Business success today is built on operational efficiency, which is why there are so many tools available to help companies work and collaborate more effectively and to streamline workflows and processes. Automation is a big part of it and helps free up valuable time by reducing manual, repetitive processes and enabling workers to focus on their core functions.
The other major component to any business’ success is data, which can be in many formats, from simple spreadsheets to large, complex databases to massive image or video files. The larger the files, the more difficult it is to move them between storage sites or share them with other collaborators. For any organization managing large files or data sets, having the right tools to manage the right tools is critical to ensuring operational success. That’s where file transfer solutions can help.
File transfer isn’t a new concept and there are a number of file transfer options available today. As more and more businesses handle large volumes of information, and as those file sizes continue to grow, a basic, traditional file sharing solution may not be enough and may actually hinder processes. As with most technologies, depending on individual business needs and workflows, some solutions may be more effective than others. For instance, companies that need to move large files between sites or individuals may benefit from a solution that accelerates the transfer process to reduce time and increase collaboration. Ultimately, it comes down to knowing that options are out there, what your business processes look like, and how a file transfer solution can:
- Drive productivity
- Maximize operational efficiency
- Optimize infrastructure investments
- Secure data
- Enable better collaboration
- Simplify IT tasks
I had a chance to hear from FileCatalyst co-founder Chris Bailey recently to get some insight into what’s changed in the file transfer space, how those changes are benefiting businesses, and what some of the keys are to optimizing file transfer to maximize business efficiency. FileCatalyst was launched back in 2000 by Chris and John Tkaczewski (News - Alert) with the goal of accelerating and optimizing file transfers for a variety of needs. Before being acquired by HelpSystems earlier this year, FileCatalyst had grown to more than 1 million users. Bailey currently operates as the product manager for HelpSystems’ Data Security and File Acceleration solutions (the FileCatalyst products).
Erik Linask (News - Alert): The past year brought unprecedented changes in work environments and procedures. What has that meant for companies and how they collaborate and exchange information?
Chris Bailey: When COVID hit, a lot of industries had to change how they worked. In the media industry, for instance, there are a lot of teams, like post production, that were used to collaborating on files in their offices. Suddenly they were moved to remote locations, dispersed from one another and had to start relying on file sharing tools to collaborate with their colleagues.
EL: How can file transfer solutions help enhance collaboration within businesses?
CB: Companies using an ad hoc approach to sharing files come up against a number of issues around consistency between different applications, security, compliance, and more. File transfer solutions help solve a lot of these issues by providing a consistent experience, enhanced security, predictable transfer speeds, etc.
EL: How have file transfer solutions evolved in recent years?
CB: File transfer solutions have evolved in many different ways, actually. A lot of it revolves around automation and security and speed, but also advanced tools for administration and monitoring, detecting the health of your file transfer deployment – including storage and network – and detecting issues before they become problems. Cloud storage is becoming huge, including the migration of data between on-premises and cloud storage, and even integration with third-party tools like asset management tools is more important than ever. Many file transfer solutions are now fully integrated into these third-party tools, so users have access to familiar features but can still benefit from acceleration.
EL: How can file transfer solutions help companies increase their operational efficiency?
CB: There are actually a few ways file transfer solutions increase efficiency. If you are paying for expensive bandwidth and are not able to fully use that link when required, you’re clearly not making the most of your resources. But, an accelerated file transfer solution can help optimize your existing infrastructure. Also, there are many cases where moving files from point A to B quickly is essential – it could be a question of money, or literally a situation where lives are on the line. Modern file transfer solutions can remove file transfer bottlenecks and reduce down times, so people spend more time doing their jobs and less time waiting for files to be delivered.
EL: What’s wrong with the traditional transfer methods companies have been using for years?
CB: Most traditional file transfer methods are based on TCP protocol, which was never designed to do bulk file transfer on today’s high speed networks. TCP was designed for reliability, and it does that very well. But, TCP slows down the more distant the two file transfer endpoints are, which almost always results in sub-optimal file transfer speeds.
EL: What about companies using public cloud providers? How can file transfer maximize their cloud investments?
CB: There are a lot of complaints from companies that have moved to public cloud-based compute services, like AWS EC2, Microsoft (News - Alert) Azure, and others. One issue is that, once you move your applications to the cloud, you also need a way to effectively move files between remote locations and your cloud storage. In the case of migrating from legacy applications to the cloud, you may also have massive amounts of data to migrate to your new cloud storage from your on-premises storage. Having a tool that can optimize this process can get you up and running in a production environment with your cloud-based tools must more quickly, and can also make ongoing file transfers to and from those tools much more efficient.
EL: Do you have any data on how much time companies can save my adopting a file transfer solution?
CB: This is a difficult one, since it all depends on the nature of the file sets involved. If we compare an accelerated solution, like FileCatalyst (News - Alert) FTP, pick a file that’s 50 GB, and we know the available bandwidth is 1 Gbps, we can predict that it will take just over seven minutes to send that file with FileCatalyst. Using FTP, the speed may be fast if the transfer is taking place within the same city, but as the two points become more geographically distant, the transfer will take longer and longer. For example, if the two locations were New York and London, the same file transfer could take over 16 hours!
EL: How do file transfer solutions impact security?
CB: File transfer solutions should be as fast and reliable as possible, while maintaining the security of your data. Make sure to use a solution with end-to-end AES encryption on the file transfers. You should also consider whether the solutions can detect and thwart brute force hacking attacks, and to create a white list of trusted IP addresses and users.
EL: What monitoring and management tools are available for managing file transfers?
CB: Monitoring and management are very basic functions of most file transfer tools. Modern tools like FileCatalyst, though, have gone way beyond the basics. In addition to providing web-based administration and monitoring, FileCatalyst offers a real-time map view of all connected endpoints. Each endpoint can be administered from a single web console and reports can be generated for historic transfers. All historical data is also available for search functions.
EL: What are some of the key differences between different file transfer solutions?
CB: It really boils down to the features you are looking for and what is important for each business’ use cases and workflows. The number one things that sets us apart from traditional file transfer solutions is the predictability of the file transfer speed. Users know they will always be getting the maximum speed possible on their links, regardless of the distance between the locations involved.
Beyond the features and workflows that are supported by different vendors – again, that is largely based on individual business needs – some common features to look for include:
- Sending large files via email
- Monitoring folders for automated transfers
- Administration of the various sites
- Monitoring of ongoing transfers
- Reporting on historical data
- Event alerts
After that, all things being equal, you can also consider pricing, licensing models and support. We feel FileCatalyst offers extremely flexible pricing models that are extremely competitive with other accelerated file transfer solution vendors. As a company, we are also proud to provide direct support, rather than having to go through a third party that isn’t as familiar with the solutions.
EL: How should companies make their own decisions on a file transfer solution?
CB: Each business should first assess what problem(s) they are looking to solve and what their desired workflows will look like. Do they want a web-based system where users can do ad hoc submission or delivery of files through a web browser? Or are they looking for automatic movement of files where users can simply save files in a folder and those files will be sent transparently in the background? Or maybe they need a solution that adds accelerated file transfer capabilities to their existing systems. Decisions should be based on which solution is the best fit, and then which vendor they are most comfortable dealing with, which is where features, pricing, and support can be a factor.
EL: Are there specific verticals that should be considering file transfer solutions, or is it something that really can positively impact any business?
CB: Traditionally, we have dealt mostly with the media and entertainment industry because it always had the largest files. But, video content has exploded in size, starting back around 2005 with a shift to HD, and then to 4K a few years ago. Now, adding new dimensions to HD and 4K, like HDR (News - Alert), and the move to 8K are driving video file sizes even higher across many verticals. Moving these files with traditional methods takes an exceedingly long time.
Other verticals that have started to have similar problems include healthcare, specifically around medical imaging. Like the media and entertainment industry, the resolution and size of imaging files is growing very quickly as imaging technology is improving. Oil and gas exploration is another example. Geologic and seismic data is also very high resolution and is often generated offshore or in very remote locations and needs to be centralized for analysis.
The truth is that every industry has large files. With respect to accelerated file transfer, it is just a matter of whether there is a ROI from moving those files more quickly.
EL: Budgets are tighter than ever for most companies and they are looking carefully at every dollar they spend. Why is now the right time for companies to invest in file transfer?
CB: It is all about efficiency. With many companies moving to remote working, it is more important than ever to be sure files and data can be exchanged as efficiently as possible. Otherwise, indirectly, companies are losing money through lost productivity or underutilized infrastructure.
We know there is no one-size-fits-all solution or pricing model, which is why FileCatalyst offers solutions for many different workflows and has extremely flexible pricing. From a small post production house to a large enterprise, the pricing scales as businesses grow.
EL: Chris, thanks for taking the time to chat about file transfer. In an age where data is the new currency, getting all of that data where it needs to be is the way to maximize its value. It’s not just about media and healthcare, though. With the continued cloud movement, companies in nearly every vertical should be looking at file transfer solutions.
Edited by Erik Linask