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What is Managed File Transfer (MFT)?

Secure and  reliable electronic transfer of data

Managed File transfer (MFT) Definition

Managed File Transfer is a technology – offered as a software platform but also available as a cloud service – that allows organizations the secure and reliable electronic exchange of (often sensitive) data of any size. MFT comprises software technologies that secure, control, document, and automate the complete process of electronic data exchange. These file transfers can be internal or external to an organization, MFT allows the transfer of structured or unstructured data of various types including sensitive, compliance-related or even very high volume data.

Using MFT, organizations can replace unsecure methods of file transfer like standard file transfer protocol (FTP), eMail or popular but often unsecure internet file sharing services.

1. Overview Managed File Transfer

Unstructured data exchange without MFT Technology

Without MFT software, any exchange of unstructured data such as contracts, drawings, reports, employee information, project data, customer and supplier data etc. takes place without any oversight or control checks, entailing security or compliance risks.

Still too often, organizations continue to use FTP or eMail for sensitive file transfer activities. Learn in our blog “STOP: The Risks of Using FTP and Email for the Transfer of Sensitive Files” in more detail why this has to be avoided.

In recent years, file sharing services became quite popular for private use. Learn in our blog “File Sharing Services – File Security Is Only Half The Story…“ why these are no option for enterprise file transfer needs.

Secure and consolidated data exchange with MFT technology

By embracing MFT, organizations can consolidate all data transfers on a central, monitored communication platform. MFT enables critical business data to be securely exchanged with business partners, systems and applications, all with an audit trail. This effectively prevents data manipulation and loss, which is especially important for unstructured business data (e.g. contracts, drawings, reports, employee information, project data, customer and supplier data etc.).

With MFT, companies cannot only rule out the risks of unsecure and inefficient data transmission. However, they can also reduce their operating costs by using a single and central solution. At the same time, the MFT solution provides an overview as to what potentially sensitive data has been forwarded to where or whom internally or externally – whether intended or not – and can respond to situations in an appropriate and timely manner.

MFT also helps companies meet their own data protection and privacy regulations (company policies) as well as industry-specific compliance requirements. For example the Sarbanes–Oxley Act (SOX) governing financial data and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) governing health data in the United States. Or the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which is a regulation in EU law on data protection and privacy in the European Union (EU) and the European Economic Area (EEA).

Learn more about the importance of security and compliance in our blogs:

Personally Identifiable Information (PII) – Even the ‘Most Trusted’ Companies Are Failing Us!

One year of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – A current view

2. Benefits of Managed File Transfer

Many business processes involve the electronic exchange of business information – information shared either within the company or with business partners such as customers, suppliers or service providers.

Reliable and secure electronic transfer of sensitive data is crucial to business success. Secure MFT solutions offer the following key benefits:

  • Efficiency
    Faster and more efficient transmission of any structured or unstructured data, of any size with guaranteed delivery irrespective of country- or industry-specific standards
  • Security
    Comprehensive end-to-end encryption for data in transit and at rest.
  • Authentication
    The electronic signature secures the authenticity of the sender and the integrity of the transmission
  • Control
    Central administration and access control: Data transfers are administered centrally, including automation, monitoring and access rights management. Any unauthorized access to electronic files is prevented by assigning roles and access rights and user authentication.
  • Regulatory Compliance
    Enables company-wide enforcement of data protection, privacy and security guidelines and compliance with all statutory and industry regulations - such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA), Basel II, Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and others.
  • Visibility
    File activities such as data movements and access are transparent and traceable at all times, allowing companies to anticipate risks and to establish proactive issue resolution.

Learn more about the business benefits of MFT in our detailed blogs:

5 ways secure managed file transfer can improve your business

Reliably compliant - IT security that pays off

Proper use of Managed File Transfer in the enterprise

Beyond SFTP: 5 Ways Secure Managed File Transfer Can Improve Your Business.

Download Whitepaper

3. Typical Managed File Transfer scenarios

High-performance MFT solutions are well suited for a wide range of data-exchange scenarios.When replacing error prone and unsecure manual processes, MFT solutions can be used and avoid investments in specialized applications for each use case.

Scenario 1: internal file transfer, secure distribution of sensitive files “system to persons”

Instead of investing into a digital payroll solution just to distribute payroll information to employees, an MFT solution can take over this task and ensures process automation, secure communication and compliance.

Scenario 2: external file transfer, secure distribution of sensitive files “system to persons”

The best and most efficient way for an electronic ordering process is still in most cases the structured B2B/EDI data exchange. However, smaller suppliers are often reluctant to invest into such technology. With MFT, companies can establish an electronic ordering process also with very small suppliers – without the need for them to invest into technology.

An MFT based solution automates the ordering process, gives great transparency, allows to attach necessary additional documents (e.g. sensitive engineering files) and integrates involved applications (here ERP and Archive applications).

Do you want to learn more? Read our blogs, which contain many more use cases:

Product Development – Protecting Your Intellectual Property (IP)

Engineering: Collaborative product development and data exchange in mechanical engineering and other technical industries

4. Key criteria when selecting an MFT solution

Most products or cloud services on the market today support MFT core features. However, to get the full benefit out of MFT, companies should carefully review the supported “enterprise features” as described below.

Core Features of any MFT solution

First of all, a solution for Managed File Transfer has to solve the core requirements in your file transfers:

  • Reliability
    Outdated solution like FTP which were designed ~40 years ago are not capable to handle changing/dynamic modern IT environments that we use today – modern MFT solutions do.
  • Security
    E-Mail and non-secured FTP channels send data in the clear, i.e. unencrypted and thus are susceptible to compromise, as is physical media in the post – MFT solutions are not.
  • Efficiency
    How to best organize the multitude of secure file transfer requirements of different business departments: Certainly not in giving these departments the freedom to select “their” tool. Central MFT solution ensure transparency, compliance – and self service options for business departments.

Select MFT solutions that also support Enterprise MFT features:

When selecting a new MFT solution for broad usage within an organization, beyond these core requirements the following points should also be considered. Let’s take a closer look at the requirements that are really necessary to solve the complete problem (far more than just pure file transfer). A comprehensive solution also needs to address the following questions:

Enterprise MFT requirementWhy is this important?
Seamlessly integrate with internal systems/applicationsTypically, companies have various internal systems and applications where MFT data has to originate from/be delivered too. A broad range of ERP/API/EAI adapters helps to ensure that all internal systems/applications can be integrated smoothly
Minimize efforts to on-board a multitude of connected external partnersOften hundreds of external partners have to send/receive sensitive MFT data. Without the proper tools, on-boarding would require high effort and much time. An onboarding portal solves this problem.
Self-service capabilities for business departments and external partnersSelf-Service capabilities for internal business departments and for external partners (during on-boarding and for subsequent changes) not only minimizes efforts but also expedites the process.
Secure connections to systems which have no modern interfacesNot all internal systems/applications have directly accessible interfaces. In such cases, the MFT solution has to provide such communication end-points.
Ensure governance and compliance for all sensitive data transfersOnly a comprehensive Enterprise MFT Platform can ensure complete transparency as to who has done what when. Using isolated ‘point solutions’ for each new MFT requirement requires ‘yet another integration layer’.

Therefore, when selecting a new MFT solution, companies should rather prefer a comprehensive integration platform. Solutions like SEEBURGER´s MFT solution are part of an overall, comprehensive integration platform: SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite.

Learn more how SEEBURGER solves Enterprise MFT requirements in our blog about how to ensure compliance and process automation to transfer sensitive files.

SEEBURGER MFT ensures complete integration to all of your internal and external data sources, systems and applications – customers, suppliers, partners, service providers, and other endpoints you need to connect to drive your business. With more than 70 supported protocols, the SEEBURGER MFT Solution makes sure that you can replace your disparate FTP servers, legacy file transfer systems, and one-off solutions to a single platform.

Modernize your file transfer demand with SEEBURGER MFT – available as a software solution or as a full Cloud Service. You get thus support for multiple file transfer patterns – automated between systems and ad hoc file transfer - on a centralized file transfer technology.

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