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And there is the crop of smaller and mid-tier players, many of which in recent weeks have amended their products. Examples of these companies include, but are not limited to, YouSendIt, Ipswitch, Globalscape, CodeTwo and Kitepoint -- a new product from Accellion being released this week.
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What's the biggest difference among these providers? Generally, smaller providers may have a cheaper sticker price for services, with more basic features and functionality, says Huang. Larger vendors generally have more holistic approaches with additional bolt-on features that can be integrated into the systems, bringing packages into the seven-figure range, Huang says. With those added features comes added complexity, plus longer sales and deployment process. Mid-tier and smaller vendors may have fewer moving parts and a more logical and faster installation.
IBM's Sterling MFT, for example, ties in enterprise resource planning (ERP), and business process management (BPM) features as well, helping businesses automate and streamline operations leading up to the actual transfer of files in the MFT system.
Most on-premise, behind-the-firewall MFT systems run on traditional hardware and do not require dedicated infrastructure, but they do require high-memory servers, usually with high processing power since they are designed to handle large quantities of data transfer, along with features functions such as compression and encryption. Some vendors, like Ipswitch, have servers specifically designed for on-premise MFTs. Huang recommends using a dynamic storage array that has the ability to expand and contrast based on needs of specific file transfers, as well as having real-time backups or replications.
With the range of options from vendors also comes a variety of different ways these systems are architected on the back end. Some are policy-based with email platforms, such as Microsoft Outlook: Any file transfer more than 1MB or 2MB can be automatically processed by the MFT, for example, helping to take the strain off of email servers. Others are completely manual or automated processes where users manually select which transfers would be handled by the MFT. Or, automatic processes can be put in place for application-to-application transfers, to machine-to-machine, all done through the MFT.
Customers typically begin looking at MFTs when their email servers begin getting overcrowded, or if they have consistent need for large file transfers. "If an organization sending a 2MB newsletter to 10,000 people, that's pumping a lot of information through your network," says Michael Osterman, an independent researcher in the messaging and collaboration space. Instead, with an MFT, that same organization can upload one copy to an MFT server and send 10,000 much smaller emails that contain a link where users can access the content on the MFT server. All of the sudden the bandwidth consumption of those 10,000 newsletter readers is not happening all at once, but is spread out across a longer period of time, taking strain off the network.