So why FTP File Transfer and what’s so great about it? Well to be honest this isn’t necessarily a blog to evangelise FTP but more the way in which it works, lets call it ’sending files’. With many businesses looking to adopt Managed File Transfer solutions, I thought it might be worth redressing the balance and putting things into perspective. Managed File Transfer solutions have many good features but in the case of email based ones, sending files isn’t one of them. In many cases the Managed File Transfer solution doesn’t actually send anything, rather it asks the company email server to send an email to a particular recipient. The person receiving the email clicks on a link within the email to download the file or goes to a web site to log-in and manually download the file – so you see the responsibility is on the recipient to download the file and given this, there is no guarantee that the file will get there. In fact there’s no guarantee the email is going to get there at all, asking the recipient to download the file(s). Whilst Managed File Transfer solutions cater for the majority of ‘file transfer’ uses it is certainly not the right solution for every scenario.
So what do I mean by ’sending files’. Well, historically the majority of solutions used to send files required a connection to be created between two sites and the files to be pushed/transferred to the receiving site using the appropriate delivery protocol for the connection method, e.g. Modem, ISDN or IP. A typical example that many people would be able to relate to is FTP. A user with an FTP client enters the details for the server, connects, selects the files to transfer, drags them over to the ‘remote server’ window (in many FTP client softwares) and the transferring of files starts straight away. Once all of the files have been transferred you can see them on the remote server, they are there without question, the files have been delivered.
In contrast, Managed File Transfer solutions that use email messaging to deliver a message to request the download of the files, has several potential points of failure. You’ve got to rely on two email servers to be happy to deliver the message and not overburdened with other requests, you have to ensure that SPAM filters don’t whisk away your all important message and probably most importantly – someone has to be there to open, read and perform the manual process of downloading the file.
In short FTP file transfer has a place in the enterprise. If you want to be able to push data to a location with or without manual intervention, then FTP or another file transfer protocol with similar features will do. Certain business to business situations will rely on data being sent from one location to the next e.g. a publisher to his printer, where time is of the essence and any doubt about the delivery of the data has to be avoided.
Finally it is possible to make FTP more functional and secure than many Managed File Transfer vendors make out, in fact some Managed File Transfer vendors have it built in. Depending upon the solution you implement, you can get some great functionality to compliment this old delivery protocol and its also possible to integrate with workflow solutions, script integration and utilise API’s and SDK’s for complete integration.