the files, as well as the ability to monitor who is accessing the files. In addition, many file sharing methods are subject to copyright laws and regulations, so proper legal considerations should be taken when using them.

Secure Your Managed File Transfer Workflows With Kiteworks

The Kiteworks Private Content Network enables organizations to share sensitive information with trusted partners securely and in compliance. Whether the workflow calls for managed file transfer, secure file transfer protocol (SFTP), file sharing, mobile, or enterprise applications, organizations protect their most sensitive content whenever it’s sent, received, shared, or stored. Kiteworks’ managed file transfer solution features are:

Advanced Security Features

Kiteworks ensures the highest level of security for file transfers with robust encryption algorithms like AES, TLS, or RSA, end-to-end encryption, secure protocols such as SFTP, FTPS, and HTTPS, and encryption key management options, all to protect files from unauthorized access and interception during transmission.

Scalability and Integration

Kiteworks offers high scalability, with the ability to handle large file volumes, multiple simultaneous transfers, and seamless integration with existing systems. Its clustering options distribute the file transfer workload across multiple servers, ensuring high availability and adaptability as needs grow.

Centralized Management

Kiteworks provides a centralized management capability, featuring a CISO Dashboard, that allows businesses to configure and monitor file transfer activities from a single point of control. This ensures consistent enforcement of security policies and procedures, simplifies the administration of file transfers, and lets organizations see, track, and record every file that enters and leaves the organization.

Compliance and Reporting

Kiteworks’ managed file transfer offers extensive reporting features, role-based access controls, activity logs, and audit trails to ensure compliance with regulations and standards like the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Good Manufacturing Practice (GxP), International Organization for Standardization (ISO 27001), the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and many others.

These and other capabilities make Kiteworks the ideal choice for businesses that need to transfer files efficiently, securely, and in compliance.

To learn more about Kiteworks’ managed file transfer capabilities and how Kiteworks can help your business protect its most sensitive content, schedule a custom demo today.

Additional Resources