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Managed File Transfer: Linchpin to Cloud Stickiness

  • July 2014
  • -
  • Frost & Sullivan
  • -
  • 10 pages

In this SPIE, we delve into both MFTaaS and the potential for MFTaaS to stimulate a broader adoption of public cloud services.

Introduction
Judged by funding activity, the popularity of cloud-based file sharing (CBFS) services is on the rise. According to Frost & Sullivan, from January 2012 – March 2014, $ million has been invested in nine companies that offer cloud-based file sharing services.2 As noted in this report, the true funding amount is much greater when the full complement of CBFS providers is taken into account. An example of this broader breadth of market involvement is the announced entry by Amazon with Zocalo.3 Considering the dominant, early running market positions that Amazon Web Services has in public cloud computing and storage services, plus its entry into the desktop as a service market with Amazon Workspaces (of which Amazon Zocalo will be available as a discounted service add-on), the CBFS service category and market are evolving rapidly.4,5

Focusing solely on CBFS, however, overlooks the fuller range of file movement scenarios, most notably: system-to-system (S2S). This same narrow view overlooks solutions that were explicitly designed to support system-to-system file transfers; for example Managed File Transfer (MFT).

Businesses with workflows that entail repeatable business-to-business (B2B) and intra-company file transfers have not lost sight of this broader view. Based on a market scan of a subset of established MFT providers, this recent “bright idea” pendulum swing to CBFS is contributing to a rebound swing in demand for MFT. Furthermore, for many file transfer-dependent workflows, the prevailing value of CBFS in supporting ad hoc, person-to-person file transfers with app-like ease is, in some manner, the antithesis of the systematic control, automation, and compliance capabilities of MFT. Essentially, CBFS was not designed to serve the file transfer requirements that MFT addresses. Conversely, the traditional approach of MFT as an on-premises, IT-run operation does not fully align with today’s self-servetrend, and the need for elasticity, economical infrastructure, and automation brought on by increasing file size and file transfer volume, and growth in B2B connections.

Although not as prevalent in the market as CBFS, MFT as a Service (MFTaaS) is available from several traditional MFT software providers; for example, IBM and Ipswitch. This notable product expansion from enterprise software to the software-as-a-service model, notwithstanding, the stimulative effect MFTaaS could have on migrating business-critical and privacy-demanding workloads to public cloud environments also captured our attention. In this SPIE, we delve into both MFTaaS and the potential for MFTaaS to stimulate a broader adoption of public cloud services.

What is Managed File Transfer?
Simplistically speaking, MFT is purpose-built middleware that facilitates secure and reliable file transfers between business entities. In more practical terms, MFT mitigates the complexities that arise in establishing and completing file transfers in B2B settings; especially those that are a part of mission-critical workflows. Common capabilities found in MFT solutions include:

- On-boarding – Establishes and validates, preferably with minimal administrator involvement, system-to-system handshakes between file transfer parties.
- Automation – Automates and schedules file transfer jobs.
- Protocol Translations – Completes in-flow translations between communication protocols.
- File Delivery Assurance – Monitors file transmissions for timeliness (sent and arrived within scheduled window); correctness (went only to the authorized destination(s)); and integrity (arrived unaltered). If errors occur, file owners or MFT administrators are alerted or, depending on the error, the MFT system automatically corrects for the error or disruption (e.g., resumes interrupted transmissions).
- Data Privacy – Encrypts files “at rest” and “in motion,” with support for unique per-file encryption keys.
- Operational Security – Controls administrator and user access to the MFT system and files; integrates with user directories (e.g., Microsoft Active Directory and Lightweight Directory Access Protocol – LDAP); and supports strong authentication and single sign-on.
- File Security – Integrates with anti-virus programs to scan incoming and outgoing files.
- Auditing – Gathers comprehensive logs on all file transfer activities (administers’ system activities, user actions, file transfers, file metadata, etc.) and supports forensic investigations.
- Compliance – Generates detail reports that substantiate compliance, where applicable, with a growing list of regulations; for example: Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act – HIPAA, and its 2013 Omnibus rule; Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act – HITECH; Payment Card Institute Data Security Standard – PCI-DSS; and Sarbanes-Oxley Act – SOX.

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Managed File Transfer: Linchpin to Cloud Stickiness

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