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10 Best Managed File Transfer (MFT) Tools and Software

Ever since the very first days of the Internet, back when it was only comprised of universities and government research facilities, people have been exchanging documents in electronic form. In fact, several protocols have been created for no other purposes that transferring files. One can easily think of the File Transfer Protocol, or FTP, and its variants and derivatives FTPS, SFTP, and TFTP. But lately, email has been the primary way of exchanging files. It is practical, everybody knows how to use it and it appears to be safe enough. But email has its limitations.

For starters, there’s usually a maximum size to an attachment. This can be problematic as files such as high-definition video or high-resolution images can easily exceed those limitations. And security is another major concern, contrary to popular thinking, email is not very secure. To address some of the shortcomings of other methods of file transfer, Managed File Transfer, or MFT, was invented. Today, we’re trying to shed some light on this subject by reviewing the best software for managed file transfer.

We’ll start off by having a deeper look at managed file transfer in general. Different tools come with different feature sets yet they all share a common goal and some common features. Once we’re more familiar with the general concepts of managed file transfer, we’ll have a look at the different types of tools you can find on the market. Although each tool is unique, they can be grouped in just a few categories. Finally, with all this background information behind us, we’ll be ready to review some of the best software we could find.

About Managed File Transfer

Managed File Transfer (MFT) can refer to a software or a service which manages the secure transfer of data from one computer to another through a network. Although this definition is rigorously exact, it doesn’t tell you much more than the software or service name. Typically, MFT software is marketed to corporate enterprises as an alternative to ad-hoc file transfer solutions such as FTP, HTTP, and others.

MFT generally offers a higher level of security and control than FTP or other similar protocols. Features include reporting—including notification of successful file transfers, non-repudiation, auditability, global visibility, automation of file transfer-related activities and processes, end-to-end security, and performance metrics/monitoring. In a nutshell, you can think of Managed File Transfer as FTP on steroids. Lots of steroids.

Concretely, you may be asking yourself, how is Managed File Transfer Different from other technologies. The answer is simple, it is very different. MFT applications usually have all or most of the following features:

  • They can support multiple file transfer protocols including FTP/S, OFTP, SFTP, SCP, AS2, and HTTP/S.
  • They can securely transfer files over public and private networks using encrypted file transfer protocols.
  • They securely store files using multiple data encryption methods
  • They can automate the file transfer processes between trading partners and exchanges including the detection and handling of failed file transfers.
  • They can authenticate users against existing user directories such as LDAP and Active Directory
  • They do interoperate with existing applications using documented APIs (application programming interfaces)
  • Last but not least, they generate detailed reports on user and file transfer activity

In a way, Managed File Transfer uses existing technologies and protocols. The different available software does not try to reinvent the wheel. The tools simply tie every element of the file transfer process into a coherent package.

Managed File Transfer Software: Multiple Options

As we’ve indicated earlier, Managed File Transfer tools can either take the form of local software that needs to be installed on a server. Some vendors also offer the possibility of purchasing an appliance with the software already installed and, to a certain extent, configured. All that is typically left to do is to add the configuration parameters which are specific to your organization. This can be an interesting option for those looking for an integrated solution with total support from a single vendor. They usually run a hardened version of a basic operating system stripped of any unnecessary components. Nowadays, Linux and BSD are often at the base of these appliances.

Alternatively, Managed File Transfer can also use the Software as a Service (SaaS) model. In this case, the Managed File Transfer is a subscription-based service but all the actual software and the equipment t runs on is located in the cloud. Since most MFT systems allow local AD or LDAP authentication, these cloud services must somehow hook into your directory service. This can either be done completely remotely or through the use of a local agent that runs on a domain controller or another computer on your network.

The Best Managed File Transfer Software

As we were looking for the best Managed File Transfer software, one thing quickly became obvious: many products and services are available. We’ve tried to weed out the market and we’re bringing you what we believe to be the best software for Managed File Transfer.

1. Serv-U Managed File Transfer Server from SolarWinds (FREE Trial)

First on our list is a product from SolarWinds, one of the best-known maker of network administration tools and software. In the past twenty years, the company has produced some of the best tools. Its flagship product, the Network Performance Monitor is regarded as one of the very best network monitoring platforms. SolarWinds is also famous for its many free tools, each addressing a specific need of network administrators.

When it comes to Managed File Transfer, it’s no surprise to a product from SolarWinds on this list. The Serv-U Managed File Transfer Server is an extended version of the well-known Serv-U FTP server which can manage file transfers using several protocols such as FTP, FTPS, SFTP, and HTTP/S over IPv4 and IPv6 networks. The software enables ad-hoc file sharing and allows peer-to-peer file transfers from the web and mobile devices. This tool will let you maintain and demonstrate compliance with PCI DSS, HIPAA, FISMA, SOX, and other standards related to data security and privacy. It can integrate with NAS/SAN and external database servers, allowing for easy storage access.

Serv-U Management Console

The Serv-U Managed File Transfer Server will let you instantly transfer files using simple drag-and-drop Web and mobile interfaces. No matter what device you’re using, it got you covered. Through the tool’s centralized web-based management console, you can easily automate file transfer management and administration tasks. Its strong technical foundation provides true data security and compliance. The optional Serv-U Gateway add-on provides defense-in-depth security to Serv-U deployments. It ensures that no data is stored in the DMZ in order to comply with PCI DSS and other regulatory frameworks.

Security-wise, you can integrate Serv-U with your existing AD/LDAP environment to sync user accounts and simplify authentication. The tool will let you apply limits and custom settings for file transfer operations to users, groups, domains, and servers. The software also has integrated monitoring, letting you track file server startup, configuration, and domain activity for fast and easy troubleshooting. Alerting is also included and will ensure that you’re notified of any suspicious activities. The system can send email, run programs, delete files, and write Windows event log messages based on triggered events.

Prices for the Serv-U Managed File Transfer Server from SolarWinds are based on server installations and start at $2 995 per server. If you’d rather try the product before committing to purchasing it, a free, fully functional 30-day trial is available.

2. Globalscape EFT Cloud Services

As you may have guessed from its name, the Globalscape EFT Cloud Services is a cloud-based secure and scalable file sharing and transfer service. It uses Globalscape’s Enhanced File Transfer (EFT) as its backbone. Organizations of all sizes can use it to safely and easily store data in the Cloud, move files over a protected network without any downtime. The service brings you the peace of mind of knowing that everything is backed up continuously.

GlobalScape EFT Screenshot

The tool’s console lets administrators see everything that’s happening in real time and allows them to instantly generate preconfigured and fully customizable reports. Those reports can be used to track all activity over a specific time period and they can include a user-defined level of detail. Administrators can segment users to prevent stealth information technology and other internal intrusions. In addition, a suite of automation tools is included to help manage folders, simplify workflows, and reduce user errors.

3. GoAnywhere MFT Standard

GoAnywhere MFT Standard from Linoma Software gives you the ability to exchange files and data throughout your organization. It can operate both internally and externally. Whether one of your users is trying to share information with a colleague or someone within your organization is trying to send important files to a customer, these tasks can be accomplished using the intelligent interface offered by this tool.

GoAnywhere MFT Screenshot

The software allows you to automate workflows and collaborate with co-workers. Through the whole file transfer process, all files remain completely secure and encrypted at all times. With GoAnywhere MFT Standard, the process of transferring files from one location to another is effortless. The tool offers definable automated workflows, unlimited file transfer via email, comprehensive encryption and security, extensive server connection support and detailed audit reports.

4. MOVEit Managed File Transfer System

The MOVEit Managed File Transfer System gives network administrators the ability to take control of all managed file transfer activity throughout their organization via a unified console. Users have the ability to send files to one another whenever necessary, and you’ll always be able to keep track of where files are located.

Ipswitch MoveIT Screenshot

The MOVEit Managed File Transfer System features security and encryption measures which work to keep your data protected. Using this software, you’ll be able to guarantee the safety of sensitive corporate data. Furthermore, the MOVEit Managed File Transfer System includes a fail-over function. This ensures constant reliability by preventing downtime and data loss. The system can also be accessed via mobile devices so that file transfer can occur on whichever device your users need.

5. Coviant Diplomat Managed File Transfer (MFT)

The Coviant Diplomat Managed File Transfer (MFT) software can be used to automate, integrate, and control internal as well as external secure file transfers. It uses Intelligent File Transfer with embedded secure file transfer logic. This lets file transfer professionals quickly design and deploy file transfer jobs with fewer errors and failed transfers. Among the product’s key features, it offers a centrally-controlled managed file transfer which can simplify file transfer management. It can also automate PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) and provide secure file transfer. The tool can help you meet your trading partner’s specifications.

Managing file transfers has gotten more critical and challenging to organizations and information technology departments. Data security and privacy have become critical business concerns with frequent media exposure of major data losses and thefts impacting the reputations of many corporations. The Coviant Diplomat Managed File Transfer software can help you mitigate these risks.

6. Accellion Kiteworks

Accellion Kiteworks is a content management service and platform with a strong focus on the mobility needs of the modern work environment. Using Kiteworks, employees can securely access, edit, create, sync, and store content from virtually any corporate or personal location and using any device. The platform lets users collaborate with one another, both inside and outside of the organization through messaging and email and include secure links to shared content. The tool’s collaboration features also include elements such as “virtual data rooms” and “deal rooms” where team members can collaborate on content in real time.

Although the approach used by Accellion Kiteworks might be quite different from that of most of its competitors, it’s unique collaboration features can appeal to many different types of organizations. While this might not be the ideal tool for everyone, it might very well be exactly what you’ve been looking for. If your primary need for Managed File Transfer is teamwork and collaboration, be sure to give the tool a look.

7. Citrix ShareFile

Citrix is better known as a virtualization company than a software publisher yet it does make some interesting tools. For instance, the Citrix ShareFile is a data and file storage and management service for businesses. The service provides secure storage in the cloud, at the client’s location, or both. By choosing a hybrid solution such as this one, you get the best of both worlds. The system also offers sharing files to mobile and other devices safely and securely.

Citrix Sharefile Dashboard

IMAGECitrix Sharefile provides a safe and secure environment where businesses can store and share files company-wide. Those services are available to large as well as small businesses. The tool allows employees and satellite offices to have access to important files wherever they are in the world. All they need is an Internet connection and a compatible device. The service can be used with mobile devices such as cell phones and tablets.

8. Direct FTP

Direct FTP is primarily an FTP client but it offers a variety of capabilities to easily transfer and upload files, as well as editing features that can be used for certain types of files that have been uploaded to an FTP server. Those advanced features justify the product’s presence on this list. The tool boasts an intuitive interface. With it, file management can be handled with ease, requiring only a few simple clicks and drags to start uploading files. Other features such as the Transfer Activity window work towards providing users with more control over their actions within the application.

Unlike most other FTP tools, Direct FTP offers a built-in code editor. It features support for HTML, JavaScript, and other common types of code. It lets you easily make edits to certain types of files. The code editor offers useful features such as code completion and language highlighting. This lets you manage files that have been uploaded to the FTP server without having to transfer them into another code editing program.

9. IBM Managed File Transfer

IBM requires no introduction. The company’s Managed File Transfer program offers a host of products. The IBM Managed File Transfer system was designed to help organizations better utilize file transfers by making them faster and more secure. In order to accomplish that, IBM Managed File Transfer uses a variety of systems which combine to help organizations simplify their file transfer process and increase the security of that process. Files can be transferred between individuals and devices within the organization itself but they can as well be transferred between two organizations, such as in business-to-business (B2B) commercial transactions.

Using IBM Control Center, IBM Sterling Secure Proxy, IBM Sterling Connect:Direct, IBM Sterling File Gateway, and the add-on IBM Aspera High-Speed Add-on for Connect:Direct, IBM Managed File Transfer automates and secures the file transfer process. Even better, it does so faster than most traditional FTP systems.

10. MassTransit

Last on our list is MassTransit by Acronis, a Managed File Transfer system designed to help larger organizations handle large data transfer loads securely and reliably, with little effort, and at speeds substantially faster than many standard File Transfer Protocol (FTP) and Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) file transfer methods.

Mass Transit Screenshot

MassTransit can handle very large file sizes—of over 100 GB—and it provides detailed tracking of files transfers in real time. The tool can scale to meet the file transfer needs of nearly any type of organization. The software includes administrative features which help automate file transfer processes and enforce workflow management. In addition, end users will most likely appreciate the tool’s web client interfaces that are designed for ease of use and require minimal training.

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