Business file transfer…do it right now, or do it right?

We’re often forced to choose between expediency and repeatability.  When a business department contacts IT at 4:30pm on Friday afternoon and wants to find a way to provide a large file to a new contractor, “right now” probably seems more important than “right.”  As a result, IT may be forced to come up with a way to make the file available that ranks great on responsiveness to business needs, but low on security, repeatability and scalability should another or multiple similar requests come in.

At some point, you may decide that the frequency and urgency of these one-off business file transfer requests has hit the threshold necessary to stop reinventing the wheel again and again, and to bring together the right combination of technology, process, and people to create a more permanent, efficient and repeatable solution.

When you reach that point, you may wish to factor in the following considerations: 

6 key considerations when planning a business file transfer solution


1. File Transfer Direction and Initiation

Are you sending files with your partner/customer and receiving files from them?  Who will initiate the file transfers: your partner/customer, your organization, both?

Put another way, which boxes in this grid should get a checkmark?

Other considerations within this category are:

  • Do you have existing business requirements that require you to be able to connect to other business partner’s servers to either deposit or retrieve a file?
  • Do you need a way to manage both processes and have a single audit trail to track all transactions?

2. File Origin and Target Locations

What is the original or ultimate destination of the data you need to exchange with your business partners?  Often the actual moving of the data from the source server into the business file transfer system is considered outside the scope of the solution, as is the final movement of the file into its ultimate target system.  It’s important to realize that a file transfer from sender to final location does not have to be considered a collection of isolated individual steps.  That kind of design causes complexity and creates difficult to follow audit trails.  It is also important to understand how your solution ties in with backend systems and what operating systems need to be supported on the backend.

3. Post Transfer File Processing

What processing is required on the data once received? The moving of the file is only one part of the business file transfer need.  Often, the data that is received needs to be processed in order to complete the necessary business transaction.  This requires the system to be able to automatically kick off business processes once the data is moved to the appropriate system.  What are your organization’s needs in this area?

4. File Transfer Automation

Consider the level of automation that is needed? Will your staff still need to babysit critical file transfers, or can you take that manual effort out of the loop?  Many file transfer technologies support simply a command line interface, requiring users to write complex scripts.  Others offer advanced levels of automation, including event driven transfers whereupon the modification or creation of a file in a given location on the system can automatically trigger the movement of that file to a predetermined location.  Each project is different, so it is important that you understand your project needs and the required levels of automation.

 5. File Transfer Protocols

There are a wide variety of protocols available for use in Internet-based B2B communications.  What protocols work best for your business?  The most common of the protocols used are FTP, FTPS (FTP/SSL), SFTP (SSH/FTP), HTTPS (HTTP/SSL), HTTP and AS2.

6. File Sizes

You need to evaluate what size files you are likely to transfer, both today and in the future.  Many applications have limitations as to file size and often those limits will change depending on the protocol in use.  When considering file transfer technology, be sure to determine what, if any, file size limitations exist for each of the protocols you plan to use.

Technology,  process, and people

These considerations all inform the technology, process, and people components of solving your business file transfer repeatability and scalability challenges.  Managed File Transfer tools, such as Attachmate’s FileXpress, address the technology components of your solution, while enabling a more efficient process that is practical for the people involved.  As a result, Managed File Transfer will help you achieve “right and right now” business file transfer.

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