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Using FTP? Know the Risks

by Rohit Khanna | insiderPROFILES

January 2, 2012

Businesses today have security, scalability, visibility, and compliance concerns -- traditional file transfer protocol (FTP) software is no longer enough to satisfy these demands. Companies are now turning to managed file transfer solutions for secure and reliable data exchange. This article outlines the drawbacks of FTP and the benefits of utilizing a managed file transfer platform.
 

For years, companies looking to transfer large files — both within and outside of their organizations — have used file transfer protocol (FTP) solutions to do so. Whether moving master data from one SAP instance to another, exchanging payroll information with an internal HR system, sharing product lists with customers, sending financials to third-party accountants, or moving videos from point to point, FTP has been the large file transfer strategy of choice.

Today, however, the 40-year-old FTP is showing its age. In a business environment increasingly concerned with security, scalability, visibility, compliance, and streamlined IT management, FTP is able to deliver none of the above. Even the most basic controls are missing, including a way to trace senders and recipients in the event of a data leak.

The Trouble with FTP

The shortcomings of FTP stem from both the design of the protocol and evolving business requirements. Exponential growth in file transfers caused by increasing business automation, rising awareness of corporate vulnerability to data leaks, and the need to maintain meticulous audit trails to fulfill regulatory mandates have exposed the deficiencies. Among them are:

  • Inadequate security. At a time when the Ponemon Institute pegs the average cost of a data breach at $7.2 million,1 FTP’s lack of built-in strong authentication and non-repudiation functionality are serious flaws that can lead to messages being sent and received by unauthorized users, and to denials that a message was sent or received. FTP is also missing the ability to filter content to enforce corporate information security policies, checkpoint and restart functions that ensure message delivery, versioning that can prevent data duplication or data loss, and other security and delivery controls.
  • Multiple FTP servers. Every enterprise has a patchwork of FTP servers for different operating systems, applications, company locations, departments, or even business users who take advantage of free trial downloads of FTP software to enable immediate file sharing from their desktops. The resulting “FTP spaghetti” increases IT overhead and associated costs. It also hampers governance and compliance by failing to provide centralized visibility and reporting.
  • Lack of automated process controls. FTP has no process management framework to automate operations like scheduling across multiple FTP servers. The need to write scripts to schedule file transfers, apply event-based routing triggers, or route files through a workflow adds to the burden and expense of script maintenance, including changing passwords and IP addresses for each customer or partner with whom files are exchanged.
  • Lack of scalability. In addition to the problems involved with maintaining multiple scripts, FTP suffers from an inability to effectively support high volumes of concurrent file transfers or simultaneous transfers to multiple recipients. With no ability to queue messages when bandwidth is insufficient, users receive error messages that in turn increase help desk calls and support costs.

In short, despite FTP’s promise of “free” file sharing, the protocol actually carries significant IT administration costs, data security risks, and transparency limitations that compromise businesses’ ability to operate efficiently, safely, and in conformance with regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPAA, and GLBA.

One System, One View

These critical issues are now being addressed by managed file transfer (MFT) platforms that are architected specifically to overcome the drawbacks of FTP and web services like YouSendIt and Dropbox. MFT solutions provide a next-generation file transfer strategy that ensures secure and reliable data exchange with automatic encryption, robust authentication, and other protections while also replacing disparate FTP processes with one centrally managed and governed system.

SEEBURGER Managed File Transfer (SEE MFT), from SAP business integration partner SEEBURGER AG, supplies these core MFT features plus an array of additional benefits that dramatically simplify both IT administration and file traceability. It also seamlessly interfaces with SAP solutions, including SAP R/3 and SAP NetWeaver, for easy deployment.

For the first time in any MFT offering, SEE MFT merges all file transfer activity in a single view, eliminating the need to manage and track system-to-system, human-to-system, and human-to-human file exchanges separately. This consolidated strategy saves time, reduces the total cost of ownership, and provides vital auditability and centralized reporting to support compliance efforts.

Also for the first time, B2B and EDI supply chain messages can be managed from the same interface for customers — including SAP shops — who use the integrated SEEBURGER B2B Gateway to exchange transaction messages with customers and suppliers.

In addition, SEE MFT automatically handles all file transfers with full governance, business process and policy management, and data loss prevention (DLP); provides the end-to-end monitoring, auditing, and tracking capabilities missing from older alternatives; and offers seamless integration with email and document management systems for easy, no-training-required file transfers.


Processing all file transfer activity through the SEEBURGER Business Integration Server centralizes policy management and administration, increases security, and overcomes FTP flaws

Adding Automation

SEE MFT also delivers other capabilities that further increase ease of management, security, and scalability for file transfer operations. These include:

  • Automated content filtering, which augments security by preventing the transmission of files with sensitive information when policy requires. This is accomplished through ICAP-based integration with leading content-aware DLP solutions.
  • Reliable system-to-system file delivery even over erratic network connections, based on a new standard peer-to-peer protocol developed by SEEBURGER to eliminate the bottlenecks and scalability problems associated with typical client/server MFT solutions. Files flow directly from end point to end point without going through an MFT server.
  • Automated end point/trading partner provisioning and management, which includes the ability to check thousands of SEEBURGER end points, detect temporary outages, and delay file transfer until the problem is resolved.
  • A built-in end point translation engine, which enables transmitted data to be converted to the appropriate ERP (or other) format after it has been decrypted and decompressed, rather than requiring separate transfer agents that can trigger outside processes. 

With these advanced technologies replacing cumbersome and inadequate FTP processes, managed file transfer can reduce the risk, cost, complexity, and compliance challenges of file exchanges.

Learn More

SEEBURGER’s MFT solutions are available in four different deployment options — on-premise software, private cloud, public cloud, or managed services — and offer rapid deployment, fast ROI, and single-vendor accountability. They are an integrated component of the SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite. Visit www.seeburger.com/mft for more information.

Rohit Khanna

Rohit Khanna,
Executive Vice President
of Global Strategy and
Corporate Development,
SEEBURGER AG

1 See “Cost of a data breach climbs higher” by Dr. Larry Ponemon (www.ponemon.org/blog/post/cost-of-a-data-breach-climbs-higher). [back]

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