What exactly is MFT in the cloud?

Companies everywhere are experiencing greater demands for the secure transfer of Big Data, and at the same time, the availability of cloud computing for securely sharing document has grown exponentially. This in turn has pushed managed file...

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Companies everywhere are experiencing greater demands for the secure transfer of Big Data, and at the same time, the availability of cloud computing for securely sharing document has grown exponentially. This in turn has pushed managed file transfer (MFT) in the cloud towards the top of many business agendas. But even as MFT in the cloud expands in importance, it is still a term that many people struggle to define.

MFT is a long-standing, well accepted way for organisations to share business files point to point, quickly, reliably and securely. It’s been around for years, but the emergence of the cloud means MFT has taken on a new relevance, as it morphs and expands to play a critical role in moving large sets of Big Data as well as traditional business files to, from and through clouds.

So why the confusion over its definition? This problem is particularly apparent when an organisation issues a request for proposal (RFP) that includes an MFT component. Many vendors will struggles to determine if that requirement is within its ability to fulfil. Such confusion further hinders companies that are considering moving B2B processes to the cloud, or that are comparing multiple cloud service providers when a component of the outsourced process requires MFT.

Creating a definition

There is a real need, therefore, for a clear definition that outlines the requirements for MFT in the cloud. So here goes:

MFT in the cloud is the secure and reliable transfer of data to, from and between clouds, regardless of size.

This should allay any confusion over the core definition. But by explaining the main components of MFT in the cloud, the potential of this emerging service can be more fully understood. To do so, let’s break the central definition down into more specific terms: security, reliability and size.

  • Security — A key requirement of MFT, whether traditional or in the cloud, is the secure exchange of data between two points. This is driven by a range of industry compliance regulations and privacy laws, and can be ensured by sending files through a secure connection using protocol such as SSL or SSH. Some organisations also use encryption to further increase security.
  • Reliability — Steps must be taken to ensure files are reliably sent and received. The receiving party must be available to receive and process the files. Using a communication standard such as EDI-INT AS2 helps to meet these criteria by adding acknowledgements and non-repudiation of data to the solution set.
  • Size — MFT was invented to solve the problem of securely transmitting large data files between trading partners, but the definition of "large" is up to trading partners to agree upon and enable. With the proliferation of Big Data generated from consumer, B2B and social networking sites and other Internet sources, this could mean transferring small files occasionally, or even streaming files continuously. An MFT cloud service must be able to handle all required types and sizes of file transfers.

Finding the right service partner

Some MFT cloud services providers go beyond these requirements to provide additional capabilities, such as the ability to restart an interrupted transmission at the point where it failed, and the ability to track files and produce audit reports for business analysis and regulatory compliance.

Companies should select an MFT cloud services provider that exceeds their current requirements to provide an upgrade path. Furthermore, MFT cloud services providers that offer flexible Service Level Agreements (SLAs) enable customers to tailor the agreements to their specific requirements and revise them as their needs change.

As more organisations move their back-office processes to the cloud, and with the rise of Big Data and files moving at an increasing rate, managed file transfer is very clearly adapting to the cloud model. Unlike traditional MFT that transmits files point-to-point between trading partners’ facilities, transmitting files to the cloud requires an agreement with the cloud provider and an SLA to ensure secure, reliable and timely transfers to instil customer confidence.


By Mikko Soirola, VP of European Sales for Liaison Technologies.

Mikko has over 10 years of management experience in the IT industry. Prior to joining Liaison he worked in various regional and local senior sales management and consulting roles for companies including Sun Microsystems, Progress Software, Capgemini and EDS.