What to Expect When You’re Managing File Transfers: Houston, Do We Have a Problem?

In just a few short years, a handful of consumer-grade, cloud-based applications have made significant inroads in the file transfer space. With companies like DropBox boasting a $10 billion valuation and Google continuously improving the interface for its popular Drive service, cloud apps are, along with email attachments and FTP, a prevailing standard for file transfers.

But being the standard doesn’t make them adequate for all file transfers all the time.

Enterprises relying on these methods for file transfers are increasing their risk for security breaches, data loss, or failed compliance audits, all of which can create serious competitive setbacks. Given the stakes, understanding the problems inherent to many popular file transfer solutions should be an imperative for management and IT alike.

What’s your risk exposure? Here are some ways to assess whether unmanaged, unsecure file transfer solutions are causing problems at your firm.
Assessing your risk
Start by talking to IT. Your IT department has a vested interest in improving your file transfer process because they’re the ones who have to deal with problems like:

• Excessive backup and restore times caused by email attachments
• Inadequate server space for attached files
• Overloaded employee inboxes
• Bounced emails that the department must deliver manually
• Being unable to track who shares what files with whom via what application

How will IT identify whether the problems above are symptoms of a broken file transfer process? By connecting the dots between individual or system-wide technology failures and the way in which users transfer files over your servers.

There are a number of ways for IT to do this, including performing manual audits, using the reporting functionality of enterprise systems, or changing how they log support requests to account for the possibility of file transfer mishaps. Regardless, you should make sure they take the following three measures:

1. Scan ports for traffic to DropBox, SkyDrive, et al. If data indicates that users share files via cloud services, you’ll know almost instantly whether there’s a security issue on your hands. IT may even be able to link the use of these services to specific technology failures.
2. Audit user PCs and laptops during repair or re-imaging. Having IT track file transfer activity on user devices can help you determine whether unsecure transfers are causing a malfunction.
3. Monitor support tickets related to file transfers. Are they increasing? If the answer is yes, you know there’s a problem. But even if they seem to be decreasing, it might just mean users are employing other unsecure methods to transfer files – methods with consequences that could emerge at a later date.

If unsecure, unmanaged file transfers are causing problems for industry on the whole – and make no mistake, they are – they’re probably damaging your organization, too. Having IT assess your risk exposure can help you discover the extent of your vulnerability.
What you can do
Let’s say IT manages to connect file transfer activity to technology failures, inefficient business processes, or, worse, a specific security breach. What can you do to prevent future problems and pass your next compliance audit?

You can start by focusing on reduction. According to an Osterman report on enterprise file transfer problems, organizations should seek to reduce:

• The stress on email servers
• File transfer’s impact on network bandwidth
• User reliance on cloud-based file sharing services

A managed file transfer solution can help you achieve all of these reductions. It can also eliminate file transfer size limits and help you stay compliant via access controls, guaranteed delivery, and audit trails.

Ultimately, the status quo in enterprise file transfers, which consists of email, cloud services, and FTP, is putting companies at risk for massive security failures and, in the worst cases, costing them millions. If there was ever a time for a paradigm shift in how enterprises handle file transfers, it’s now.

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

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