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Expansive feature lists can make any managed file transfer (MFT) solution sound attractive. But what counts are the features you’ll use, and identifying them prior to actually implementing MFT can generate a storm of confusion.

While every organization should determine which features matter most to them, there are some components no MFT solution should be without. Some of those are antivirus protection, file integrity checks, and the ability to restart interrupted file transfers.

Antivirus protection
Can your current file transfer solution sniff out viruses and malware? If so, do its security features meet the high standards needed for corporate data security?

In a recent, highly publicized corporate security breach, unauthorized parties gained access to tens of millions of credit cards and data files from Target Corporation customers. And while details of the breach are still coming out, it appears that inadequate virus and malware monitoring allowed hackers to access customer data via a shared Windows drive and FTP – a classic case of conventional file transfer methods failing to protect enterprise from an attack.

As analysts have noted, MFT could have helped Target avoid the data breach by replacing insecure FTP scripts and centralizing control over automated file transfers. Antivirus protection is key to modern MFT’s underlying architecture.

How do virus and malware monitoring “work” in an MFT context? Here are some essential data security features, all of which we discuss in our white paper on eliminating insecure file transfers, that you should expect an MFT solution to provide:

Modern encryption – MFT products should encrypt files per Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS)-verified and Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) algorithms.
File streaming – The demilitarized zone, or DMZ, refers to the open network across which files must travel during user-to-user and business-to-business transfers; an MFT solution should stream encrypted files across the DMZ rather than store them there in anticipation of forwarding them later.
Comprehensive authentication and authorization – This should apply to all users, servers, clients, and databases connected to the MFT network at any time.

Conventional file transfer methods rarely even approach the level of security these features provide. Still, you should accept no less in an MFT solution – especially when securing corporate data is an organizational imperative.

File integrity & compliance
To maintain compliance, many enterprises must ensure file integrity, and your MFT solution should be able to do so in accordance with industry standards. Keeping in mind that different verticals are subject to different rules, let’s consider file integrity in the context of healthcare data, which is subject to HIPAA regulations.

While healthcare management systems often apply all necessary data integrity safeguards by default, what about data in transit from a hospital to an insurance company? How can organizations guarantee the integrity of patient files once they’ve left internal systems?

Modern MFT solutions protect file integrity by performing the following functions:

Integrity checks – Through checksum or hashing, MFTs perform calculations for every file leaving the enterprise.
Access controls – These prevent unauthorized parties from modifying a file before it’s transferred.
Data encryption – A file’s contents are impossible to obtain as it crosses the DMZ.

HIPAA is just one class of regulation that requires file integrity verification, but there are many others. Organizations in the financial sector may be subject to SOX, PCI DSS, or GLBA rules, and their MFT solutions should accommodate the file integrity safeguards those laws require.

Interrupted file transfers
If there’s one MFT feature that any enterprise can get behind, it’s the ability to restart an interrupted file transfer.

Besides being outright annoying, interrupted transfers can lead to missed deadlines and damaged business relationships. Just think what might happen if an interrupted file transfer prevents a sales associate from accessing her demo files during an on-site meeting with a prospect.

Or don’t consider it. The outcome probably isn’t a happy one.

To avoid similar scenarios, automatic retries, checkpoint restarts, and guaranteed delivery should be standard components of your MFT solution. In the event of an interruption, the file transfer should restart automatically – not from the beginning, but from the precise point of failure. That way it won’t take nearly as long for the transfer to complete, which is a big deal when you’re transferring large files.

So just remember not to overlook security, compliance, and delivery features in a managed file transfer solution. They may seem like a small part of a sweeping feature suite, but they’re often the most essential components for business.

This is the seventh post in a 10-part series on managing file transfers. Read rest of the series here. Be sure to subscribe to our blog to receive the next posts.

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Automation puts file-transfer-dependent processes on the fast track. It’s how organizations integrate disparate systems to accomplish mission-critical tasks, and it’s an essential component of modern managed file transfer (MFT) solutions.

But what about user-directed file transfers? Across-the-board automation may sound brilliant, but it’s not feasible for every business process. Enterprises often have no choice but to let users direct certain file transfers, so how can management ensure the security, reliability, and auditability of such activities?

By following an “automated when possible, manual when necessary” approach to MFT, organizations can maximize the value of automation while effectively controlling user-directed file transfers.
Reasons to automate
Enterprises automate processes to get more work done faster. Where automation fits into MFT is something we analyze in two Attachmate white papers – one on what the market demands from MFT solutions and another on how organizations can eliminate insecure, unreliable file transfers. Long story short, we conclude that automation, especially end-to-end automation, can help enterprises improve processes built around file transfer.

What is “end-to-end” file transfer automation? It’s an arrangement in which external partners can transfer data to deep within the enterprise. Think of it as a way to enjoy all the benefits of MFT across extremely distant endpoints. The benefits are numerous:

• Facilitated integration – Rule-based processing allows files to process automatically upon receipt; users need not perform manual action.
• Event processing – File transfers occur based on specific events or, once completed, trigger a subsequent event in a sequence.
• Optimized transfer operations – By combining existing file transfer processes, automation streamlines business activities.

The last point hits at the heart of why automated file transfers improve processes. Eliminating manual activity and employing secure, reliable, automated transfers in its place helps enterprises build more efficiencies into their overall operation. In fact, it’s the primary reason we encourage an “automated when possible” approach to MFT.

Organizations researching MFT hear a lot about its impenetrable security and unmatched reliability when pitted against consumer-grade file transfer tools. But improving business processes via end-to-end automation is an additional benefit that no decision maker should overlook when choosing a solution.
Controlling user-directed file transfers
Then there are file transfers you can’t automate – the ones users perform sporadically or according to unpredictable patterns. What kinds of challenges do these file transfers introduce?

The biggest is control. From an IT perspective, a major benefit of MFT automation is the detailed tracking and logging of every file transfer-related action. It’s always going on in the background for transfers that occur without user interference. But for user-directed file transfers, administrators can’t just let automation happen – they have to control user behavior. Otherwise, users could circumvent corporate rules and go back to transferring files via unmanaged email or file sharing services.

To effectively control user-directed file transfers, your MFT solution should offer all of the following:

• Single point of control – Administrators require absolute command over all data moving within and outside an enterprise; a centralized interface enables such control.
• Total security – No users, servers, clients, or databases should be able to operate in the MFT network without authentication and authorization.
• Total auditability – Data about every aspect of every file transfer must be available in the event of an audit.

The above concepts should inform the development of any modern MFT solution. Some products even offer familiar interfaces to help users transfer files in the controlled environment. Novell is pushing this idea with Filr, an MFT solution that delivers a DropBox-like experience on desktops and mobile devices.

What counts is that administrators exert effective control over user-directed file transfers. When automation isn’t an option, manual transfers are simply inevitable. Neither is preferable, per se; the real issue is the extent to which you can implement the former versus how you govern the latter.

Automated when possible. Manual when necessary. Just make sure your MFT solution puts you in control.

This is the sixth post in a 10-part series on managing file transfers. Read rest of the series here. Be sure to subscribe to our blog to receive the next posts.

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Should companies really blow up their IT departments?

June 12, 2014

This provocative and well-written article appeared in the Wall Street Journal this week. WSJ later shared the piece to LinkedIn with an even more eye-catching headline, “Want a Better Company? Blow Up Your IT Department First.” An intriguing snippet from the piece: “Most companies are playing whack-a-mole when it comes to “unauthorized” software like cloud-storage services […]

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Mobile, Browser, and Email Client Access to Managed File Transfer

June 3, 2014

How easy is it for end users to access managed file transfer (MFT)? In workplaces dominated by familiar, yet shockingly insecure, file transfer methods – think email attachments, DropBox, and FTP – ensuring MFT’s broad adoption means prioritizing ease of use. Thankfully, modern MFT solutions provide the flexibility users need to perform secure, reliable transfers […]

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The Files Ruining Your Sharing Policies

May 23, 2014

Imagine your organization has taken all the right steps to protect its important files and information from outside attacks. Is that enough? Firewalls, anti-virus software and priority access protocols only cover file storage. What about file sharing? According to Ponemon’s 2013 Cost of Data Breach Study, the majority of information leaks aren’t caused by malicious […]

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What Managed File Transfer Options Are Available? On-Premise vs. Hosted MFT

May 21, 2014

A wide array of managed file transfer (MFT) options challenges firms to choose a solution that satisfies feature demands, infrastructure capacity, and budgets. The growth of cloud or “hosted” MFT further complicates the selection process by introducing additional considerations about maintenance, scalability, and costs. That being the case, how can you identify the best MFT […]

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How MFT Improves 3 Kinds of File Transfers

May 7, 2014

Wondering how you might use a managed file transfer (MFT) solution? The answer could depend on the kind of file transfer that’s creating challenges for your organization. To better understand the benefits of MFT, let’s consider three of the most common kinds of file transfers. In so doing, we’ll pay special attention to problems that […]

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4 Negative Impacts of Unmanaged File Transfers

April 22, 2014

At first glance, transferring files looks like a fail-safe operation. Users just attach files to an email, drop them in a shared folder, or upload them to a server via FTP. It’s easy, and people at your organization have done it the same way for years. Unfortunately, these familiar file transfer methods lack security protocols […]

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What to Expect When You’re Managing File Transfers: Houston, Do We Have a Problem?

April 8, 2014

In just a few short years, a handful of consumer-grade, cloud-based applications have made significant inroads in the file transfer space. With companies like DropBox boasting a $10 billion valuation and Google continuously improving the interface for its popular Drive service, cloud apps are, along with email attachments and FTP, a prevailing standard for file […]

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How to Transfer Large Files Faster

January 28, 2014

On the surface, “file transfer” sounds pretty simple. Maybe you transfer files as email attachments or make them available to others in your organization via a data synchronization application like DropBox or Google Drive. But what about the really big files you might have to transfer? What if you have to send a large media […]

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