How to Choose & Set Up Your SFTP Gateway

How to Choose & Set Up Your SFTP Gateway

SFTP gateways can be a crucial element in data protection. If keeping your business data secure while in transit and at rest is what you need, read on.

What is an SFTP gateway? SFTP gateways extend legacy applications to use low-cost cloud storage while managing security and compliance. Additionally, these gateways can support data orchestration between legacy and cloud systems for hybrid, on-premises, and cloud infrastructure.

What Is an SFTP Gateway?

An SFTP gateway, as the name suggests, serves as a middle ground between SFTP servers and cloud storage that allows seamless integration between the two. With a gateway, users leveraging SFTP can transfer high-speed, high-volume data securely through SFTP in an environment-agnostic manner such that organizations can manage secure communication between multiple cloud or on-premises systems.

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A productive way to think about an SFTP gateway is to understand the difference between SFTP servers and cloud servers.

An SFTP server is the central repository or access point for SFTP. Since secure file transfer is modeled off of FTP, one of the oldest forms of file transfer, it uses a client/server structure for storing, transferring, and manipulating files. The FTP client/server model is as follows: for each file transfer, there is a server device that holds files, and there are one or more client devices that connect to the server to download or upload files. That server, then, becomes the central point where users access files. It also serves as the place where many security measures are enforced, including at-rest encryption, firewalls, etc.

Cloud servers, on the other hand, don’t work like SFTP servers. Whereas a secure FTP server gives users file transfer capabilities, cloud environments are more like distributed computing and storage services. Consumer cloud environments will often offer more essential features than a typical server regarding user experience and accessibility. Additionally, enterprise cloud systems support more than just storage; they often also include high-performance file management, computing workloads, and analytics.

Both are valuable, however, and SFTP can play a role in bulk file transfers and migrating from on-premises servers and cloud environments. Therefore, a gateway orchestrates transfers through a variety of contexts, including the following:

  1. From internal legacy systems (including Secure FTP servers) to new internal cloud environments or servers.
  2. From Internal legacy systems to external cloud environments (like AWS S3 or Microsoft Azure blobs), data lakes, or storage.
  3. From external cloud systems to internal cloud or legacy systems.

What’s vital about gateways is that they can efficiently automate and streamline the workflows between these different systems without breaking file structures or applications. Orchestration through gateways is bi-directional, meaning that transfers can move between massive systems seamlessly based on the company’s needs, regardless of whether it is a vanilla Secure FTP server or a specific cloud instance.

Factors to Consider When Choosing an SFTP Gateway

Choosing any technology, particularly systems and applications, can be an overwhelming experience. When choosing an SFTP gateway, there are several factors beyond features and cost that businesses must consider. Additional considerations include:

Security Is Non-negotiable

The primary factor to consider when choosing an SFTP gateway is security. SFTP gateways must ensure the secure transmission of data between two endpoints. This means that the SFTP gateway you choose should have robust security features to protect data during transmission. The key or primary security features a business should require from an SFTP gateway include secure authentication mechanisms and encryption protocols. The SFTP gateway should also have robust logging and auditing capabilities, so the organization can track user activity and troubleshoot issues.

Customization Options Drive Stickiness

Another critical factor to consider when choosing an SFTP gateway is customization options and flexibility. The ability to customize the SFTP gateway to the organization’s specific needs is crucial. The SFTP gateway must offer the flexibility to configure a wide range of security protocols and support various file transfer protocols. Additionally, the SFTP gateway must be adjustable to scale with the business’s growing needs. It should allow you to choose whether to deploy it on-premises, in the cloud, or as a hybrid solution. Finally, the SFTP gateway must be easily configurable, have an intuitive user interface, and have the ability to integrate seamlessly with third-party systems.

Integration With Other Systems Bolsters Stickiness

The SFTP gateway should integrate with other systems within the organization’s tech stack, such as customer relationship management (CRM) software, enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, or document management systems (DMS). This integration allows for a streamlined workflow, reducing manual work and errors. Ensure that the SFTP gateway supports the required file formats and protocols that your other systems use. Additionally, the SFTP gateway should have an API that supports REST, SOAP, or other integration methods. Consider the scalability of the SFTP gateway and ensure it can handle high volumes of data and transfer data efficiently across different networks.

Scalability and Performance Separate Coveted Software From Shelfware

Scalability and performance are crucial factors to consider when choosing an SFTP gateway. Businesses should select an SFTP gateway that can scale alongside a business’s growth. Look for an SFTP gateway that offers load balancing and clustering options to ensure high availability and performance. Additionally, consider the maximum file size that the SFTP gateway can handle and the speed of file transfer. An SFTP gateway should have the ability to handle large file transfers.

Automation and Reporting Are Advanced, but Still Critical, Features

Advanced features such as automation and reporting can help streamline workflows and provide insights into the SFTP gateway’s performance. Automation allows file transfers to be automated, reducing manual work and ensuring reliability. The SFTP gateway should also have the ability to set up scheduled transfers, so that transfers can occur automatically during off-hours without human intervention. Reporting features provide real-time tracking, notifications, and alerts for any issues or errors.

Compliance With Industry Standards and Regulations Is a Must

Compliance with industry standards and regulations is paramount when choosing an SFTP gateway. The SFTP gateway should be designed to meet industry-relevant regulatory requirements, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), or the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). The SFTP gateway should comply with these regulations, as well as other applicable regulations and standards, such as the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the International Organization for Standardization (ISO 27000 standards), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology Cybersecurity Framework (NIST CSF).

Good Technical Support and Documentation Ensure a Lasting Relationship

Technical support and documentation are essential factors to consider when choosing an SFTP gateway. The vendor should provide comprehensive documentation, including user manuals, installation guides, and troubleshooting instructions. The vendor should also provide technical support to help resolve any technical issues that may arise. Ensure that the vendor has a robust customer support team, with channels for support such as email, phone, or chat. Additionally, the vendor should have a good reputation for customer service, with positive reviews and testimonials from other clients.

How Do SFTP Gateways Work With AWS and Azure?

Secure FTP is a way to transfer and manage files on remote systems. Gateways facilitate seamless transfer between internal and public cloud instances on Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure.

In either product case, we see the critical concept of an orchestration service:

  1. Amazon AWS has more minor services and products that facilitate secure SFTP transfers between an S3 instance and external connections. Third-party AWS gateways can automatically sync SFTP directories to an S3 bucket and back again, depending on your file transfer needs. With orchestration, however, this kind of transfer can quickly become a freeway of data moving in and out of AWS S3 buckets.
  2. Microsoft Azure also includes orchestration features to support data pipelines between external, internal, and legacy systems. Specifically, with a gateway, you can move data from a “secure-by-default”-configured server that will then sync with Azure blob storage.

One of the limitations of these solutions is that they are third party and configured to work exclusively with SFTP and the cloud server. It would then be up to you to configure the solution to work with your internal orchestration and file transfer operations.

SFTP Gateway Best Practices

SFTP gateways are secure, reliable, and efficient in transferring files with encryption and authentication features. But merely setting up an SFTP gateway is not enough; you need to embrace best practices to ensure security, scalability, and long-term success. Some best practices include:

Regularly monitor activity logs While SFTP encrypts data in transit, it does not provide complete protection against data breaches. By monitoring activity logs, you can track all user activity and identify any suspicious behavior or attempts to access sensitive data. Monitoring activity logs helps you detect and respond to security threats early, and that can help you prevent data breaches.
Maintain up-to-date software and security patches Outdated or unsupported software and security vulnerabilities can leave your system vulnerable to cyberattacks. It’s important therefore to keep your SFTP gateway up to date with the latest software updates and security patches. Regular software updates and patches help you stay protected from the latest security threats and vulnerabilities.
Train users on proper SFTP usage and security protocols Users should be trained on not only how to properly use the SFTP gateway, but also on how to set strong passwords, how to avoid phishing scams, and how to recognize security threats. Educating users on proper usage and security protocols helps prevent data breaches and ensures that your system is secure.
Audit and review access permissions periodically Access permissions should be reviewed regularly to ensure that only authorized users have access to sensitive data. Regular auditing and reviewing access permissions helps you detect and respond to security threats early and prevent unauthorized access.
Use encryption for data at rest and in transit Encrypting data ensures that it cannot be read or accessed by unauthorized users. Therefore, it is important to use encryption for data at rest and in transit to protect sensitive data from cyberattacks.
Regularly back up data and test disaster recovery plans Backing up data ensures that you can recover your data in case of a system failure or cyberattack. Testing disaster recovery plans allows you to identify any weaknesses in your plan and make necessary changes before a disaster strikes.
Perform regular vulnerability assessments and penetration testing Vulnerability assessments help identify potential weaknesses in your system, while penetration testing helps identify if any of those weaknesses can be exploited. Regular assessments and testing help you stay ahead of potential security threats and ensure that your system remains secure.
Use a reputable and reliable SFTP gateway provider or solution A reliable provider or solution ensures that your SFTP gateway is secure, reliable, and always available. It also ensures that you have access to the latest software updates, security patches, and support. A reputable provider or solution gives you the peace of mind that your SFTP gateway is secure and always available.

Achieve Maximum SFTP Security, Compliance, and Performance With Kiteworks

SFTP is relatively ubiquitous and straightforward to roll out, and it can support batch processing and transfers for bulk files and move them quickly and securely through a network.

The Kiteworks Private Content Network, featuring an SFTP server and connector, offers a robust and complete orchestration engine that drives data pipelines between legacy and internal on-premises and cloud systems. With Kiteworks, organizations move data from SFTP servers, Dropbox accounts, OneDrive accounts, Google Drive accounts, or any other ERP or CRM solution through the Kiteworks platform to a different cloud platform. In other words, a flexible SFTP gateway.

Organizations around the world rely on Kiteworks to drive high-volume data transfers with high-performance applications seamlessly. They manage hybrid environments and platforms centrally, supported by a robust secure file sharing and file transfer platform that prioritizes interoperability.

An SFTP gateway like the Kiteworks managed file transfer (MFT) server manages workflows and multi-threaded file transfers on a foundation of SFTP. It doesn’t matter if you start with a Box and transfer to an external SharePoint site for business operations before transferring that data again to an S3 instance for long-term storage. With gateways, you can facilitate these kinds of transfers all day.

Furthermore, you can use all the features and tools of the Kiteworks platform to control workflows through your gateways better. These tools include the following:

  1. Compliant Systems: Kiteworks is compliant, or supports compliance, with major data privacy regulations like HIPAA, FedRAMP, PCI, FIPS 140-2, GDPR, and others. Compliance with these regulations and standards are supported by security features including granular access controls, multi-factor authentication, AES-256 encryption for data at rest, TLS 1.2 encryption for data in transit, a hardened virtual appliance, secure deployment options, integrations with security tools like data loss prevention (DLP), advanced threat protection (ATP), security information and event management (SIEM), and content disarm and reconstruction (CDR).
  2. Secure Deployment Flexibility: Kiteworks gives organizations full control of the content they share and store with trusted partners by providing a number of secure deployment options, including on-premises, private, hybrid, or FedRAMP virtual private cloud. Content is further protected with full encryption key ownership that ensures only you and your authorized users have access to your content.
  3. Streamlined Implementation and Use: Once we configure and implement your server, you can use it immediately with simplified automation tools, code-free forms, visual editing, and more.
  4. Complete Content Visibility: With the Kiteworks CISO Dashboard, you can get a comprehensive view of your content: where it is, who has accessed it, and with whom they’ve shared it. These analytics are critical for governance, compliance, forensics, and optimization.
  5. Audit Logging: Our solutions come with built-in SIEM capabilities and blockchain technology to support fine-grained auditing controls and immutable audit chains.

To learn more about Kiteworks SFTP, MFT, and secure file transfer capabilities , schedule a custom demo today.

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