Managed File Transfer Software

The A to Z of MFT - features, history, key terms, marketplace, leading vendors and more...

Get Started Download the MFT Guide
what is managed file transfer illustration-1



If you’re reading this page you’ve probably found or been introduced to the term Managed File Transfer, or MFT, and want to find out more. Congratulations – you’re in the right place. It may be that you want to implement MFT in your business for the first time, or you’ve started a new position and inherited MFT from your predecessor. Either way you will learn everything you need to about MFT here.
And of course, if you don’t then you can always ask us. To make sure you’re not wasting your time, let’s start by defining MFT. Then you can be sure the following information will be of use.


Section 1

The History of MFT


Although organisations had been securing and automating the exchange of data prior to 2008, it was at this point that the term Managed File Transfer was coined. Frank Kenney of Gartner Inc. used it as a common description for a collection of solutions. Gartner went on to monitor this technology under the umbrella term of Managed File Transfer for a couple of years. They used their widely acclaimed Magic Quadrant to rank vendors based upon vision and ability to execute, and the functionality afforded by the products they offered.

The first iteration of the Magic Quadrant included a number of vendors and products that wouldn’t be deemed to fit the definition of MFT today. But as a starting point it highlighted a wide range of organisations providing secure file transfer. An analysis of the vendors listed in Gartner’s 2009 Magic Quadrant, now 15 years out of date, can be found here. Gartner’s initial sweep of the market included vendors which now operate in different technology stacks such as: File Synchronisation & Sharing (EFSS), Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), Extreme File Transfer, Content Collaboration Platforms and Workload Automation.


Section 2

What is Managed File Transfer (MFT)?


In today’s business environment the majority of operations involve the movement of data. This is most often the transfer of files. Examples include processing retrieved orders from e-commerce stores, uploading customer data into a SaaS CRM or transferring documents between colleagues, computers and applications.

Managed File Transfer solutions allow file transfers to take place in a centralised, controlled, secure fashion – inside and outside an organisation – between systems and / or users. Files are transferred more quickly and securely, enhancing productivity and providing visibility. It is a powerful business enabler that reduces costs and risk. Managed File Transfer is commonly installed to replace legacy or homegrown scripts, improving efficiency, agility and cost-savings through automation, and opening the door to new digital transformation, cloud and big data initiatives.

Traditionally, solutions are on-premise software installations, enabling tight integration with internal systems. However, hybrid configurations are increasingly common as organisations look to leverage the private cloud infrastructure for operational efficiencies. Now, cloud-first solutions are growing in maturity, providing full control over data and workflows without the infrastructure management.


MFT workflow


Section 3

Common Features of MFT


Managed File Transfer scope, functionality and reach continues to grow. Historically a single server solution to process incoming/outgoing SFTP transfers, systems now support: Increasingly complex workflows, deployment across hybrid environments benefiting from cloud infrastructure, plus a wider set of file transfer protocols (see below).

Not only is data secured in transit using secure protocols, it is more often than not secured at rest either by encrypting the files/file system or by design of the solution and location of the data.

Reach is extended by the use of agents, which can be installed around the internal network, remote offices or customer sites.

Agents provide the centralised server application with the control to push and pull files on schedules, whilst executing other commands where permissions allow.

The increased reach is supported by dashboards, which provide an overview of past and current file transfers. Some also report on transfers not occurring. This allows organisations to set alerts if mission critical transfers have failed, that would result in a failed service level agreement (SLA).


Section 4

Who Uses MFT?


Almost all businesses have data they need to exchange with business partners, suppliers and customers. You can find industry MFT use cases here, for healthcare, financial services, retail, logistics and utility organisations.

Managed File Transfer is increasingly used to transfer commercially sensitive or customer sensitive data and, as such, needs to be handled with due care and attention. Many industry sectors and indeed countries are subject to specific legislation governing how data should be handled and protected. Some examples include:

  • Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS)
  • Sarbanes Oxley (SOX)
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
  • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
  • Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act (GLBA)


Section 5

Leading Enterprise
File Transfer
Software Solutions


I’m sure you’ll appreciate this isn’t an easy question to answer simply because it depends on what you’re looking for. Most products offer the same functionality but vary in how they deliver it. The best product for you is going to depend entirely on your unique business requirements. This level of detail will make all the difference. That’s why it is so important to fully scope your current and future business needs and take all stakeholders into account. You don’t want to make an expensive mistake. 

If you speak directly to the vendors remember one thing – the Salesperson can ONLY sell their product, so inevitably each will tell you their solution is the best! To find the right Managed File Transfer solution for your needs, visit our Managed File Transfer comparison for independent expert advice.

mft vendor logos - who does pro2col work with

Get a Full View
of the MFT Marketplace

What are the top MFT Solutions
to consider i
n 2024?



Section 6

Alternatives to MFT


We have helped more than a thousand businesses secure and automate their file exchanges. Yet as much as we love MFT technologies, it absolutely isn’t right for every company or every use case.

Over the last decade, file transfer solutions have fragmented into different categories. This means there is some overlap. That includes: Enterprise File Synchronisation & Sharing (EFSS), Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), Content Collaboration Platforms, among others.

In fact, there are a surprising number of other technologies that provide a degree of file transfer automation. Some do it well even though it’s not part of their core offering. Others don’t.

Over the years we’ve reviewed and replaced a wide range of technologies, documenting which features differentiate them from MFT and which overlap. If you’re considering any of these, the extra information in the links provide some clarity during your decision-making process.


Section 7

The Future of MFT


Over the past ten years, companies large and small have been jumping on the ‘digital transformation’ band-wagon. Yet digital transformation initiatives have a terrible failure rate; over 70% according to global consulting firm, McKinsey.

Why? Well, there are many reasons. Often the scope is too huge, so when it comes to actually breaking down what the business is doing and delivering it, the task is just too large.

In our experience the most successful Managed File Transfer projects have been at a more tactical level. We have long harboured the view that the ‘project’ should be elevated to address more data flows than a customer is currently looking to solve. With hindsight, however, success is mostly achieved by doing one thing really well and then and only then, looking at how the solution can expand to address other use cases. We expect to see companies expanding the reach of their solution as they get a better understanding the true value MFT delivers.

Additionally, we’ll see more hybrid deployments, encompassing on-premises and public/private cloud infrastructure. Connectivity will also be extended further. Robust REST and SOAP APIs are already providing the capability for Managed File Transfer solutions to either drive or be driven by external applications.

It is likely we’ll see further consolidation in this marketplace, with more mid-sized players being snapped up for their customer base to the detriment of the MFT users. It’s happened a number of times in the 20+ years we’ve been working in this space, and it will happen again.


Section 8

How Much Does MFT Cost?


The price of a potential Managed File Transfer solution depends entirely on your requirements, business size and the functionality you opt for. But we can give you an idea, based on products we recommend to our customers. Costs for a simple, yet capable automation solution for a business with a limited number of requirements starts at around £3000, plus £600 per year for a support contract. From there, a solution price might scale based upon a number of metrics. Not all software vendors follow the same model, but all currently apply:

  • Single server
  • Multiple servers for high availability
  • Disaster recovery licenses
  • Development, Test, User Acceptance Testing licenses
  • Number of trading partners – a model adopted by some
  • Modules – the features you require can make a big difference
  • Proxy servers and load balancers
  • Reporting modules or dashboards
  • File sharing and collaboration users (where appropriate)
  • Number of processes that can be run concurrently

Most MFT solutions fall into the £10,000 – £50,000 range, however, we’ve implemented solutions at three times that amount too. Support contracts are typically 20-30% of the licence cost per year, unless you’ve opted for a subscription where support is rolled into the overall annual cost. As you can see there are lots of variables and it’s not always easy to compare solutions on the same terms. Our team are here to help you get exactly the right solution for your needs and budget.


Section 9

Is Open Source an Option?


Whilst the open-source marketplace can be a fantastic resource for some business applications, Managed File Transfer isn’t currently one of them. It may be viable if you are a tech business or have an extensive development and technical team. However, for most businesses, Managed File Transfer is mission-critical to mitigate the security and compliance risks associated with supporting a bespoke or homegrown solution. Unmanaged in-house scripts are one of the biggest risks to an organisation’s GDPR compliance.

Additionally, as developers and contractors move on, companies get stuck without documentation, no training and no one to make changes or fix faults. In our experience, large organisations who have implemented open source Managed File Transfer usually revert to a commercial product within a few years. The most common reason they cite is that the functionality was behind the curve of the commercially developed solutions. If you’re still keen to pursue an open source route, start your search with YADE (formerly SOSFTP) and WAARP. Whilst we have been aware of both projects for some time, please note that Pro2col don’t have any affiliation to them or recommend them in any way.


Where to go next on your MFT journey

Next Steps


We know it’s difficult to research and select the right Managed File Transfer solution. There are over forty vendors in the marketplace who will naturally want you to choose their product. But MFT underpins your security, efficiency, cloud strategy and digital transformation. These are not areas where you can take risks. You need to research each product thoroughly to choose one that successfully delivers your requirements at the best price.

We have a fantastic array of free resources available to help you with your project. Whichever stage of you are at, you will find useful information that will save you time and money. Just click the links for more details.

Lastly, we think Managed File Transfer is great but it’s not right for every organisation or use case. We’re happy to let companies know if we think there is a better, cheaper, more appropriate way of solving your challenges.

If you would like to dive deeper into the world of secure data exchange, download our comprehensive MFT Guide and learn everything you need to know about managed file transfer software.

Unsure which MFT solution best fits your needs? Take our File Transfer Comparison Quiz for a personalised recommendation.

Have you established that your organisation needs MFT, but can't decided on a solution? Contact one our experts today and we'll be happy to help you find the perfect MFT for your business!

Find the Perfect File Transfer Tool

The Beginners Guide to Managed File Transfer



The Beginners Guide to Managed File Transfer

Download Pro2col's Definitive Guide for crucial insights about file transfer needs, a review of the marketplace and use case.

Discover the Best File Transfer Software in 2024



Discover the Best File Transfer Software in 2024

Our experts review the market to reveal the best enterprise-grade file transfer tools available in 2023. 

Get a Personalised File Transfer Recommendation



Get a Personalised File Transfer Recommendation

Take our short 7 minute quiz to discover the perfect file transfer match for your business requirements. 


Frequently Asked Questions


What is Managed File Transfer?

Managed file transfer solutions move data from one place to another in a centralised, controlled, secure fashion – inside and outside an organisation – between systems and / or users. Files are transferred more quickly and securely, enhancing productivity and providing visibility. This is a powerful business enabler that reduces costs and risk.

Installing managed file transfer tackles a number of security, automation and compliance requirements.

This video outlines three use cases for MFT.


Video Transcript:

So what is Managed File Transfer? In most cases, it's an application that can sit on premise or in a private cloud. Hosted solutions are also available. Managed File Transfer is used to secure, control and automate the transfer of business data and some now include data transformation options. We're going to take you through three typical MFT scenarios.

Ad hoc or person to person Automated workflows

MFT is often installed to address a specific tactical requirement and grows over time to address a wider range of needs. Employees will unwittingly breach security policies by sharing sensitive, personal or valuable data, like company IP, via email or using consumer grade file sharing applications.

These solutions are frequently unmonitored and can pose a security risk. Managed file transfer will encrypt and securely transfer files with no size limits and provides an audit trail of all data movement. MFT balances the need for security and compliance and employees needs to get on with their job without requiring IT support for file sharing.

Some examples might include securing credit card details, or any personally identifiable data, like customer files or healthcare records, which must be secured for GDPR compliance. Managed file transfer allows for scheduled transfers, again using secure and encrypted channels. This reduces manual processing and replaces unmanaged or legacy scripts that can pose a security risk and a long-term management headache.

As an example, a CSV file is uploaded by an external third party. The file transfer application detects this is a new file and enters it into the relevant workflow. Workflows can push files to multiple systems simultaneously or deliver one time batch transfers. MFT provides guaranteed delivery and optional dashboards offer full visibility of all transfers.

Notifications can be set up to enable the monitoring of business-critical SLAs. There can be any number of automated tasks added to a workflow, including conditional logic, so the possibilities are endless. Typically, businesses use this capability to move data between finance systems. Cloud based applications and external parties for data processing.

Our third typical use case is capturing data from an unknown external source. Using Managed File Transfer's secure online form functionality, a file can be uploaded via a web interface. Additional data can be captured from customizable fields and converted into a CSV file. From here, it can enter an automated workflow to deliver a range of actions.

Take insurance claims as an example, or reporting incidents to a council. The user inputs the details into the online form which executes the onward tasks. That might be putting the information into a customer database. assigning it to a member of staff, placing images in a certain location on the server, and many more.

In each of these scenarios, using MFT adds layers of security and auditability. This is just a quick introduction to this technology, which can be a foundation to cloud first strategies and efficiency drives. Use cases are varied and each solution has different strengths. Protocol can ensure that a solution is designed around exact requirements and future proofed.

If you want to know more, please get in touch.

Is open-source Managed File Transfer an option?

Whilst the open source marketplace can be a fantastic resource for some business applications, Managed File Transfer isn’t currently one of them. It may be viable if you are a tech business or have an extensive development and technical team. However, for most businesses, Managed File Transfer is mission-critical.

It is important to carefully consider your business needs before making a decision on whether to pursue an open source MFT solution.

Advantages of open source MFT:

  • Cost: Open source MFT is typically much less expensive than commercial MFT solutions.
  • Flexibility: Open source MFT gives you more control over the software and allows you to customise it to meet your specific needs.
  • Transparency: Open source MFT allows you to see the source code and understand how the software works. This can be important for security and compliance reasons.

Disadvantages of open source MFT:

  • Support: Open source MFT may not have the same level of support as commercial MFT solutions.
  • Features: Open source MFT may not have all of the features of commercial MFT solutions.
  • Maturity: Open source MFT solutions may not be as mature or reliable as commercial MFT solutions.

Whether or not open source MFT is a good option for you depends on your specific needs and requirements. If you are on a tight budget or need a highly customisable MFT solution, then open source MFT may be a good option for you. However, if you need a high level of support or need an MFT solution with all of the latest features, then you may want to consider a commercial MFT solution.

Yes, open-source managed file transfer (MFT) is an option for organisations looking to securely and efficiently transfer files between systems and users. Open-source MFT solutions are software applications or platforms that allow you to automate, streamline, and secure file transfer processes. They are typically developed and maintained by the open-source community, making them cost-effective and customisable to suit your specific needs.

Some popular open-source MFT solutions include:

  • FileZilla: FileZilla is a widely used open-source FTP (File Transfer Protocol) client that supports secure file transfers through protocols like SFTP and FTPS. It's primarily a client application for transferring files, but it's not a complete MFT solution.
  • vsftpd (Very Secure FTP Daemon): An open-source FTP server for Unix-like systems that focuses on security. It's commonly used to set up a secure FTP server for file transfers.
  • Amanda (The Advanced Maryland Automatic Network Disk Archiver): Amanda is an open-source backup and recovery solution that can be used for transferring files and managing data backup.
  • Mule ESB: Although not a dedicated MFT solution, Mule ESB (Enterprise Service Bus) is an open-source integration platform that can be used to build custom file transfer solutions.
  • Apache Camel: Apache Camel is an integration framework that can be used to create custom file transfer processes. It supports a wide range of protocols and data formats.

While these open-source options can be effective for certain use cases, it's important to note that they may require more technical expertise to set up and maintain compared to commercial MFT solutions. Additionally, commercial MFT solutions often come with additional features, support, and security measures that can be crucial for enterprise-level file transfers.

Also, one major consideration should be the fact that there are also some security risks associated with using open source MFT solutions. Here are some of the security risks of open source MFT solutions:

  • Vulnerabilities in the source code: Open source MFT solutions are typically developed by a community of volunteers, which means that there is no single company responsible for security patching. This can lead to vulnerabilities in the source code that may not be patched promptly.
  • Less rigorous security testing: Open source MFT solutions may not be subject to the same level of rigorous security testing as commercial MFT solutions. This can make them more susceptible to attack.
  • Lack of vendor support: Open source MFT solutions may not have the same level of vendor support as commercial MFT solutions. This can make it difficult to resolve security issues or get help if you are attacked.


When considering open-source MFT options, it's essential to assess your organisation's specific requirements, including security, scalability, ease of use, and support, to determine whether an open-source or commercial solution is the best fit for your needs.

What are the features and benefits of Managed File Transfer?

Managed file transfer (MFT) software is a type of software that helps organisations automate, secure, and manage the transfer of files between different systems and users. MFT software offers a variety of features and benefits, including:


  • Secure file transfer: MFT software encrypts files in transit and at rest to protect sensitive data from unauthorised access.
  • Automated file transfer: MFT software can automate file transfer workflows, such as scheduling file transfers at specific times or transferring files based on certain events.
  • Centralised management: MFT software provides a centralised console for managing all file transfers, making it easy to track and monitor file transfer activity.
  • Audit trails: MFT software generates audit trails that track all file transfer activity, including who transferred what files, when, and where.
  • Compliance support: MFT software can help organisations comply with industry regulations, such as HIPAA, PCI DSS, and GDPR.


  • Improved security: MFT software helps to improve security by encrypting files in transit and at rest and by providing centralised management and audit trails for all file transfers.
  • Reduced costs: MFT software can help to reduce costs by automating file transfer workflows, eliminating the need for manual intervention.
  • Increased efficiency: MFT software can help to increase efficiency by streamlining file transfer processes and reducing human error.
  • Improved compliance: MFT software can help organisations to improve compliance with industry regulations by providing audit trails and other features that help to track and manage file transfer activity.

Overall, MFT software can offer a number of benefits to organisations of all sizes, including improved security, reduced costs, increased efficiency, and improved compliance.

Here are some additional benefits of managed file transfer software:

  • Scalability: MFT software can scale to meet the needs of growing organisations.
  • Flexibility: MFT software can be used to transfer files between a variety of different systems and users, including internal and external stakeholders.
  • Reliability: MFT software is designed to be reliable and secure, ensuring that files are transferred accurately and on time.

If you are looking for a way to improve the security, efficiency, and compliance of your file transfer processes, then managed file transfer software may be a good solution for you.

How much does managed file transfer software cost?

Managed File Transfer pricing is going to depend entirely on your requirements, business size and the functionality you opt for. But we can give you an idea, based on products we recommend to our customers.

Costs for a simple automation solution for a small to medium size business start around £3250, plus £600 per year support contract.

A base licence for an enterprise-level Managed File Transfer solution ranges from £10,000 to £50,000 range however we’ve implemented solutions at three times that amount too. Support contracts are typically 20-30% of the licence cost per year, unless you’ve opted for a subscription when support is rolled into the overall annual cost. 

What is Enterprise File Transfer?

Enterprise File Transfer is a software solution that allows the centralised, secure, and automated transfer of files and data within enterprise-level businesses. Often referred to as Managed File Transfer, these software solutions address the growing data movement requirements of large organisations. Unlike basic tools such as free SFTP clients or popular file-sharing apps such as Dropbox or Google Drive, Enterprise File transfer offers more robust tools, with a focus on machine-to-machine data transfers.

Whilst Managed File Transfer is a broad solution set, what identifies it as an enterprise-level software tool is the available features and functionality that are standard requirements within large businesses or organisations. These include:

1) Security and Compliance

As major businesses find themselves needing to comply with growing data legislation and the increased reputational damage of data leaks, enterprise file transfer solutions provide an added layer of security for the critical data processing. From encryption to access controls, auditability and specific adherence to compliance frameworks like GDPR, PCI-DSS, HIPAA, DORA and others, leading file transfer solutions feature robust protections that secure data in transit and at rest. 

2) Workflow Automation

Unlike basic transfer tools which focus simply on moving data from one point to another, Managed File Transfer tools built for large global businesses feature significant automation engines that allow for the streamlining of data exchange and the encryption and transfer of files between systems and endpoints. This eliminates the need for manual processing and homegrown scripts, reducing human error and time to deliver increased productivity and cost savings.

3) Visibility and Control

Enterprise organisations, particularly those distributed across multiple sites, countries or regions need to retain visibility on their data flows. Managed File Transfer solutions provide audit reports and can supply notifications when transfers fail, or predicted transfers do not complete.

4) Modular Feature add-ons

One of the key differentiators between basic and enterprise file transfer systems is the feature sets available. The more advanced the file transfer product is, the more likely it will be to have a range of features that will allow even the largest businesses to achieve their goals. Many enterprise transfer tools provide their feature upgrades in module packages, allowing IT teams to select the tooling best suited to their needs.

5) High Availability and Disaster Recovery

Lastly, major businesses of today simply cannot risk core systems, like their file transfer software, going down. Enterprise Managed File Transfer tools have options to deliver High Availability in scalable solutions which together with load balancers can virtually eliminate unplanned downtime, ensuring your critical data processes run quickly and efficiently. Disaster Recovery options ensure that if anything does go wrong, that businesses can quickly return to BAU. Enterprise solutions usually also offer follow-the-sun support of their products, ensuring customers have quick, reliable access to support teams for product troubleshooting.

Back to top