Have you heard of the phrase “data is king?” No? but surely you have heard people say that data is the new oil. Which makes sense considering that people are making billions selling data. Now, in any business network, it is guaranteed that you will be sharing data with different nodes in your network and also outside your network. And so the question becomes how safe is your file transfers. What file transfer system do you use in the first place?
FTP and Other File Transfer Standards
File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is perhaps the most popular transfer protocol. But it has been decades since it was first invented and unfortunately, it has not been able to keep up with the current security trends. But it’s not like they have not tried. SSH and SSL are all technologies meant to encrypt the link between the sender and receiver so that files sent between them remain private. However, it’s not enough to meet the various data protection standards like PCI-DSS.
Email and HTTP are also transfer protocols that could be used but they too have their shortcomings. For instance, the biggest file size you can send via email is 25mb. Not forgetting the various security concerns raised over the years.
And so it is these limitations with the popular transfer methods that gave need to the rise of the Managed File Transfer (MFT) protocol. As the name implies, you can expect to get more control over the file transfer process. It gives you complete visibility into the file transfer process allowing you to track and log activity data on the sent data. Then there is the main reason why MFT should be your preferred standards over the others and that is security. It has a number of security and compliance features that you just won’t find in the other standards like encryption of data at rest.
Another good thing about MFT is that it can easily be integrated with pre-existing security infrastructures such as Anti-virus, DLP and Access Control Systems. But enough of that, you get the point. MFT is better than the other technologies. So now we will be talking about the best server software you can use to implement MFT in your network.
Open Source MFT tools
In every software category, it’s always nice to include at least one open source software. And not just because of the cost. I most cases open source software provide better security, accountability, and flexibility than the commercial products. The only downside is that they require a lot of configurations to set up in your Network. Even the most skilled specialists can take days or months to set it up to its full functionality.
However, for this post, I will not be including any open-source software because they are pretty much non-existent. If it were FTP then perhaps we could talk about Nagios but all open-source MFT tools have either been bought and made into commercial tools or have simply been abandoned by their developers.
That said there is one product, Yade that you could give a try if you are really into open source. It’s not a product I can swear by because I have no solid information regarding it but it has been around since 2012 which is quite promising. You may also know it by its initial name, SOSFTP.
Free Alternatives to Use for MFT Transfer
If it’s the cost, you are worried about then you could try the various free offerings by the commercial vendors. In most cases, they have limitations meant to squeeze you into buying the full product so it’s a compromise you will have to make.
But personally, I don’t think your data security is something you want to take lightly. This is why I recommend going for proven MFT software. There are over 40 solutions currently but I have narrowed down the list to 5 of the best. Let’s get started.
1. Serv-U Managed File Transfer Server
SolarWinds Serv-U Managed File Transfer Server is an excellent tool that has all the necessary options to secure your file transfers and also giving you full control over the transfer process. It is an upgrade of the Serv-U FTP Server and now includes support for FTP, FTPS, SFTP, and HTTP/S transfer protocols. It can be used for the transfer of data over both IPv4 and IPv6 networks. The tool uses peer to peer file sharing to make it easy to send and request file on an ad-hoc basis.
Using Serv-U MFT server you can transfer data from anywhere. This is thanks to the web-based interface. And like every other SolarWinds product this MFT server has a very intuitive and easy to use interface that allows you to perform all the actions like monitoring and transfer automation centrally from a single console. SolarWinds puts the appearance of your Server interface in your hands by allowing you to add custom logos, text, and CSS templates.
You will be happy to know that there is no file size limitation. You can send and receive files larger than even 3GB.
To facilitate compliance with the various security standards this tool includes Serv-U Gateway add-on that you can add to provide an extra layer of security to your FTP server deployment. The add-on ensures that no data is stored in the DMZ which is in compliance with the PCI DSS and other regulatory bodies.
But one of my favorite security features is the ability to integrate the Serv-U server MFT server with the existing Active Directory and LDAP servers. This then provides you with an easy way of controlling permissions and access to the various files being shared. You can apply limits to the shared data so that it can only be viewed by specific users, groups, domains, or servers.
Another thing if there is a problem with the file sharing system then you don’t have to stay guessing. You can check the server startup, configuration, and domain activity logs to quickly trace the cause. The server is also pre-configured to send you alerts when suspicious activity is detected. You can respond personally or program the server so that it executes specific scripts or deletes files based on the trigger event. It can also write Windows event log messages to be analyzed later.
Are you are at a point in your organization where every file sent contains sensitive and mission-critical data? Are you tired of the inconveniences brought about by the use of FTP transfer? Well, the SolarWinds Serv-U MFT server may be just what you are looking for.
2. GoAnywhere MFT Standard
GoAnywhere is a very popular tool that facilitates easy and secure transfer of data between systems, employees, customers and trading partners. The tool can be run both on-premise or on the cloud on platforms such as Microsoft Azure. It is compatible with all the popular Operating Systems including Windows, Linux, AIX, and IBM.
One of the highlight features of the GoAnywhere MFT server is the clustering technology that allows it to process large volumes of transfers by balancing the load across multiple systems. Also tied with clustering is the automatic active failover feature that enables this server software to recover data in case of a botched transfer.
The UI is also quite intuitive eliminating most of the hassles associated with older systems. For instance, you won’t need custom scripts or single function tools that would have been necessary in the past to execute various transfer activities. The interface is web-based which makes it really easy to collaborate with your partners, vendors, clients, employees and coworkers to ensure transfers are completed successfully.
It also provides you with an easy way to automate repetitive tasks which consequently saves you a lot of time and effort.
GoAnywhere has multi-step Workflows for over 60 different tasks that can be fully automated. These are mainly repetitive tasks that would take up a lot of your time every day if you had to do them manually. You can use the built-in scheduler to determine the pattern of execution by arranging them in a queue.
Moreover, you can utilize the numerous security settings on the console to enhance data security. You can also access audited data and create reports that will help prove compliance. GoAnywhere provides FIPS-140 2 compliance which is parallel to the NIST encryption standard set by the US government. It also encrypts signs and decrypts files using Open PGP and GPG encryption standard.
This MFT server has an alert system to notify you of situations such as a failed transfer or received file. It also allows you to set custom actions to be executed based on the alert. For instance, you can have it automatically download a file once it is received.
3. Coviant Diplomat Managed File Transfer (MFT)
Another software that will be excellent in managing your file transfers is Coviant Diplomat. It’s compatible with all the other file transfer protocols including FTP, HTTP, email and SMB servers. A great feature about this tool is that it allows you to PGP-encrypt files before sending them and decrypting sent files before you can save them to your local network.
The user interface has been made simple with easy to follow ‘point and click’ setups unlike in the past when you had to rely on scripted programs to execute file transfers. This tool can be integrated with your entire network so that you don’t have to install it in multiple locations.
You will be automatically notified via email when a file transfer fails. Coviant Diplomat also sends log data for the failed transfers so that you can easily track the problem. A task that is further simplified by the integrated log viewer that sorts through the logs to help pinpoint the exact file transfer or PGP encryption problems. Some of the sorting criteria used include ‘sort by transaction id’ and by date. This tool will always reattempt the failed transfers first before giving you notice.
The enterprise version of Coviant provides you with a way to improve security by introducing single or two-factor authentication. Users will now be required to enter a username and password to prove they are authentic network users. Other ways you can enhance security is through setting user privileges and introducing session expiry for the sent files.
The choice of which edition to pick will be influenced by a number of factors. Just to name a few, there is the number of automated transfers executed every day, transfer type standards used, real-time visibility of secure file transfers and the need for advanced features like two-factor authentication.
4. Globalscape's EFT
Globalscape EFT is a comprehensive MFT solution that has all the great features to facilitate seamless and secure file transfer. It is equipped with great automation, collaboration and analysis tools for effective troubleshooting. The tool is available as a service and can also be deployed on-premise.
Automation is a huge part of this tool. You can easily set various activities to be executed automatically so that you don’t have to be present every time to complete transfers. This will especially be useful in large organizations where large amounts of data are shared every day.
The tool’s compatibility with the various transfer protocols like HTTP, FTP, and its variant is also a great feature that facilitates easy sharing regardless of the OS being used by the employees, vendors, and partners.
For maximum protection of your data, Globalscape incorporates the use of encrypted file transfer software, secure protocols, strong ciphers, encryption keys, and password policies. On top of guarding your data, this is parallel to the various industry regulations so it will help you prove compliance.
The reports and analytics are important for tracking your transfers and ensuring that files have been received. You can also derive actionable insights from them in regards to what you can do to improve your transfer quality.
What is a great software tool if they have a poor support system right? Globalscape has one of the most responsive support team and you can be assured that any issue you run into while using the software will be resolved promptly.
5. Accellion Kiteworks
Accellion Secure File Sharing and Governance platform is another excellent tool perfect for businesses that send confidential files outside their network. It allows you to keep track of the data, see where it is stored and who is accessing it.
Accellion is also a solution to regulatory compliance requirements. It will help proof compliance to internal auditors and security standards such as NIST and HIPAA. This tool uses TLS 1.2 encryption to protect data that is on transit and AES-256 to protect static data.
And the good thing is Accellion allows you to do all of these in such an easy fashion thanks to their intuitive UI. It is further enhanced by their strong emphasis on collaboration. Accellion provides various avenues like messaging, emails and virtual data rooms all of which are meant to enable users that are inside and outside the network to collaborate on ensuring successful transfers. This tool allows you to access, edit and share content from anywhere. You don’t necessarily have to be within the network.
It is an MFT server tool that thrives in simplicity which makes it a great option if you use a mobile phone to access files several times.
Accellion is available in 3 plans. Business is the lowest tier and is limited to 500 users. It allows you 1TB of storage and file upload is limited to 2GB. The other two tiers, the Enterprise, and Enterprise connect plans have no such limitation and are my best recommendations if you deal with huge data transfers daily.