Managed File Transfer (MFT)
Managed file transfer (MFT), refers to a set of computer programs that provides for the “managed-secure-controlled” transferring of data.
- Managed: in the context of this article, means transferred in a controlled way.
- Secure: refers to the areas of auditing, authentication, and encryption.
- Controlled: means scheduled, protected, logged, measured, automated, and clearly defined.
For modern organizations, unstructured data — in the form of documents, presentations, spreadsheets, email, text messages, notes, images, audio, video, and so on — continues to be the foundation for business-critical enterprise initiatives, including collaboration and integration.
Collaboration between people, throughout the extended enterprise. Enterprise collaboration refers to capabilities that make it easier for users in the extended enterprise to create, organize, find, share, communicate, and transact with one another — using productivity tools.
Integration of business processes and workflows, between both people and systems.
Collectively, unstructured data in all its forms can also be referred to as simply files, or content. Given the ubiquity and utility of these types of data, it comes as no surprise that virtually every organization is actively leveraging its shared files, using one or more of a variety of mechanisms.
MFT as a Technology Platform
MFT is a technology platform that uses administrative controls, security support protocols (i.e. HTTPS, SFTP, FTPS), and automation capabilities to securely share various types of data, including compliance-protected as well as high-volume data.
Purpose of MFT
An MTF service helps a business accomplish multiple data-related objectives involving shared files.
- Security / Compliance – Concerns about security, privacy, and compliance remain, especially working with data that is valuable (e.g., intellectual property, confidential information) or regulated (e.g., personally identifiable information, personal health information, cardholder data), (GDPR), (HIPAA), (HITECH), (PCI DSS), (SOX)
- Platforms – Movement from tactical tools, to proactive platforms
- Multiple System Usage – Increasing need to choreograph file movements through multiple systems; the use of APIs
- Greater Complexity – Significantly greater complexity: diversity of users, endpoints, deployment models
Why You Need MFT
According to Aberdeen, most organizations are actively leveraging their shared files, using one or more of a variety of mechanisms.
- System-to-Human 63% A business process or application generates and sends file(s) to one or more specific users (e.g., personalization and distribution of records and reports).
- File Sync 54% A user transfer’s file(s) to a central repository, to be synchronized and accessed by themselves from one or more devices.
- Human-to-Human 66% A user sends file(s) to one or more specific receivers.
- Human-to-System 66% A user submits file(s) into a business process or application (e.g., as a manual step in an established workflow).
- System-To-System 70% A business process or application programmatically initiates file transfers to be received by another process or application (e.g., as an automated step in an established workflow).
- File Sync 70% A user transfer’s file(s) to a central repository, to be synchronized and accessed by themselves from one or more devices.
Proactive Approach for Protecting Data
Protecting data in today’s highly regulated and growing data landscape requires a proactive approach. It means evaluating your business’s existing security policies and procedures, systems of data management to ensure that they meet current and future compliance regulations and mandates. It also means that you must reduce or eliminate system vulnerabilities that are often the result of complex or inadequate security practices and system inefficiencies.
Potential Benefits of MFT
MFT can be beneficial if your business
- Has concerns about security, privacy, and compliance
- Is redesigning traditional business processes and workflows
- Is eliminating manual processes with automated migrations, consolidations, and upgrades
- Is experiencing significantly greater complexity and diversity of users
- Wants to improved operational efficiency and decision-making with visibility and analytics
- Is communicating and engaging with standard protocols: Secure FTP, FTPS, HTTP, HTTPS, AS2, and SFTP
Organizations need the accessibility, transferability, and the secure storage of their data. The negative effects of a data breach or of an unresponsive network can cause a reduction in efficiency across every line of business. When this happens, business stops while IT works to fix the problem. Leading organizations are implementing MFT solutions for a wide range of data management issues.
Data Management Tool
Data security and productivity measures are far more successful and effective when they are proactive and preemptive, which is why MFT solutions are an excellent data management tool for IT managers, especially those in heavily regulated industries such as healthcare and financial services.
Maintaining security and compliance go hand in hand. While not every compliance measure is related to a security standard, there are still many compliance mandates that work well with keeping a network secure. MFT solutions have real-time monitoring and validation of security policies and controls to answer to compliance standards for handling sensitive data. Some of these standards are mandated by GDPR, HIPAA, HITECH, SOX and PCI. They can contribute to security by following these standards:
- Track and audit user activity and file movement (Control)
- Monitor and alert in real-time on potential violations of security standards(Security)
- Capture compensating controls and generate reports on compliance status (Managed)
- Meet requirements for data wiping and sanitization (No data left behind)
- Protect data in transit or at rest (Encryption)
Supporting Overall Network Security
Data is the life-blood of your business and ensuring that it moves efficiently and securely (both in and outside of your organization) is critical. Yet, for something so important, many organizations are littered with non-compliant and rogue data exchange solutions, making their network ripe for security breaches and failed data transactions. The use of unsanctioned devices and applications, known as shadow IT, causes a wide range of problems for organizations, including insecure data transmission and lack of visibility and control, putting your business data at risk.
The security capabilities of an MFT solution extend beyond the process of moving or storing data. An MFT solution supports overall network security:
- Operational visibility helps IT managers see problems before they happen
- Automation improves efficiency and saves time, eliminating the need for manual processes, which indirectly improves security because IT professionals can redirect their efforts
- Compliance standards bring an additional layer of security by regulating the security policies and practices that ensure organizations are handling sensitive data securely
- User-friendly ad hoc capabilities ensure that shadow IT practices aren’t being used to skirt IT policies
Automate Data Exchange
Manual data transfer processes are vulnerable to manpower limitations and subject to human error, making them inefficient and often unreliable. Automating your data transfers can reduce or eliminate the need for manual file exchanges and free up your resources for more innovative endeavors.
- Encryption for all files on the platform; using encrypted transmission protocols like HTTPS with file integrity checks. A combination of these three processes will protect documents and files which contain personal data against unauthorized access, modification, and disclosure.
- Strong access controls and internal user databases with strong passwords, used in combination with multi-factor authentication and single sign on. This reduces the risk of unauthorized access and ensures the recipient of the personal data is indeed the intended user.
- Tamper-evident logging and auditing, recording each event with the MFT transfer solution where every file or document transferred is logged in a format that cannot be modified or removed without alerting the system administrator.
- Integrating with existing security solutions and enforcing existing security policies. For example, integrating an anti-virus scanner with anti-malware, or utilizing a DLP (Data Leakage Prevention) solution to look for instances of sensitive data being shared.
- Analytics used in conjunction with reporting gives a current and historical overview of all document and file transfer activities. Logging and reporting information is available in the MFT reporting console and can be exported to business intelligence tools or centralized logging solutions where further analysis and reporting can be performed.