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The vagaries of FTP: What to look for in a secure large file transfer alternative

Ian Hamilton, CTO, Signiant | April 4, 2016
When it comes to moving big files quickly, there are only a few options.

Even though it might seem like a high bandwidth connection would improve throughput, it typically doesn’t when even relatively small metropolitan area distances are involved. In a high bandwidth high latency environment, FTP can only utilize a fraction of available bandwidth because of its underlying reliance on TCP. Therefore, even increasing bandwidth will not improve the slow performance of FTP.

Fortunately, technology optimized for large file transfers over long distance IP networks was developed many years ago. It was first adopted at scale by the Media and Entertainment industry as it transitioned from tape to file-based workflows. Large media enterprises like Disney, Discovery and the BBC pioneered the use of this technology within their on-premises infrastructures to move huge media files.

However, it wasn’t until four years ago that this advanced acceleration technology was incorporated into cloud-native software as a service (SaaS) large file transfer solutions, leading to increased adoption in other industries.

Today, there are plenty of cloud-based file sharing solutions to choose from. However, when it comes to moving big files quickly, there are only a few options. Especially if organizations are involved in video production or other big data projects, it’s important to know what to look for.  

—    Speed and efficient bandwidth utilization: Modern SaaS accelerated file transfer solutions are up to 200 times faster than FTP, and gain in efficacy with higher bandwidths and longer distances. In addition to fully utilizing available bandwidth, they should also provide means to manage bandwidth and have no file size limits.

—    Enterprise-grade security: It is essential that the solution is built using secure design principles, including implementing multiple layers of protection. Confidentiality and integrity of data should be considered when data is in transit and at rest. Be sure to verify vendors’ security practices, which should also include independent third-party evaluation.

—    Scalability and elasticity: It’s important that a data transfer solution be able to automatically scale along with business growth, that it elastically responds to the ups and downs of required throughput, and that it includes flexible billing based on actual usage and benefit (unlike a fixed licensing model). This will be true for any cloud-native solution.

—    No software to manage: With cloud-native SaaS, you do not have to worry about managing software updates or cloud servers. Make sure the vendor does not practice “cloud washing” or your business could end up with additional software maintenance and infrastructure costs.

—    Usability and global access: Ease-of-use is essential for today’s end-users. Look for a solution with a simple web interfaces that can ideally be branded to give users additional confidence. It should be very easy to onboard users and require little to no user training. (Keep in mind that, without high usability, employees are more likely to use online file sharing solutions not sanctioned by IT.) Additionally, from an operations or IT perspective, the backend of the solution should also be easy to use and provide features that match the needs of each team including authorization and tracking.

 

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