0333 123 1240 info@pro2colgroup.com

Supply chain disaster: Do you need an MFT dev environment?

The reasons why you need an MFT dev environment

MFT dev environment - lorries in supply chain disaster

 

In all the years we’ve been working in file transfer, there have been a few occasions when we’ve witnessed the financial impact and reputation damage a system failure can have. This article looks at:

 

  • Why you should think twice before testing in a live environment;
  • When you need to consider a development (dev) environment for your Managed File Transfer (MFT) solution;
  • Details of the six stages for testing and development.

“A few years ago, one organisation was developing workflows in a live environment, and broke other automated processes. The system was down for just a few hours, but the impact was huge. This business supplied products to retailers across the country, but were unable to access the order information. The lorries couldn’t leave the factory and delivery drivers had to be paid overtime. Worse still, the retailers were left out of stock, consumers bought other brands and some ended up staying with that brand. The impact on the business’ finances and reputation were catastrophic.”

 

Richard Auger, Pro2col technical consultant

This particular example could have been prevented if the IT team were developing in a test environment, instead of a live environment. But so many organisations only have a live MFT production licence. That might be to save money, or because decision makers just don’t think a file transfer server needs a test licence. But we know an MFT system is doing so much more than transferring files, so if you have any workflows involved, you need to reconsider.

Is a dev environment business critical?

This will depend on the value of the data your system is handling. Is it critical to business processes? Do you risk breaching service level agreements (SLAs)? Or will you simply not be able to operate, like the example above? While you may be able to send files by some other method for a few hours, it isn’t viable for a sustained period.

You also need a change control policy to meet ISO27001 requirements. While it is down to you to determine the right policy for your unique set of circumstances, example ISO best practice advocates testing in an isolated, controlled and representative environment. Similarly ITIL requires an organisation to follow both ‘change management’ and ‘release and deployment management’ processes from non-production to production systems. It’s an old IT joke that in weaker, less secure environments TIP doesn’t mean ‘Transfer into Production’ – it ends up being ‘Test in Production’ instead.

So to avoid disrupting your system when deploying new releases, building workflows or making other changes, you should follow these six stages for testing, developing and transfer into production:

  1. Sandbox, or experimental environment: This is a local environment no one else can access, where the developer has a working copy of the code. Here they can try it out and change it without putting it live. This environment will typically be an individual developer’s workstation. Once they are happy with it the developer would submit the code to the repository for the next stage of development. Most MFT solutions by default don’t have a sandbox but you can sometimes set it up by installing the software onto a private virtual machine.
  2. Development or integration environment: This is a clean environment where you test how your code is interacting with all the other bits of code associated with the system. The code itself doesn’t get changed in this environment – updates are made to the working copy back in the sandbox and resubmitted. When ready, the developer accepts the code and it is moved to the test environment.
  3. Testing: This is the environment to test the new or changed code, either manually or using automated techniques. You may have different test environments to focus on different types of testing. The developer looks at how it interacts with and impacts other systems and tests performance and availability. If you are upgrading, for example, this will show how your system will behave once the upgrade is in place. From here, the code can be promoted to the next deployment environment.
  4. User acceptance testing (UAT) or quality assurance (QA): In this stage users will trial the software, making sure it can deliver against requirements. Stress testing is also carried out in this stage.
  5. Pre-production, or staging environment: This final stage tests in conjunction with all the other applications in the infrastructure. The aim here is to test all installation, configuration and migration scripts and procedures. For example, load testing happens here. It’s really important that this environment is completely identical to the production (live) environment. All systems should, for example, be the same version.
  6. Production or live environment: Transfer into production – or TIP – is the final stage, bringing the updates live. This is the environment that users actually interact with. This can be done by deploying new code and overwriting the old code, or by deploying a configuration change. Some organisations choose to deploy in phases, in case of any last minute problems.

If you follow these steps you can be confident that any upgrades to the production environment will be completed reliably and efficiently. But if your budget or internal policy won’t allow you to invest in all of these, we would recommend at least a test environment, which should be an exact copy of the production environment.

All our vendors offer test licences at reduced rates. If it’s time to get this set up for your MFT solution, get in touch now. You can contact us via the website or by emailing your account manager.

Interested in a file transfer solution?

Secure File Sharing at the Local Government Strategy Forum

Secure File Sharing being discussed at the Local Government Strategy Forum

Heythrop Park, April 12th – 13th

This month I attended my second Local Government Strategy Forum, at the beautiful Heythrop Park Resort in Oxfordshire. Invited by our partner Maytech, I was the ‘independent industry expert’ and had the pleasure of spending two days in this lovely environment, talking with senior management and C-suite executives from councils all around the UK.

heythrop-park

Before attending these events I had, what I believe to be a commonly held opinion, that council workers were underworked and overpaid. I’d read all the stories in the local press about the six-figure salaries and the cancellation of services to ensure their lavish lifestyle. However I’d never stopped to think what they actually did. Listening intently at these events has given me a small insight into the workings of councils, and whilst I’m sure there is still more efficiencies to be realised, I couldn’t have more admiration for the wide range of services they provide and the challenges they have prioritising them to balance the books.

The financial challenges being faced by councils has lead to them adopting a more business-like approach. They are looking at every aspect of their business to drive out wastage and streamline operations, and that’s where my expertise came in.

John Lynch, CEO, Maytech – presenting Quatrix on day one

Over the duration of two days I spoke with in excess of 50 delegates about their data sharing, collaboration, secure file transfer and business process automation challenges. Our experience in this area, working with council’s such as Cambridgeshire County Council, North East Lincolnshire Council and most recently Mid-Sussex Council, ensured we already had a view on some of the challenges being faced for data sharing in the public sector.

As ever there’s not one technology, which addresses the wide range of data sharing requirements of councils, our council customers are using solutions from five of our suppliers. The service we provide is to help them to fully understand their requirements and then choose the right solutions for their needs and budget.

If your council or company needs to address its file sharing, collaboration and secure file transfer requirements why not download one of our free resources below:

What is Managed File Transfer?

Managed File Transfer Starter Pack

Comparison Guide

Building a Business Case for MFT

Is PSN approval enough?

Is PSN approval enough?

Anyone associated with local government right now is aware of the headache of PSN (Public Services Network) approval: The evidence trail, the multiple iterations and the tight timescales.

However, with the constant squeeze on local authority budgets and the drive to work with partners to deliver services, is PSN enough? How do you protect the information about a vulnerable child, when sharing it with the school, NHS, Police, private counselling contractor and so on?

In a recent survey 67% of councils stated that they are sharing data with five or more partners to deliver the Troubled Families initiative. This number can only increase with other programmes, such as the move of children’s public health commissioning to local authorities next year.

One of the issues thrown up by this approach is the ability to share data. Survey respondents raised this as one of their primary concerns: ‘Data Sharing between organisations’; clear and consistent co-ordination and information sharing’; ‘Culture shift from silo working and inconsistent collaboration’.

Pro2col already helps several councils to address these issues with cost-effective, secure and managed file transfer solutions, including Cambridgeshire County Council.

“Our users and partners are very happy, we have successfully changed our file transfer methods with minimal disruption, we have very robust measures in place to prevent leaked data, and we’ve exceeded all of our objectives for the project.” 

Alan Shields, Chief Architect, LGSS IT, Cambridgeshire County Council, 

If you would like more information about the solution we provided for Cambridgeshire County Council, read the full case study.

Managed File Transfer Buyers Guide

Cambridgeshire County Council adopts Ipswitch File Transfer’s MOVEit

How Cambridgeshire County Council utilise Ipswitch MOVEit File Transfer to improve control and visibility of transfers

Following consultation with Pro2col, Cambridgeshire County Council has deployed Ipswitch’s MOVEit managed file transfer (MFT) technology to secure the transfer of data files, and to protect citizen, organisation and management information across 100 locations and 4,000 workers. MOVEit allows the secure transfer and sharing of files within the council, and gives the council full control and visibility of file transfers to external departments and associations, such as healthcare organisations, housing providers and charities.

“We needed technology that met our IT and business needs. From an IT perspective, this included security parameters, integration with existing applications, servers and processes, and ease-of-use for our employees and partners,” Alan Shields, IT Architect for Cambridgeshire County Council, said. “We’d previously used a secure FTP platform and the Government Connect Gateway, but we needed to have a broader solution that would allow us to securely share important files with third parties. With MOVEit, we now have visibility and control over file activity, so we know where data is, who has access to it and who has shared it. It’s important to us as a public body, that we know where our files are at all times, and with Ipswitch File Transfer we have that peace of mind.”

CCC Download