What is Secure File Sharing?
File sharing is part of every business whether it's over email, File Transfer Protocol (FTP), or even over the Web. The problem is, none of those methods are easily managed. How do you know who sent what and when, and who received it? How do you make sure sensitive files are securely sent and that, once the recipient is finished with them, that they can be retrieved? This is where secure managed file transfer (MFT) software comes in.
FTP has been around for years, and many companies are beginning to look at popular cloud services such as Box and Dropbox. But those aren't good options if your business is subject to data security and privacy regulations. Sensitive data and proprietary information needs to be secured. The problem with many MFT providers is the lack of a try-before-you-buy option. That or they require you spend a significant amount of time with account managers before you can even access a demo or evaluation version of the software. The good thing about the MFT software I reviewed is that the providers were responsive and made a trial version available for evaluation fairly quickly upon request. There were some providers that got back to me three days after an initial request so I didn't review those. If you don't hear back from an account manager within 24 hours, I suggest moving on. There are plenty of excellent providers out there that you shouldn't have to wait. I was particularly pleased that Citrix offers a 30-day trial of its cloud service upfront.
The big question when looking at MFT is where you want to set it up. Do you want a cloud-based service so that you don't have to deal with the maintenance headaches and expenses? MFT covers the spectrum, with on-premises software that you manage and install yourself, cloud-based services, as well as options to create a hybrid, either with a virtual appliance you install on your own private cloud, or by using Connectors to hook into the public cloud with local storage. The public cloud is highly appealing since you won't have to worry about provisioning the hardware, but you will typically be subject to user quotas on storage and bandwidth. Look at the different flavors carefully to figure out which of these environments you are getting, and which tradeoff you are willing to make.
What kind of security features are you looking for? If you just want encrypted file transfer, then you won't need to worry about key management, which is typically reserved for higher tier offerings. Or you may not use email much to transfer files, in which case you should be looking for options which offer secure FTP or HTTPS methods. Perhaps your file transfers are primarily part of automated scripts, in which case you want software capable of watching a specific location for when the file arrives, and then kicking off the transfer process and other related tasks automatically. Automation is another feature that tends to be bundled in the higher tiers, so again, check the fine print to make sure the software version you are buying offers what you need. This is actually where the trial and evaluation software can get a little tricky since many providers offer a trial of the higher tiers only. Ask the providers for a complete list of exactly what you are getting.
FTP and MST
If you are steeped in the FTP world, that doesn't mean you can't use MFT. You can deploy MFT software to make FTP secure, such as configuring site restrictions to block connections from specific IP addresses, enforcing password rules, banning certain file types, or applying transfer limits on users. If you have multiple FTP sites, you can manage them all so that you know what is happening with each site. Or you can use the secure workspaces offered by the MFT software and let users connect via the FTP protocol. There are a lot of options to look into.
If your organization is operating in a highly regulated industry, reporting and audits are a fact of life. Some of the MFT solutions tend to be skimpy on the logging aspect, just tracking things like who uploaded which file and when. There are some software packages which offer a much more detailed audit trail, tracking information such as incorrect login attempts, when passwords were changed, when users were added to groups, and who accessed which folders. Reports are very useful to have on hand but accept that platforms which emphasize reporting will naturally be more complex to use.
It is really hard to compare the MFT software I reviewed on the basis of price alone because there are so many variables. For example, Citrix ShareFile Business costs $125 per user while Coviant Software Diplomat MFT Standard costs $2,995 per server license. (You can't tell by looking at the chart above if that's monthly, flat, etc., so be sure to click through to the individual reviews for more specific pricing info.)
It's hard to compare MFT software on price alone and that's because cloud-based providers will charge you on a per-user, per-month basis. This looks appealing if you are just getting started or have only a small number of users who will be using the platform. But, as mentioned earlier, there may be restrictions on file sizes and storage, especially on the lower tiers. The on-premises packages charge you upfront for a one-time license fee, at which point you are set, but you will likely want to pay for a maintenance contract for upgrades and support. Make sure that the maintenance contract lets you switch the software to a replacement server as well. The last thing you want is to have the hardware fail and then be forced to pay for a new license. On the other hand, the cost for on-premises software tends to balloon quickly because every add-on and module has a separate price tag. Again, making sure what you want, and figuring out which features are included and which ones you have to look at separately, is essential.
Do the math and figure out if the on-premises software, despite the higher initial upfront costs, works out to be cheaper for you after the first two years. Don't let the sticker shock alone steer you away from on-premises software. There are many things to keep in mind when evaluating secure MFT software. Take a look at the table for some of the ones we like, and check out the reviews below.
Featured Secure Managed File Sharing Service Reviews:
Linoma Software GoAnywhere MFT Standard Review
%displayPrice% at %seller% Linoma Software GoAnywhere MFT Standard lets you add on modules as your secure managed file transfer (MFT) needs grow. Still, the base SecureMail option is both powerful and straightforward. If you don't mind maintaining your own server, GoAnywhere MFT Standard is worth a look. Read the full review
Coviant Software Diplomat MFT Standard Review
%displayPrice% at %seller% Coviant Software Diplomat MFT Standard splits up secure managed file transfer (MFT) into three components, but users will spend most of their time creating and setting up jobs using the Java-based Client module. It is straightforward, but it doesn't look like any of its other competitors. Read the full review
Globalscape EFT Cloud Services Review
%displayPrice% at %seller% Globalscape EFT Cloud Services offers an extremely powerful secure managed file transfer (MTF) platform in the cloud. It provides comprehensive privacy controls, advanced user and folder management, and automation tools, making it a top choice for businesses looking for secure MFT. Read the full review
Citrix ShareFile Business Review
%displayPrice% at %seller% Citrix ShareFile Business offers an easy-to-use secure managed file transfer (MFT) service in the cloud, with comprehensive data privacy controls, basic file management, and support for local storage, making it extremely versatile for businesses. Read the full review
Accellion Kiteworks Business Review
%displayPrice% at %seller% Accellion Kiteworks Business offers an easy-to-use secure managed file transfer (MFT) service with basic data privacy tools and reporting. The service is strongest if you are using a mobile device to access the files. Read the full review