Managed File Transfer vs. FTP: What’s the Difference?
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Managed File Transfer vs. FTP: What’s the Difference?

Learn the difference between managed file transfer and FTP and what they can do for your business.

According to Statista estimates, we generate a mind-boggling 328.77 million terabytes of data daily. Approximately 120 zettabytes of data will be created in 2023 alone, which is around 60 times more than what we generated in 2010 (two zettabytes).

Businesses are no stranger to this data explosion, and they use data in several ways to enhance their operations and decision-making processes. Transferring mission-critical data is necessary for the day-to-day functioning of a business. Opting for a secure managed file transfer solution when moving sensitive data from point A to point B often makes the most sense.

What’s the difference between managed file transfer (MFT) solutions and simple file transfer protocol (FTP) solutions? Read on to learn the distinction between these methods.

What Is File Transfer Protocol?

FTP is a standard web protocol that uses a client-server architecture to transfer files from one computer (the server) to another (the client) over the internet or a network.

You use an FTP client application like FileZilla, FTP Voyager or Progress WS_FTP to connect to an FTP server. Once connected, you can download and upload files and traverse the remote file system.

The traditional FTP method has encountered security issues. On March 22, 2017, the FBI issued a warning that malicious actors are using FTP servers that have been configured to allow anonymous access (anonymous FTP servers) to steal personally identifiable information (PII) and protected health information (PHI). FTP, like HTTP—both without the “s” on the end—are considered insecure.

However, File Transfer Protocol Secure (FTPS) and Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP), like HTTPS—with the “s”—are secure protocols and are supported by many popular FTP servers, including WS_FTP Server.

What Is a Managed File Transfer Solution?

The security flaws of FTP and HTTP led to the market introduction of managed file transfer software. MFT is a file transfer solution that combines software and hardware technologies to provide a more secure and managed approach to transferring data over a computer network.

Managed file transfer solutions take advantage of standard network protocols and encryption techniques to help automate and orchestrate the safe passage of files between numerous systems. Managed file transfer software offers several useful features, like file transfer tracking, auditing, reporting, object-level security and automated notifications.

Additionally, MFT software like Progress MOVEit is built to help customers meet strict cybersecurity regulations, such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The Advantages of Managed File Transfer Solutions vs. FTP

A managed file transfer solution is essentially a more modern and secure version of FTP, with a richer feature set. To further expand on this, here are the advantages of managed file transfer software over FTP:

Improved File Transfer Security

Managed file transfer software offers control measures, such as automatic notifications for file transfers (successful or failed) and file integrity checks.

More Complete Encryption

Encryption in transit and at rest are key features that drive many customers to MFT. While some FTP servers may support encrypted transfers, the data is not encrypted at rest, which exposes it to exploits from threat actors.

Enhanced Ability to Meet Regulatory Compliance

With a managed file transfer solution, businesses can better comply with numerous standards and regulations that necessitate strict control over data transfer. Features like automated tracking, auditing and reporting make it easier to meet these requirements.

Advanced Automation and Management Features

With FTP, you cannot manage aspects of data transfer like data workflows or transparency. MFT software often provides more automation and management tools that a modern business may need for file transfer, including automation of complicated workflows, checkpoint restart, custom scripting, file compression and integration with other systems.

Increased File Visibility

Managed file transfer provides better control and visibility over file transfers. Features like real-time monitoring and detailed audit logs allow businesses to track, examine and report on file transfers.