In a 24x7 economy, where companies need to transact with customers or trading partners round the clock, it's not recommended to rely on traditional solutions. Learn why in this post.
When would you need 24/7 file transfer services?
There are a number of situations when file transfer services need to be up 24/7. You might be running a global operation and some of your end users or trading partners might be in different time zones. Those users and partners might need to send files when it's night your side of the planet and daytime in theirs.
Another reason might be that you want to send or fetch/receive files at night, when the demand for computing resources and network bandwidth is low. A lot of data transfers involved in batch processing consist of several files (or large zip files) that can easily hog bandwidth. Hence, it's not advisable to transmit them during the day, where they could disrupt normal business operations and other daily processes.
Or you might simply have a specific process that requires regular data transfers, round the clock. For example, one of our customers had set up an automated process that executed every minute. Another one had a process that would pick up files from a remote server every hour. All these use cases require a file transfer service that runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Automation should be built-in and easy to use
While most public-facing servers are normally left on all the time, a large majority of the file transfer servers that actually receive connections at night are those that take part in several business processes. As such, practically all of these servers incorporate some kind of automation.
Some of the automated tasks we've seen our customers set up on their MFT Servers to run on a nightly basis include the following:
- Deleting all files in all user directories
- Picking up files from all suppliers
- Importing new users from a CSV file
- Backing up the server configuration and user data to a disaster recovery site
- Deleting old files
- Transferring large (x-hundred GB) files from one remote site to another
- Sending an email notification of all files downloaded during the day
- and many others
These individual tasks are usually part of much larger workflows consisting of several other automated tasks. Traditionally, the way you would implement these would be through scripts. That meant the system administrator or whoever was managing your server needed to be familiar with batch files (for Windows systems) or shell scripts (for UNIX-based systems) and have programming skills.
And then if the person who wrote those scripts resigned, retired, or was moved to another site, whoever took over his/her position also had to be skilled at whatever language was used to write those scripts. Otherwise, you'd encounter problems, like if you needed to modify the script or if you needed to do a server upgrade or migration.
It would be so much easier if your file transfer server had a built-in automation-enabling feature with a highly intuitive graphical user interface. Here's a playlist of videos illustrating what we mean.
There are several advantages when your server is equipped with functionality similar to triggers (the automation-enabling feature shown in the videos):
1. Creating automated workflows would be so much faster and less complicated
2. Unlike script files that can sometimes be scattered throughout your filesystem, triggers are built into your file transfer server application. Thus, it greatly simplifies migrations and future modifications.
3. Unless you really need to perform deep customizations, the built-in trigger event types, conditions and actions will do. No coding needed.
4. And if you really need to do deep customizations for trigger actions, functions, authentication modules, etc. MFT Server supports that capability as well. You can find examples and even usable code for actions, functions, and authentication modules in the MFT Marketplace.
Without a similar automation-enabling feature, your 24/7 file transfer server can be very unwieldy when you need to automate tasks, which, unfortunately, is a key part of 24/7 operations.
What about downtime?
As a server aimed at 24/7 operations, your file transfer server should be resilient enough to withstand heavy workloads or disruptions. You can't afford to experience significant downtimes, especially since (if the availability issue happens at night) your server admin might not be onsite to fix the problem immediately.
Recommended read: 5 Major Consequences of Downtime
But in order for it to achieve high levels of availability, your file transfer server should be able to support high availability (HA) architectures such as active-active and active-passive HA. An active-active HA cluster will make your file transfer service more resilient to heavy workloads, while an active-passive cluster will enable it to failover to a backup service in the event that the primary service does go down; thereby allowing you to continue with your business operations.
Plain FTP or SFTP servers certainly don't have these capabilities baked into them. You'll need to employ complex integrations before you can achieve an acceptable level of high availability. But chances are, you don't have the in-house talent to build the required infrastructure. That means, you'll need to hire a third party to set things up for you. That of course will cost you.
Critical issues you can't solve on your own
Ok. So let's say you've managed to put together a robust HA infrastructure for your file transfer service. Surely, you don't expect that to have 100% availability. Even server instances built on Amazon cloud can suffer outages, so your infrastructure could still go down.
It could be a configuration issue, a cyber attack, a bug, or simply a maxed-out storage space. Whatever it is that's causing the problem, if you have no idea what's causing it, you'll likely want to seek help from someone who does.
Now, if you built your infrastructure from open source solutions or from a selection of proprietary but disparate solutions, you might have some problem getting the help you need the moment you need it. If you're running a 24/7 file transfer service, it would be best if your file transfer solution vendor's customer service would also have the capability to provide 24/7 support. That way, someone can resolve the problem or devise a workaround as quickly as possible.
While open source solutions are often backed by supportive community members, the response time (especially for less known solutions) for tech support is usually too slow for critical situations. You'll be lucky if you get a response within the day.
Conclusion and next steps
The demands (particularly on service availability) of a 24/7 economy are often difficult to meet if you simply rely on traditional solutions. If you have to provide a truly 24/7 file transfer service, you need to adopt a solution that's readily built for that purpose. We can help you with that. Learn more about our solutions by talking to one of our file transfer experts.
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