Should You Use Automated File Transfer or a User-Directed Process?

Automation puts file-transfer-dependent processes on the fast track. It’s how organizations integrate disparate systems to accomplish mission-critical tasks, and it’s an essential component of modern managed file transfer (MFT) solutions.

But what about user-directed file transfers? Across-the-board automation may sound brilliant, but it’s not feasible for every business process. Enterprises often have no choice but to let users direct certain file transfers, so how can management ensure the security, reliability, and auditability of such activities?

By following an “automated when possible, manual when necessary” approach to MFT, organizations can maximize the value of automation while effectively controlling user-directed file transfers.
Reasons to automate
Enterprises automate processes to get more work done faster. Where automation fits into MFT is something we analyze in two Attachmate white papers – one on what the market demands from MFT solutions and another on how organizations can eliminate insecure, unreliable file transfers. Long story short, we conclude that automation, especially end-to-end automation, can help enterprises improve processes built around file transfer.

What is “end-to-end” file transfer automation? It’s an arrangement in which external partners can transfer data to deep within the enterprise. Think of it as a way to enjoy all the benefits of MFT across extremely distant endpoints. The benefits are numerous:

• Facilitated integration – Rule-based processing allows files to process automatically upon receipt; users need not perform manual action.
• Event processing – File transfers occur based on specific events or, once completed, trigger a subsequent event in a sequence.
• Optimized transfer operations – By combining existing file transfer processes, automation streamlines business activities.

The last point hits at the heart of why automated file transfers improve processes. Eliminating manual activity and employing secure, reliable, automated transfers in its place helps enterprises build more efficiencies into their overall operation. In fact, it’s the primary reason we encourage an “automated when possible” approach to MFT.

Organizations researching MFT hear a lot about its impenetrable security and unmatched reliability when pitted against consumer-grade file transfer tools. But improving business processes via end-to-end automation is an additional benefit that no decision maker should overlook when choosing a solution.
Controlling user-directed file transfers
Then there are file transfers you can’t automate – the ones users perform sporadically or according to unpredictable patterns. What kinds of challenges do these file transfers introduce?

The biggest is control. From an IT perspective, a major benefit of MFT automation is the detailed tracking and logging of every file transfer-related action. It’s always going on in the background for transfers that occur without user interference. But for user-directed file transfers, administrators can’t just let automation happen – they have to control user behavior. Otherwise, users could circumvent corporate rules and go back to transferring files via unmanaged email or file sharing services.

To effectively control user-directed file transfers, your MFT solution should offer all of the following:

• Single point of control – Administrators require absolute command over all data moving within and outside an enterprise; a centralized interface enables such control.
• Total security – No users, servers, clients, or databases should be able to operate in the MFT network without authentication and authorization.
• Total auditability – Data about every aspect of every file transfer must be available in the event of an audit.

The above concepts should inform the development of any modern MFT solution. Some products even offer familiar interfaces to help users transfer files in the controlled environment. Novell is pushing this idea with Filr, an MFT solution that delivers a DropBox-like experience on desktops and mobile devices.

What counts is that administrators exert effective control over user-directed file transfers. When automation isn’t an option, manual transfers are simply inevitable. Neither is preferable, per se; the real issue is the extent to which you can implement the former versus how you govern the latter.

Automated when possible. Manual when necessary. Just make sure your MFT solution puts you in control.

This is the sixth post in a 10-part series on managing file transfers. Read rest of the series here. Be sure to subscribe to our blog to receive the next posts.

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