File transfers are a key part of day-to-day business operations. From onboarding to remittances, moving files and information over a network is as routine as answering phone calls. But unlike other aspects of daily business, file transfers come with security risks that have to be managed. 30% of companies will experience a data breach within the next two years, according to cybersecurity firm PurpleSec, in part because of lax security around file transfers.
At the same time, file transfer requirements are evolving. Rules around data security are in flux while changing supply lines require new trading partners and connections behind firewalls. The COVID-19 crisis forced many organizations to digitize processes, increasing the need for external transfers –and also internal transfers as workforces went virtual and adapted their hiring practices.
The need for file transfers is growing while the needs of those transfers change as well.
Common File Transfer Issues
File transfers are common for most organizations and are often overlooked. But as the need for file transfers grows, those environments can easily become fragmented, overly complex and inefficient. This increases security risks while frustrating trading partners and employees who are stuck waiting for slow transfers and dropped packets.
The top six file transfer issues (in no particular order):
- Poor security practices
- Restrictions on file size/file type
- Access difficulties
- High-latency networks
- Shadow IT
- Lack of visibility
There are several ways to manage your secure file transfers. For example it’s common to use FTP servers for internal transfers or, in the case of smaller organizations, for transfers with trading partners. FTP servers technically offer few security options as FTP itself doesn’t even support encryption. To meet security requirements, then, custom scripts are usually deployed.
Custom scripts and traditional servers are difficult to manage, requiring time-consuming manual work and increasing security risks. Research by cybersecurity firm Cybint found that 95% of cybersecurity breaches are due to human error. Manual managing file transfer security, especially in a fragmented environment, makes it difficult to ensure that all vulnerabilities are sufficiently addressed.
Most file transfer servers also have limitations on the size and types of files that they can handle, or make access to the server too difficult to support self-service. For organizations that rely on internal or external transfers, this often leads to shadow IT services as business units implement their own tools. Shadow IT in turn further increases security risks.
File transfer servers with limited functionality lead to fragmented environments as multiple solutions and custom scripts are needed to provide necessary capabilities and protocols. This makes visibility and monitoring difficult as transfers are run in siloes.
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Securing And Optimizing Transfers With MFT Software
Managed file transfer (MFT) software can provide additional capabilities that make it easier to secure and manage file transfers across the enterprise. By providing support for any protocol, MFT tools enable organizations to reduce the number of servers, solutions and custom scripts used to manage their file transfers.
Security features and capabilities for MFT solutions can include:
- End-to-end encryption by supporting protocols for data-at-rest (OpenPGP, AES, RSA) as well as protocols for data-in-motion (SFTP, AS2, ODETTE2, etc). This means that information and files are encrypted before being transmitted over a network.
- DMZ proxy servers that make it possible for users to access internal information without having to store that information in your DMZ. Proxy servers obscure your internal servers, making it impossible for unauthorized users to gain information about your internal systems.
- Multiple layers of authentication including multi-factor authentication with passwords, LDAP or single sign-on to ensure that unauthorized users can’t easily access your file servers. Most MFT solutions also support granular permissions so that teams and individuals only have access to transfers and functionality that are needed.
- Real-time monitoring of your file transfer environment allows your MFT software to identify network security and compliance violations, alerting administrators or automatically shutting down rogue file transfers.
- Full audit trails for all users and every transaction make it easy for administrators and auditors to track changes.
The right MFT tool makes it much easier for organizations to meet a variety of data security regulations, including Sarbanes-Oxley, GDPR, PCI, HIPAA and more. Some MFT servers can also handle multiple protocols from a single server, reducing server sprawl and making it easier for IT teams to manage security requirements across the file transfer environment.
By consolidating the tools and scripts used to manage file transfers, users gain a unified environment that can be monitored and managed from a single location.
MFT solutions also provide a variety of features that optimize transfers and transfer servers.
- Proprietary protocols such as ActiveMFT’s Accelerated File Transfer Protocol (AFTP) are designed to speed-up transfers. In the case AFTP, transfers can reach speeds up to 100 times faster than standard protocols, especially in high latency networks.
- Workflow automation can drastically reduce manual handoffs and human interventions, making transfers more efficient while reducing the risk of human error. Transfers, data manipulations and more can be triggered by specific events.
- Multiple interfaces including web-based and mobile applications that provide secure access for both IT and business users. Files and information can be sent, transfers can be restarted and progress can be monitored regardless of the user’s location or web browser, drastically reducing the need for shadow IT solutions.
- Ad hoc file transfers can be sent -usually- over email clients such as Microsoft Outlook. Ad hoc transfers can be secured with data loss prevention and are immune to file sizes.
- Drop zones are spaces where users can upload files anonymously. Users can only see their own uploads and not files uploaded by other users, providing a secure way for users to upload and receive files without having to create new accounts.
Simplify Your File Transfer Environment To Meet Unexpected Business Requirements
Business needs are evolving as organizations adapt to a variety of pressures –supply line interruptions, economic downturns, digital transformation and more. As more businesses turn to digital-first initiatives and do away with manual (or paper based) processes, the need for secure file transfers will continue to grow. As a result, file transfer environments will become more complex.
MFT solutions that can handle multiple protocols can help simplify file transfer environments by reducing the number of tools, servers and scripts needed to meet all requirements. Additionally, some MFT tools are platform-independent and can be deployed on-premises, in the cloud or in a hybrid configuration. This can help organizations meet new business needs as more transactions are taking place between cloud-based endpoints.
In many cases, MFT solutions also provide integrations with common vendors as well as APIs that make it possible to quickly connect to any platform, internally or externally. Vendors such as ActiveMFT integrate directly with ActiveBatch Workload Automation, creating a single location through which users can manage end-to-end processes that provide industry-leading security for file transfers.
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