What is Managed File Transfer (MFT)?
Every corporate business process involves an exchange of data, be it in-house or with business partners such as customers, suppliers, or service providers. From tenders, offers, orders or invoices, design or machine data and confidential reports to personal data, reliable electronic data transfer is critical for business success. Swift and reliable exchange of large amounts of data is essential, especially in development or implementation projects, in order to facilitate real-time collaboration between teams at different locations or with several partners and suppliers.
Data is most commonly transferred via insecure channels (the internet) and therein lays the problem. Companies frequently use technologies that are no longer suitable for compliance with current transmission security, data integrity, reliability, governance and performance requirements.
Managed File Transfer (MFT) comprises software technologies that manage, secure, document, and automate the entire process of electronic data interchange. Unlike conventional data transfer by, for example, e-mail or FTP server, MFT provides the following core functionalities:
- Central and uniform management of data transfer using different technologies and protocols
- Reliable transfer of large files and large amounts of data
- Management of data access, data storage, and encryption
- Logging and monitoring of file activities
- Ad hoc exchange of data, including person-to-person and person-to-system
Who needs MFT?
In a nutshell: everybody who has to transfer business-critical and/or sensitive data via insecure channels and would like to keep the risks involved to a minimum.
More specifically, Companies currently rely mostly upon unencrypted e-mail for the ad-hoc transfer of smaller files; for large files they use FTP. Both technologies date back to the 1980s and can only be secured enterprise-wide at great effort and expense. And if sensitive data is incorrectly addressed, stolen or rerouted in transit, arrives late or is lost, the company runs a risk of serious financial loss, image loss, and competitive disadvantages.
At the same time companies today face constantly increasing compliance requirements in respect to personal data protection. The wide range of transmission routes used in most companies – e-mail, FTP, postal delivery, external data media, cloud services, etc. – makes data transfer not only more expensive, time-consuming, and error-prone; it also makes controlling data access and transfers and implementing data protection and data security guidelines enterprise-wide more difficult, or it puts the responsibility for securing these transfers into the hands of a third party.
Benefits of Managed File Transfer
It is in the best interest of the enterprise to consolidate all transfers on a central, monitored communication platform. With MFT, business-critical data can be shared with business partners, systems, and applications securely and transparently. Data manipulation and loss are effectively prevented. That is especially important for unstructured business data such as Office documents, PDF or image files that are not transferred by EDI using secure industry standards.
Companies can thereby avoid the risk of insecure and inefficient data transmission and reduce their operating costs. At the same time they retain a constant view of any sensitive data – intentionally or unintentionally – which has been rerouted in-house or externally and can respond to problems in a timely manner. Furthermore, MFT helps them to observe their own data protection policies and industry-specific compliance requirements such as SOX for financial data and HIPAA for healthcare data in the U.S..
Key Benefits of MFT:
- Central management of file transfers in different application areas, including automation, monitoring, and rights management
- End-to-end data security, data encryption in transit (secure transfer protocols such as FTPS, OFTP, SFTP, SCP, AS2, and HTTPS) and encrypted data storage
- Transfer of data of all types and file sizes with assured delivery irrespective of country or industry standards
- Faster and more efficient transmission (a speed advantage of up to 5 times compared with FTP)
- Access management by means of role and rights assignment and authentication prevents unauthorized data access
- Sender identity (authenticity) and message integrity ensured by electronic signature
- Transparency and traceability of file activities (data movements and access)
- Enterprise-wide enforcement of data protection and security guidelines
- Secure implementation (compliance) of statutory and industry requirements
High-performance MFT solutions are suitable for a range of data interchange scenarios, such as spontaneous (ad-hoc) data transfer, scheduled data transfer, teamwork, or data interchange between coupled systems.
Ad-hoc Data Transfer by E-Mail or Web Browser
Spontaneous data interchange between colleagues or business partners is usually done by e-mail or, browser-based, via Web services. If an MFT solution is used, a secure point-to-point connection is established for this purpose. Files are no longer transferred as e-mail attachments but via a separate secured server.
For example: Marketing-, HR and financial information
Benefits: Integration into everyday work routines, reduction of load on mailbox servers, positive notification of delivery.
Scheduled Data Transfer
MFT solutions really come into their own for regular scheduled data transfers between two or more users, business partners, or systems. They not only safeguard the transfer but also provide greater efficiency by means of automation functions.
For example: Automated mailing of reports to mailing lists (price list updates, sales figures, etc.)
Benefits: Usage control, limitation of download availability (authorizations, time, number of downloads), positive notification of delivery and receipt
If several colleagues or business partners are collaborating on a task, the MFT solution will provide them with a protected virtual room or space where they can jointly use, process, and share data securely. The MFT solution makes files and documents of any size available either permanently or for a limited period and ensures that only authorized persons have access to them.
For example: Secure storage of project plans, drawings, reports, etc.
Benefits: Swift and simple provision, delegation of administration to users
Another possible use of MFT solutions is for secure automated data interchange between different systems and applications via defined interfaces and standardized protocols.
For example: Automated master data synchronization between head office and branches
Benefits: Reduced operational effort and expense, transparency of data interchange
What Should Companies Bear in Mind when Choosing an MFT Solution?
MFT functionalities are available either as stand-alone applications or integrated into more comprehensive software solutions. MFT solutions can differ significantly in architecture, scope of functions, scalability, pricing and operating models, or services provided. The following tips will help you to choose the MFT solution that is right for you.
Deployment Scenarios and Features
An MFT solution will only fulfill its purpose if it covers all the data transfer scenarios of a company or group. So check your requirements carefully and compare the functionalities offered.
An important use of MFT is to support compliance. Make sure that your solution supports the statutory requirements that are of importance for you.
Business Process Integration
It is important for MFT functions to integrate seamlessly into your usual workflows and applications (Office, e-mail, or Windows Explorer integration, for example). Users who have sent documents by e-mail for years will probably be neither willing nor immediately able to relinquish this tried and trusted mode of communication.
Mobile devices are playing an increasingly important role in the everyday working world. So MFT solutions without mobile support are not sustainable. Make sure that your MFT solution supports the mobile exchange of large amounts of data.
Operating Modes and Utilization Requirements
Some MFT solutions are available not only as a standalone application but also as a cloud solution (Managed Service, SaaS). Web portals are also well suited for cross-location and cross-enterprise-collaboration. They can be used via a Web browser without a client application.
For information about the SEEBURGER MFT solution BIS FileExchange, visit