Car Keys and New Car
Will this car hide my bald spot, make me younger, slimmer, and more appealing in every way?

So, what kind of file transfer solution do you need?  It can be a seemingly tricky question, with all the options on the market today.  More and more services emerge with what’s been called the “sync bubble”, and we all know what happens to bubbles.  No need for confusion, or to get wrapped up in the hype – let’s figure out what solution you need by taking a step back and talking about what you need it to do…

We all buy cars, right?  When we’re thinking about buying a car, what is (hopefully) a key question in our decision-making process?  Right after, “Will this car hide my bald spot, make me younger, slimmer, and generally more appealing in every way” don’t we usually ask ourselves what this car needs to do?  Does the car need to drive through 2 feet of snow, uphill, both ways, during the winter?  Are you also planning to run a part-time piano moving service during the summer with your new car? If you find yourself answering yes to those questions, while test driving a Yaris, you may actually be in the market for a truck.  The Yaris is a lovely car in its own right, but 2 feet of snow is probably over the hood, and your piano service better not line up any cargo bigger than my two-year old son’s toy keyboard.

All kidding aside, I can tell you that EFFS and MFT solutions are different, but I’m probably only really helping you if I’m telling you what each is best suited to help you achieve.

What is EFSS?

Enterprise File Sync and Share (EFSS) services tend to focus on person-to-person synchronization, along with some collaboration and user management. Some solutions may provide some visibility/auditing features, depending on the vendor and subscription tier. A key defining trait of an EFSS service is that it is typically designed for, marketed to, and sold to end users, with IT folks left in the dark. Many EFSS vendors have recently added some administrative tools to appease IT managers, who are frustrated by the loss of control over their networks and the inherent security risks.  Rumor has it at least one major EFSS service even uses the same encryption key for all of their users (which is kind of silly, if the intent is to keep people outside of your organization from reading your stuff).  This is so well-known in enterprise IT that “just store it in (insert major EFSS vendor)” is a running joke for workers in the data protection field.  Regardless of efforts to enhance security, EFSS services are still end user focused, resulting in many enterprise IT managers actually blocking EFSS services from their corporate domains to maintain control of their networks.

What is MFT?

Managed File Transfer (MFT) solutions support person-to-person file sharing with added security and visibility, and they really shine with automated system to system file processing capabilities, including file transportation, translation, encryption, sorting, filtering, routing and compression, to name a few. You won’t find file processing automation tools in the sync bubble, beyond your basic synchronization.  IT managers can also configure transfer workflows over all the standard, established protocols, using an MFT solution.  The right MFT solutions (who are we kidding…certain Ipswitch MFT solutions) won’t have (any) transfer size limits, whereas EFSS solutions and even many other MFT solutions will have file size limits that won’t support many large file types (high def videos, MRIs, CAD/design files).  Think piano in a Yaris.

MFT solutions have to work – and work well – for end users. But they also provide the robust administrative toolset that IT managers need to ensure security and compliance.  While EFSS services aren’t typically backed by an SLA offering uptime guarantees and credit schedules for downtime, MFT solutions offer robust SLAs, guaranteeing access to your business critical files.

Which solution should I use?

Let’s consider some use cases and which solution might be right in each situation:

When it comes to moving and processing files, you’ll need to know where it’s going, how it’s going, and what happens to it upon departure, en route and upon arrival.  Will you be exchanging files with colleagues, customers, or patients? Just with yourself, between devices? With friends and relatives? Do you need to be able to see every single person, action and file that touches your solution in audit logs, for compliance reasons? While not an exhaustive list of questions, these are key ones to ask.  Do you need to move a piano?

These issues matter because they help determine the capabilities and service availability that you’ll need in your solution.

  • Your automated file movement may be triggering order fulfillment for your products. If the files don’t make it from location A to B, you may lose orders, customers and money…
  • You may be processing 5GB videos, from around the world, and need to get them turned around in a matter of hours for your end clients.  If the videos don’t make the transfer or take too long that video content gets stale, and loses value…
  • If you’re a medical oncologist and you can’t review your patient’s latest MRIs because the service is down or the data corrupted, you may not be able to treat your patient…
  • If you’re sharing baby pictures, your parents won’t lose clients, money or patients if they can’t see the pictures for a few hours…

In the first few cases, what you’re planning requires the enterprise class 4WD truck, to move your piano in an automated and secure fashion that your business depends on.  In the latter, you’re likely well suited with the Yaris.  They do get great mileage…

In my next post, I’ll cover what to look for in a service level agreement for this type of solution.

As you consider your MFT and EFSS options, check Osterman Research’s white paper: Evaluating Managed File Transfer in the Cloud: http://resources.ipswitchft.com/Evaluating-Managed-File-Tranfer-in-the-Cloud.html

Today’s tale from the front lines of network monitoring comes from an IT admin at a school district in New Jersey. His IT infrastructure was decentralized and challenging to manage. “Our network was more or less a mess. Most of the switches were not manageable and I had no tool at all to help me keep everything up and running.”

CaptureOn a strict budget, the district was able to purchase WhatsUp Gold and WhatsUp Gold Flow Monitor for network and bandwidth monitoring. After installation of Flow Monitor the IT admin noticed a large spike in unauthorized bandwidth traffic coming from one of the school buildings, which dragged down network performance. He monitored the abnormality and found it happened at the same time every day. He was then able to pinpoint the source. 

It turns out that a small group of students gathered during their free class every day at 1:00 pm and were downloading movies from torrent sites and iTunes. Their wireless access was suspended for a while.

“If it weren’t for Ipswitch network management, that unauthorized usage of the network bandwidth likely would have gone unnoticed and continued to have a negative effect on the overall performance of the network.”

Are your users so used to mediocrity that they don’t even complain anymore? Staff at a Business Process Outsourcing company that provides contact center services spends its work day on the phone with customers. That means they depend on the performance of both the phone system and the applications they use while on calls.

But the customer service staffers were so used to application latency and substandard voice quality that didn’t bother submitting tickets (“it’s always been like that,” a long-time staffer reported when asked why she hadn’t notified IT). When a new staff member complained, IT jumped on the issue. voip-telephone-wire

Michael, a network admin, called Ipswitch to ask a Sales Engineer for advice. They agreed that Michael’s best bet was to install WhatsUp Gold VOIP Monitor and set up SLAs. Using the VOIP config utility, Michael configured IP SLAs for every WAN circuit. According to Michael, “As soon as we had everything built, one site went into alarm for voice quality issues. Upon investigating the alarm we found up to 14% packet loss outbound from the site on one MPLS circuit. We build a second SLA for the non-voice site that would be treated and verified the packet loss was not just on voice traffic.” Michael found the cause of the latency and voice quality issues and was on the trail to get them fixed.

We asked Michael how long it would have taken him to solve the problem without WhatsUp Gold VOIP Monitor. He told us, “We may not have even known there was a problem for a long time. Once WUG VOIP was running, it only took a few minutes to find the problem. It took a couple weeks before the provider would do the proper testing onsite to narrow down the issue, but once they did they found a bad interface on the Ethernet demark for our circuit.”

“Since resolving the issue, all applications have run faster and voice quality has improved considerably. Agents and customers can hear each other better and with the applications not suffering from latency, call times have been reduced meaning there can be more calls per agent. This affects the bottom line more than anything.”

 

MFT Webinar Recap
Ipswitch’s recent round-table included Michael Osterman, Principal at Osterman Research, and MFT experts from the healthcare and financial services industries.

There was a time when managed file transfer (MFT) solutions were considered a luxury; a nice-to-have for IT departments and large organizations. Those days are gone. Today, MFT has become mission-critical, particularly for those in the financial services and healthcare industries.

But why – what is driving this shift to managed file transfer inside so many businesses today?
To address this question, we brought together two Ipswitch File Transfer customers and an industry analyst for a roundtable discussion in our webinar the 4 Reasons Every Business Needs a Managed File Transfer Solution. The three subject experts were:

  • Rebecca Freise, Automation Application Specialist for Oppenheimer Funds
  • Regan McBride, Business Process Automation Consultant to multiple businesses including VIVA Health
  • Michael Osterman, Principal at Osterman Research

Here’s what we heard from the panel:

#1. Security is not an option (it’s a necessity)
These days, it’s hard to find a company that isn’t letting employees work remotely; that doesn’t have employees using mobile devices to get work done, and that doesn’t have a set of employees using a consumer-esqe file management tool like Dropbox. While convenient for some, these policies are a nightmare for IT departments, who must ensure that file transfers are both secure and auditable. Michael Osterman explains the dilemma:

“You may have sensitive or confidential content sent in violation of the corporate regulations or a variety of regulatory statutes. In many cases, IT simply can’t audit that content. They don’t know where it’s going. They don’t know how long it’s going to live. They don’t know who sent it to whom and how it was disseminated from there.”

See the problem? On a fundamental level, IT requires visibility and control of the entire file transfer process – something all the panelists agreed on – and the only way to ensure this level of control is through an MFT solution.

#2. You can’t risk violating regulations
Without an MFT solution, companies run the risk of violating a growing number of statutes and regulations designed to protect sensitive data from being breached. In fact, many businesses will find that regulatory requirements are the primary reason for adopting MFT.

#3. It’s not just about moving files, it’s about supporting business process
Managed file transfer is not about supporting the frivolous transfer of files between employees. It’s about supporting efficient file transfer as part of a business process – and therefore allows IT to better manage what happens next to the files or data.

Ragan McBride explained:

“A lot of our employees were going out to FTP sites on their own, grabbing data using regular FTP clients. IT would then have to get involved to unencrypt a lot of that data. We would trust that those users were using the data correctly, importing it to their databases as expected and making sure the data formats were correct. We were finding a lot of time was being spent on the IT side (helping end users figure this out).”

A managed file transfer system not only manages the file transfer, but also tracks the file’s connection to the corresponding business process, whether that business process is another system, a desktop user or a mobile user.

#4 – MFT makes life easier for IT Teams
This may best explain the continued adoption of MFT – MFT systems help make life easier for IT teams, addressing pain points such as audits and reporting and freeing up time to focus on more important tasks–instead of wasting time dealing with ad hoc file transfer requests, sifting through file transfer data to debug an issue, and locating lost files.

Rebecca Freise shared that prior to their MFT system, “We had issues with researching and finding specific transmissions and reporting on specific timeframes of file transmissions. And then trying to do an audit and report on specific clients was difficult and very time-consuming. Just doing any kind of research on any transmission was difficult. It took a lot of meeting hours to get things accomplished.”

And Michael Osterman explained this further,

“If you don’t have a good file transfer system in place, IT ends up having to do a lot of extra work to manage all of those file transfer processes, often on an ad hoc basis. The creation and maintenance of file transfer technologies becomes a real burden for IT simply because they have to do things like write custom scripts to move files, they need to build additional security around FTP servers that in many cases are just inherently insecure, they have to devote IT staff resources to manage the file transfer process where they otherwise wouldn’t have to if you had a good solution in place, and they have to use staff resources to manage all of the security and really the risk mitigation that goes along with file transfer.”

And in days of tightening budgets and strained resources, what IT group wouldn’t take something that can save precious time and remove some day-to-day headaches?

For more on the growing need for Managed File Transfer solutions, view the 4 Reasons Why Every Business Needs an MFT Solution webinar or read Michael Osterman’s recent guest post.

Rapid business expansion is great for the profit margin, but usually a trial by fire for departments like IT. As a group, IT can have a hard time moving fast enough to keep up in an atmosphere of fast change and new demands, particularly when IT practices and monitoring tools that worked fine in the past just can’t be stretched any further.

When a London auto-parts company decided to go national, they didn’t anticipate just how much strain this growth would create for IT – or how much time IT might need to develop a new way of operating.

Petit Le MansAccording to one long-time IT staffer: “Too much information was in human memory, and that reliance on tradition stopped being effective at some point. And it took a while for us even to see that ‘business as usual’ was hurting us. It turns out the network has no respect for the IT admin’s day off or his expectation that you can’t call him 24/7. This really hadn’t been a problem until we had dozens of sites and the company was doing more business online. By the time we went over 100 stores, it was bedlam

…for one thing, troubleshooting network issues had become a lot harder. It’s one thing to suffer through manually searching router configurations, device logs, etc., to try to get to the bottom of an issue when your network isn’t all that big. But when you are supporting hundreds of users and more remote sites than you can keep track of mentally, you need some serious software to do that for you.”

So after one very long night and one very painful network crash, the company got serious about upgrading both the policies and products they used to ensure the health of the network, everything on it, and every way it could be accessed.

The IT department decided to use WhatsUp Gold and Flow Monitor from Ipswitch: “We evaluated some options. Picking WhatsUpGold was a no-brainer because it made it so easy for us to monitor of all our remote sites and track down small anomalies that in the past would probably have led to downtime, phone calls, and a fire drill in IT. We also needed Flow Monitor, the plug-in lets us keep on top of exactly how traffic is flowing at our most important offices. Now we’re not out of breath all the time, we don’t angry calls all the time, and we are so much better able to get in front of issues and plan for what’s ahead of us.

Today’s tale from the front lines of network monitoring comes to us from a network administrator at a large electronic invoicing company in Mexico. His company serves large multinational corporations as well as thousands of medium and small clients. His task is to keep Microsoft Exchange up and running at peak performance levels to ensure quick invoice delivery.

However, slowdowns started to become a real problem. And he often didn’t hear about it until 10-15 users got affected by them and started to complain. Then it would take a while to determine the cause, eating up more time than he or the company’s employees could afford.

4In his case, it took, on average, a good 4 hours to solve each slowdown.

Some users were receiving large emails of 10 megabytes or so which caused slowness when downloading,” the manager explains. “Or, if a user’s mailbox was full we had to be able to proactively monitor it and fix it before the employee could send anything to a customer.”

After looking at a few network monitoring products, he selected WhatsUp Gold. He chose it because of its proactive alerts and the ability to monitor different Exchange Server queues with WMI.

As a result, there has been a major reduction of incidents. An alert arrives on his smart phone as soon as a predefined Exchange monitoring threshold is crossed. This buys him time to fix the problem long before it starts to affect many users. Just as important, WhatsUp gold gives him back four hours of his work day so he can work on more important tasks. 

 

Today’s tale from the front lines of network monitoring comes to us from an IT director for a major container transportation company. To keep the containers moving, the company has a big network of virtual and physical servers and desktops across 12 locations. The IT director was told that service levels had fallen and an overhaul of the dated network was probably necessary. disconnect1

His staff shared an 8 month-old network map that had taken 3 weeks to create manually. A quick look around the data center showed a lot of changes since the map was created. He assumed the company’s other 11 locations wouldn’t match the map either.  He started to search for a network mapping solution but all he could find were products that were either too expensive, too loaded with features he didn’t want, or required extensive training to get up and running.  

Overwhelmed, he reached out to a former colleague who recommended he try Ipswitch WhatsConnected, a Layer 2 and Layer 3 network diagram product for network discovery and network mapping.

Getting a new view of the situation

Within hours after downloading WhatsConnected, he was had an accurate discovery of his entire data center. After performing a discovery on all 11 locations he was able to quickly sort out what needed replacing. As a result, SLAs went way up, while the need for manual audits became a thing of the past.

businesses transferring files
Businesses are sending more information electronically than ever before between employees, business partners, and customers.

Your organization is sending more information electronically than ever before

We’re IT people, so we know that businesses are transferring more information electronically than ever before between employees, business partners, and customers.  We’re exchanging information to improve our top line—perhaps increasing the number of business partners or volume of transactions— and to improve our business processes and efficiency.

 Files move as part of a business process and need to stay connected to it.

After years of developing and supporting Managed File Transfer (MFT) systems with thousands of customers, I can say that the “smart money” companies think about their file movement through the lens of their business processes – or how their business works.

Let’s take the process of reporting an accident to an insurance company as one example of the many reasons files move to get work done.

  • While at an accident scene, a mobile claims agent receives a customer’s insurance policy, which has been sent from the policy system of record.
  • The agent views the policy on a tablet, and then uploads information and pictures of the accident, which are sent back to the customer’s master record in the policy system.
  • The new information is shared, or “moved” to the claims processors as well.
  • Perhaps during the process, the claim is transferred to a business partner, or underwriter, and then returned.
  • Customer service then reaches out to the customer, sending a summary of the claim and the pictures.

Your business is likely moving a lot of files between people, systems, and businesses too.  They may be sent as part of more tightly defined business process like the insurance example above, or more loosely defined.  And the common denominator – each file movement is part of a process.

That leads to a few realizations:

  • That file based process needs to work for business to get done. There’s no margin for error.
  • That file needs to stay associated with the process – such as a patient’s permanent record
  • While systems often move files, people are a critical element of the process
  • You can’t responsibly leave the reliability, security, visibility, and control of these file transfers supporting your business processes to chance. That would expose your business to an awful lot of risk.

An MFT System brings order, predictability, and security to file movement- improving business performance and reducing risk.

Think of the all the types of file transfers within your business that are associated with file-based business processes. An MFT system can bring security, reliability, visibility, and control to those processes – with very little effort.

In Part 2 of my Blog Post, I will share what your MFT system should support in order to get you these critical outcomes of security, reliability, visibility and control around your business process.

Why the “M” in “Managed File Transfer”? Part 2

In part 1 of this post, I shared—based on our experience developing and supporting managed file transfer systems with thousands—what impact a business can expect from their Managed File Transfer (MFT) system. It comes down to making business processes driven by file movement (and which ones aren’t?) more secure and reliable with increased visibility and control.

To accomplish this, the MFT system needs to provide:

Security, and lots of it—There are two key components to security.  First, there’s the security of the MFT system itself and the content in it. Be sure your MFT vendor protects you from the latest list of vulnerabilities.  Make sure they do things like PEN testing, static and dynamic code analysis.  Second, you need security features that manage access and integrate easily with your business’s security systems.

Reliability—It is your business that runs on file movement.  So, make sure the system will transfer information reliably and alert you to any issues.  Reputation here is critical.

Automated movement of files—After all, this is a business process. Once a file enters the MFT system, it needs to move to the right place.  Perhaps to its permanent record location or to the next place work needs to get done.  Simple, reliable automation is required to keep your business moving and improve productivity.

Visibility and control of file movement—With all the movement of files, you need a system which gives you visibility into where each file went, confirmation it arrived on time, as well as control of those destinations and movement.

Compliance—Yes, we all answer to someone.  When you have to meet your compliance requirements for reporting or discovery, an MFT system can help take the pain out of it.

Integrates people and their roles—A big part of any process has to include people communicating, not just systems. Your MFT system should make it easy for people to get and send their files.  For your employees to adopt it, this has to be through familiar, easy-to-use tools such as web interfaces and email.  After all, 90% of all information shared between people takes place via email.

Work seamlessly across mobile and desktops—As you extend your processes to mobile devices, look for a solution that can include mobile in file-based business processes. Files can be accessed, or entered, from a mobile device – even sent to other people – while still being connected to your business process.  This goes way beyond the collaboration-focused choices in the market – this is Mobile MFT.

So, why are the “enlightened” buying into an MFT System these days?  They recognize:

  • Organizations move lots of files between business, systems, and people
  • Files move as part of a business process, even to mobile employees or partners
  • A system must move files securely and keep them associated with the right business process
  • -There are cost effective, easy choices for Managed File Transfer available today
  • IT gains quick, positive impact with improved speed and reliability of mission-critical business processes

IT gains visibility and control, as well as reduced exposure from existing less reliable, insecure, and disparate system approach many use today.

And what’s exciting for me personally, is that with today’s MOVEit 8.0 launch we have taken a significant step forward in supporting our customers who have taken this vision and operationalized it. Like any industry, the requirements for our customers continually evolve, and we have advanced many features that help our customers remain in control of their file based business process – most notably the launch of mobile Managed File Transfer so that the people aspects of manage file transfer now include mobile workers.  There are several resources you can explore further to learn more about the product launch and other topics covered above:

Today’s tale from the front lines of network monitoring comes to us from Edgar, a systems administrator at a bank in Northern Europe. Edgar has been at the bank long enough to know the systems inside and out, but his expertise was challenged each time the bank acquired a smaller bank or merged with a rival. The new banks had different systems and plenty of custom applications.    

Since Edgar was the trusted expert in IT, he was expected to deal with the toughest problems at all the banks. But as the number of different systems grew, so did Edgar’s stress. Naturally, the monitoring tools at each bank were a hodge-podge of software, some of which he didn’t know and didn’t have time to figure out. And since everyone used different products, the reports they created were inconsistent and hard to sort out the solid data.

toolbox-1The last straw came when a new admin in Latvia asked him for help creating a network map with SolarWinds. Never mind that Edgar didn’t speak Latvian. His experience with SolarWinds network maps had been disappointing. It didn’t make sense for the banks to have separate – and unequal – network mapping abilities, especially since accurate maps were needed for regulatory compliance.

Tired of the headaches caused by too many different tools, Edgar convinced his boss that it was past time to standardize on one product for monitoring across all the banks. Edgar decided to have a bake-off between WhatsUp Gold, which he’d been using for network monitoring for years, SolarWinds and Paessler. To be as open-minded as possible, he called each company and asked for a demo, with a particular emphasis on mapping, dashboards and reports.

For his final demo, Edgar called a WhatsUp Gold Sales Engineer and challenged him to prove that he should propose WhatsUp Gold as the new standard. The Sales Engineer gave Edgar a demo of the newest version including Application Performance Monitor (which Edgar hadn’t seen before). Not only were the maps better that in the competing products, the out-of-the-box reports were just what he needed. And Edgar was blown away that WhatsUp Gold’s single dashboard also included all the data from the Application Performance Monitor, so the staff wouldn’t have to switch interfaces to work with different parts of the IT environment. gbbakeoff

Edgar didn’t need long to decide that WhatsUp Gold was his answer. It wouldn’t help him speak Latvian, but perhaps now he wouldn’t have to.

Lessons learned:

  • When companies merge or acquire, the variety of monitoring tools can create a headache for IT
  • Standardizing on a monitoring suite saves time and reduces complexity and frustration
  • The ability to monitor applications in the same dashboard as all the infrastructure made every admin’s job easier

Servers, networks and applications aren’t the only remote devices that some companies need to manage. Did you know WhatsUp Gold can also monitor point-of-sale devices such as vending machines, in-store video games and ticket turnstiles? In fact, any device that supports ping, SNMP or WMI management protocols.

fictional-amusementparks-cartmanlandThis is my lead-in for today’s tale from the front lines of network monitoring that comes to us from a network administrator who works at a big theme park company based in France.

He was tired of managing crises related to malfunctioning turnstiles. Any time a turnstile didn’t work, lines backed up, customers grew unhappy, and confusion rippled through the crowds waiting to get in. The last straw for our customer was when a frustrated park manager emailed him a video of children crying because they couldn’t get in right away.

The turnstiles were supposed to be “self-managing” but their built-in reporting required a separate dashboard and alerts that were hard to adjust and investigate. There just wasn’t enough IT staff to dedicate someone to monitor the turnstiles and learn all the intricacies of the alerts. When turnstiles don’t work, customers either turn on you, or turn away. 

After using WhatsUp Gold for two weeks, the network admin convinced his boss that he’d found the solution that would not only monitor their network and servers, but also remotely monitor the IP-connected entry turnstiles using SNMP. 

Now both the centralized IT team and onsite engineers get an alert immediately when a turnstile’s performance has dropped below a threshold, and the network administrator can trace the root cause from the same dashboard he uses for any other network issue. Theme-Park-kids-coaster

But don’t take my word for it. Here’s what our customer had to say: “WhatsUp is extremely simple to use, very reliable and has become essential to our day-to-day infrastructure management. I would highly recommend it.”

Now it’s your turn.

 

Today’s tale from the front lines of network management comes from a tech services firm that manages a large hotel chain’s central network. The hotels themselves don’t have IT staff onsite. Instead, each one has a local reseller managing their network. It was considered a money saver. But it made it harder to manage centrally. Standardization policies were important to follow because everything needed to run as if it were managed by one team. No hotel manager wanted to field guest complaints about poor Wi-Fi access.

Free-hotel-WiFiBut some of the resellers weren’t in compliance with the policies. This forced the tech services firm to spend way too much time troubleshooting unnecessary problems. They also grew tired of amount of finger pointing that came as a result from problems that couldn’t be solved instantly.

They decided to take full control of network configuration.

The tech services firm chose WhatsConnected software from Ipswitch for Layer 2/3 discovery, mapping, inventory, and IT asset reporting. The product allowed them to verify each hotel’s network was set up the same way as all the rest, and network monitoring was continuous.

With full visibility through network monitoring, the number of hard-to-fix problems went way down, and so did the instances of finger pointing. Uncle_Sam_(pointing_finger)

Many companies decide to centralize to one degree or another because it can be less expensive than having an IT pro locally manage each branch of the network. But should you insist on standard hardware, software and configurations? How much variation can you allow? And how can you make sure the standards you set are actually being followed?