Businesses always encourage employees to use their initiative. If something appears difficult or impossible at first, there’s usually a way around it. It’s not a problem, it’s a challenge.
This concept has already hatched the ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) phenomenon, where employees frustrated by the limitations of corporate systems, resort to devices and methods they use in their personal lives. Now a similar move is taking place in file transfer.
Email has become an integral part of our everyday lives. It was never designed as a file transfer system, but most people and organisations use it this way. In a survey last year, Osterman Research found that 22% of emails sent contain attachments.
But, these attachments are getting larger. Businesses are becoming more demanding and sophisticated about what they want to send. Attachments are no longer just word documents; they may be PDFs, PowerPoint presentations or even video. Email systems become “bloated with content” as Osterman puts it – and IT departments find that managing them takes up their time and budget.
On top of this, the rise in mobile working and the wide range of platforms (desktop at work or home, laptop, tablet, smartphone…) have increased the amount of email traffic and the complexity of managing the transfer of content.
Of course, most companies have a size limit on emails and have established FTP sites for this very purpose. But often these sites are insecure. Large file transfers were once far less common, so typically employees share password or login details leaving sensitive data or intellectual property potentially vulnerable to theft or corruption. Also, these sites offer no auditing facilities for corporate governance purposes.
In a business environment where speed is the essence, FTP sites have a further fatal flaw; they tend to be slow. Creating a new account can be time-consuming and inefficient use of bandwidth available means that the transfer itself can be frustratingly sluggish.
Consequently, now that sites such as Dropbox and YouSendit are becoming so popular for personal use, many employees are using these instead, just to get the job done quickly.
It’s the whole BYOD challenge all over again. While these cloud-based solutions are easy and convenient to use, like FTP sites they are insecure and can potentially be breached. Documents are usually sent without the protection of encryption, so adding to the risk. IT department s have little control or visibility with no tracking or verification of delivery for compliance or legal purposes.
The result of these developments is that a whole myriad of different methods of file transfer are being used within most organisations. In an Attachmate study of businesses across Europe, 64% of those polled said that their companies did not have a uniform approach in place for data transfer.
So what can businesses do to protect their data and other information? I have recently worked with the National Bank of Abu Dhabi to implement an enterprise-strength solution to secure and facilitate interactions between business partners and to establish a safe and manageable process for deploying updates to customer-facing websites.
It also needed to adhere to current and upcoming regulations related to data management and transference within the bank, especially the management of credit card information as defined by Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS).
They provided a solution that could be implemented in three phases. The bank now has multi-protocol support addressing business partner demands, the latest authentication, authorisation and encryption technologies to facilitate data security regulations such as PCI DSS and secure one-way synchronisation between the staging and production servers. This has all been combined to form a company-wide policy for handling data in transit.
I have also been working with a large UK insurance company whose business growth had brought new levels of risk. The success of the delivery of critical information was vital to the continued growth of the business. Yet, at the same time, working with an increasing number of business partners was adding to the vulnerability of information and the level of administration needed.
They can now monitor the end-to-end lifecycle of any file transferred to and from the company. As a result, hundreds of thousands of their files are now transferred reliably and in real-time with some automated file transfers initiated every five minutes.
Inevitably, compliance-heavy sectors such as financial services among the first to adopt managed file transfer. However, most information-centric businesses large and small will come up against the issue at some time or other – and all levels of solutions are now available to help.
When email was first introduced, nobody could foresee the size and complexity of content we now need to send. Managed file transfer is the next stage in the evolution, significantly reducing corporate risk and – importantly – making life much easier and simpler for the IT department.