Every corporate business process involves exchanging electronic data. To ensure such data is transferred securely, it's recommended that you use a professional Managed File Transfer (MFT) solution.
MFT comprises software technologies that secure, control, document, and automate the complete process of electronic data exchange.
Proper use of Managed File Transfer in the enterprise
Beyond SFTP: 5 Ways Secure Managed File Transfer Can Improve Your Business.
Unstructured data exchange
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 risks.
Best practice invovles consolidating all data transmissions 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.).
By embracing MFT, companies can not only rule out the risks of unsecure and inefficient data transmission. But 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.
Who benefits from MFT?
In short, anyone who wants to transfer company-critical or sensitive data securely and minimize the risks involved.
In more specific terms, every corporate business process involves electronic data exchange – information shared either within the company or with business partners such as customers, suppliers or service providers. Whether invitations to tender, price lists, project proposals, orders, invoices, design data or machinery data, confidential reports or personal information: reliable and secure electronic transmission of sensitive data is crucial to business success. Particularly in development projects or when implementing project orders, fast and reliable exchange of even large data quantities is essential, enabling cooperation in real time between teams at multiple locations or with multiple customers and suppliers.
The problem is that data transfer usually takes place via unsecure channels (the Internet) and is frequently still using technologies no longer suited to meeting today's requirements in terms of transmission security, data integrity, reliability and performance.
Managed File Transfer (MFT) comprises software technologies that secure, control, document, and automate the complete process of electronic data exchange. In contrast to conventional means of data transfer, e.g. via email or FTP server, secure MFT solutions offer the following key functionalities:
- Central, uniform administration of data transmission by means of robust technologies and protocols
- Reliable transfer of large electronic files
- Control of data access, backup and encryption
- Recording and monitoring of file activities.
High-performance MFT solutions are well suited for a wide range of data-exchange scenarios, such as for spontaneous (ad-hoc) data transmission, regular scheduled data transfers, teamwork, or also data exchange between connected systems:
- Ad-hoc data transmission via email or web browser
Spontaneous, ad-hoc exchange of electronic files between company colleagues or with business partners is usually conducted by e-mail or via browser-based web services. When an MFT solution is utilised, a secure point-to-point connection is established for the transfer. Files are then transferred not as e-mail attachments, but rather via a dedicated secure server.
Example: Marketing, personal or financial information
Benefits: Integrated into the daily work routine, mailbox sizes are reduced
- Planned data transfers
The advantageous strengths of MFT solutions really come to bear when data transfers take place on a regular scheduled basis between two or more users, business partners or systems: They not only secure the data transmission, but also offer automation functions that enhance efficiency.
Example: Automated dispatch of reports to lists of distribution recipients (price list updates, sales figures, etc.)
Benefits: Control of use, and limitation of availability of downloads (permissions, time period, number of downloads)
If multiple company colleagues or business partners are working together on a joint task, MFT solutions offer them a secure virtual space in which they can jointly use, edit, and securely exchange data. It makes electronic files and documents of any size available for limited or unlimited periods of time, and ensures that only authorized persons can gain access to them.
Example: Secure storage filing of project plans and time schedules, drawings and reports etc.
Benefits: Data provision is easy and fast, and data file administration is delegated to the users
- Connecting systems
Another possible application for MFT solutions is to provide secure, automated data exchange between different systems and applications by way of defined interfaces and standardized protocols.
Example: Automated master data comparison between headquarters and branch offices
Benefits: Reduced effort and cost of operation, and traceability of data exchange.
MFT functionality is available either as separate, autonomous applications or integrated in comprehensive enterprise software solutions. The MFT solutions offered differ distinctly in their architecture, scope of functions, scalability, price model and operating model as well as the provider's service scope. The following tips will help you choose the right option.
- Application scenarios
An MFT solution fulfills its intended purpose only if it covers all data transfer scenarios arising for a company or corporate group. You should therefore carefully review your needs and requirements, and compare the offered functionality accordingly.
- Compliance suitability
Companies face the challenge of having to comply with a growing number of organizational regulations and procedures governing their handling of sensitive information, documents and electronic files. They are subject to data protection, privacy and security guidelines and directives and must comply with statutory and industry regulations. An MFT solution should comprehensively support compliance with all of these requirements to the greatest extent possible. Examples includes general data protection and privacy regulations, the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and the wide range of industry-specific standards such as the European Programme for Critical Infrastructure Protection (EPCIP) and the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), and the regulations of the U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), etc.
- Integration into business processes
It's important that MFT functions be seamlessly integrated into the company's familiar work processes and applications (e.g. integration with MS Office, e-mail and Internet browser). Users who've been transmitting their documents for years by e-mail are likely neither willing to give up their accustomed way of doing things nor easily be able to do so without an MFT solution.
Efficient data transfer
Faster and more efficient transmission (five times as fast as File Transfer Protocol) of any data, even unstructured data, of any size with guaranteed delivery irrespective of country- or industry-specific standards
Comprehensive, end-to-end data protection
End-to-end encryption during data transfer (using secure transmission protocols such as FTP, OFTP, SFTP, SCP, AS2 and HTTPS) and encrypted data storage
The electronic signature secures the authenticity of the sender and the integrity of the transmission
Central administration and access control of data transmissions
Data transmissions of a wide range of areas of application, including automation, monitoring and access rights management, are administered centrally. Any unauthorized access to electronic files is prevented by assigning roles and access rights and user authentication
Compliance with regulations
Company-wide enforcement of data protection, privacy and security guidelines and compliance with all statutory and industry regulations
Transparency and traceability
File activities such as data movements and access are transparent and traceable at all times