When SFTP isn’t enough— Signs you need an MFT Solution

If SFTP limitations hinder your operations, consider an MFT solution for automation, protocol versatility, and advanced security. Explore our detailed blog post to learn when it's time to transition from SFTP to MFT and elevate your data transfers.
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For the past few decades, many organizations have used the SSH File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) as their main file transfer solution. It’s more secure and less prone to connectivity issues than the archaic File Transfer Protocol (FTP). However, it’s becoming increasingly clear that SFTP is also starting to age. Companies struggle to meet today’s business needs and use cases with purely SFTP-based solutions.

In today’s business environments, file transfer solutions must fulfill numerous requirements. For instance, they have to be highly secure, automated, always available, regulatory compliant, interoperable, and so on.

To meet modern business needs using traditional file transfer tools like SFTP, IT teams have to apply many customizations that only make their IT infrastructure more complex and costly. To address this issue, proactive IT leaders have started shifting to managed file transfer (MFT) solutions. MFT solutions meet many modern business needs and use cases out of the box.

In this post, we’ll discuss the key signs indicating when it’s time to seriously consider replacing your SFTP solution with MFT.

You need to automate data transfer and file sharing workflows

Companies are abandoning manual methods and implementing automation wherever they can to ensure prompt delivery of products and services. File transfer solutions are also being infused with automation as a critical component of business processes. The goal is to streamline data transfer and file-sharing workflows and achieve near-real-time file processing.

Why SFTP isn’t enough

Unfortunately, SFTP and other traditional file transfer tools don’t readily support automation. You need to write multiple complex scripts to automate these tools for various business processes. These scripts are hard to locate and manage and also difficult to update and troubleshoot.

How managed file transfer helps

MFT solutions are already equipped with built-in low-code automation tools. A “low-code” tool requires minimal coding. So, even a junior IT admin can set up file transfer automation using an MFT solution. Moreover, since you’ll be building the low-code automation workflows in one place (i.e., the MFT solution), those workflows will be easy to locate, manage, update, and troubleshoot.

You need to integrate data transfer with other business processes

File transfer solutions rarely ever work in isolation. Since data transfer workflows are usually part of sophisticated business processes, file transfer systems often have to retrieve and deposit data from/to other IT systems. To have all these systems work cohesively in an automated workflow, you must have a way of stitching these systems together.

Why SFTP isn’t enough

Integrating an SFTP solution with other IT systems is difficult, as these solutions lack integration capabilities. Again, you’d have to use scripts and job scheduling tools to combine these systems.

How a managed file transfer solution helps

The best MFT solutions are usually equipped with Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and connectors that make it easy for you to integrate them with on-premises and cloud-based IT systems. These APIs and connectors also allow MFT solutions to seamlessly communicate with other applications, making it possible for data transfer workflows to be a part of larger business processes.

Some of your trading partners prefer other file transfer protocols

Despite SFTP’s popularity, some organizations use other file transfer protocols. For instance, many businesses implementing Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) use the AS2 protocol. Believe it or not, some businesses still insist on exchanging data through their “tried-and-true” FTP server. To accommodate your trading partners' different data exchange preferences, you must be capable of supporting other protocols.

Why SFTP isn’t enough

Obviously, an SFTP server can only support SFTP. You would have to deploy other file transfer servers to support other protocols. Managing multiple disparate servers can be a nightmare since different server applications have different system and configuration requirements. Each server would also require its own maintenance and support costs.

How an MFT solution helps

One of the major advantages of an MFT solution is that it readily supports multiple file transfer protocols. JSCAPE MFT, for instance, already supports the following protocols:

  • SFTP (also known as Secure File Transfer Protocol)

  • FTP (plain File Transfer Protocol)

  • FTPS (FTP over SSL/TLS)

  • AS2 (Applicability Statement 2)

  • HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol)

  • HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol over SSL/TLS)

  • Odette File Transfer Protocol (OFTP)

  • Trivial File Transfer Protocol (TFTP)

  • WebDAV (Web-based Distributed Authoring and Versioning)

  • AFTP (Accelerated File Transfer Protocol)

You can avoid interoperability issues with any trading partner by leveraging an MFT solution’s extensive protocol support capability.

You need enterprise-level, end-to-end file transfer security

Threats and vulnerabilities can exist throughout the entire transfer process. Man-in-the-middle attacks can compromise your data while it’s being transferred over the network. A system intrusion can likewise compromise your data while it’s stored on your server. So when your data transfer workflows involve sensitive information, it’s important to secure your data not only while it’s in transit but also before and after transmission.

JSCAPE MFT Server has built-in end-to-end encryption for both data in-transit and at rest. Want to see it in action? Get a free live demo when you schedule a session with one of our product experts.

Why SFTP isn’t enough

While SFTP can secure data in transit, the protocol has no provisions for securing the data at your endpoints. Hence, your data will still be vulnerable before and after the transfer. So, if your file transfers involve sensitive data, you must integrate your SFTP solution with appropriate security solutions, such as data-at-rest encryption tools. As we said earlier, script-based integration is tricky and prone to management and maintenance issues.

How a managed file transfer solution helps

An MFT solution normally comes with end-to-end security upon installation. In addition to supporting data-in-transit encryption-enabled secure file transfer protocols, an MFT solution will also provide data-at-rest encryption functionality. In JSCAPE MFT, for instance, data-at-rest encryption comes by way of PGP encryption. JSCAPE MFT can be configured so that every file is automatically PGP-encrypted upon upload. By encrypting your files while they’re in transit and while stored on your server, you can significantly mitigate your risk of data breaches.

You can’t afford business-impacting downtimes

When file transfer systems are used to facilitate business-critical workflows, any unplanned downtime can severely impact operations, result in financial loss, and, if you’re operating as part of a supply chain, even breach service level agreements (SLAs). To prevent downtimes, your file transfer infrastructure must possess high availability (HA) and fault tolerance capabilities that would enable it to withstand high-volume traffic and other factors that might cause it to fail.

Why SFTP isn’t enough

SFTP solutions are devoid of high availability or fault tolerance functionality. Your IT team would have to go through hoops to equip an SFTP-based solution with those capabilities. For instance, they would have to manually deploy and assemble redundant SFTP servers into a HA cluster and integrate that cluster with a third-party load balancer. Ensuring that each SFTP host’s users, settings, and data are synchronized can be challenging. Integrating your cluster with a third-party load balancer may also result in incompatibility issues.

How an MFT software helps

Modern MFT solutions are already designed to support high availability right out of the box. In JSCAPE MFT, redundancy and an entire SFTP HA cluster can be accomplished in just a few steps. Not only that, JSCAPE also provides its load balancer that works seamlessly with a JSCAPE MFT HA cluster. An MFT solution will make it much easier for you to achieve high availability and meet your SLAs.

You need complete visibility and control over all file transfer activities

Governance, SLA, and data protection policies usually call for comprehensive visibility and control over all IT processes. To meet these requirements, your file transfer solution must generate audit trails that allow you to track data movement and monitoring tools that enable you to keep an eye on the performance of your file transfer activities. Your file transfer solution must also provide administrative tools that enable you to assign granular permissions to user data and file transfer configurations.

Why SFTP isn’t enough

While SFTP servers are equipped with rudimentary logging mechanisms, their logs are often difficult to consolidate and analyze, making it hard to extract actionable insight, identify problems, and spot potential security and performance issues.

How a managed file transfer solution helps

MFT solutions can generate comprehensive reports and audit trails that provide detailed and holistic views of all your file transfer workflows. Some solutions, like JSCAPE MFT for instance, let you proactively monitor your file transfer infrastructure for potential reliability, performance and security issues. At the same time, it allows you to configure granular permissions to users and administrators. You can even configure it to send out notifications when certain user settings are changed.

You have to meet regulatory compliance requirements

Businesses governed by data security and privacy laws and regulations such as HIPAA, GDPR, PCI DSS and SOX have to make sure their file transfer processes meet compliance mandates. US-based healthcare providers, for instance, would have to ensure their file transfer solution adheres with HIPAA’s Security Rule, which specifies Technical Safeguard standards for authentication, access control, encryption/decryption, audit controls and others.

Why SFTP isn’t enough

SFTP is undoubtedly secure. However, it falls short when you’re trying to achieve complete regulatory compliance. For example, while SFTP encrypts data in transit, it has no built-in provisions for encrypting stored data. So, if you’re storing electronically protected health information (ePHI) unencrypted on your SFTP servers, you’ll be violating HIPAA encryption standards.

How an MFT software helps

Any MFT solution will have a more comprehensive selection of built-in security features than the best SFTP solution. A typical MFT solution will, for instance, come with authentication, access control, data-in-transit encryption, data-at-rest encryption, audit controls, high availability, and many other security features upon installation. In most cases, you won’t have to employ additional third-party tools to achieve regulatory compliance.

Not only that, every security feature is easily configurable. For instance, in JSCAPE MFT, you can switch from, say, AES-128 to military-grade AES-256 with just a few clicks if a particular regulation or security policy calls for it. Or, for instance, if you’re handling credit card data, you can simply deploy JSCAPE’s accompanying reverse proxy to keep sensitive data out of your DMZ—a key requirement of PCI DSS.

You want to take advantage of cloud computing

Companies usually use cloud-based services to improve scalability, enjoy flexible pricing, and enhance global accessibility. You may want to impart these benefits to file transfer workflows as well. For instance, a highly scalable file transfer solution would be more capable of absorbing high-volume traffic.

Why SFTP isn’t enough

Traditional on-premises SFTP solutions cannot leverage cloud-based services. Even if you could find a cloud-based SFTP solution, it would still have many of the deficiencies we mentioned in the previous sections.

How managed file transfer helps

Leading MFT solutions readily integrate with various cloud services, allowing you to create a hybrid cloud infrastructure for your file transfer workflows. Some MFT vendors, like JSCAPE for instance, even offer MFTaaS (MFT as-a-service), a managed file transfer solution deployed in the cloud. MFTaaS combines all the benefits of MFT and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), making it the perfect option for those who prefer a completely cloud-based file transfer environment.

Still not sure if you need a managed file transfer software solution?

Every organization is unique, and it’s possible that the arguments we’ve made for replacing SFTP with MFT may not apply to your organization. That said, we invite you to try JSCAPE MFT and see if it’s worth shifting from your current SFTP solution. Get a JSCAPE MFT demo now.