The perils of Do-it-Yourself (DIY) file transfer

My parents have always been real do-it-yourselfers. When I was a kid, every weekend seemed consumed with remodeling some room, or landscaping some portion of our yard. Sometimes they knew what they were doing, sometimes they didn’t. Some of their work has stood the test of time…some of it has had to be replaced.

They were fearless. They were persistent.

I just tried to stay out of the way.

DIY and File Transfer

File transfer is one of those things that many IT organizations have fearlessly developed internal solutions for. I’m not talking just simple point A to point B file movement…but full automation, centralized auditing, and policy enforcement. Real cool stuff.

Frequently the return on these solutions were realized in reduced time to add new file transfers, and reduced time to diagnose when problems occur.

Problems have started to occur with many of those in-house solutions as they have run head-first into challenges imposed by large files, the need for improved security (compliance), and the reality of a reduced ability to maintain or enhance what they have built.

One example…a crumbling foundation

I had a conversation with an IT director of application development for a retail sales company. He had approached us about a problem that he was having with an in-house file transfer solution that his team had built as a departmental project a few years ago. The solution was architected with FTP as a foundation, and it was beginning to show some cracks as some of the transfers of larger files began failing.

Pride of ownership meets reduced staff

I listened to him describe the in-house solution developed by his team, and was impressed at all that it could do and the effort that must have gone into building it. As I described the advantages and capabilities of a managed file transfer solution, I was expecting a certain amount of guardedness driven by a real legitimate pride in his solution. But instead of a “yeah, mine does that too” sort of defensiveness, I encountered only a sense of weariness.

It seems that two things had conspired to generate this attitude.

  • The departmental solution had caught on with other departments and as more groups started using it, scalability issues developed, as did new functionality requirements
  • His development staff had been cut by more than half

More people were using what his team had built, but there were fewer people on his team to support and enhance it.

“It’s what you do”

The best thing that I heard on that call was something to the effect of, “I like the capabilities you are describing, but what I like the most is that file transfer is what you guys do.” MFT solutions provide an infrastructure with built-in reliability, security, automation, and governance, so that IT departments are relieved from the burden and cost of developing those capabilities themselves.

They’re still do-it-yourselfers, my parents. I love to go over and see their latest landscaping project. I just wouldn’t expect it to transfer 5Gb of private patient health information or batched financial transactions.

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