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Network World - Email is still the dominant way to send information from one person to another. But when lots of big files are being sent, email servers can quickly start feeling the pressure, leading to degraded performance and network bandwidth strain.
This is what the managed file transfer (MFT) business addresses. Bypassing email servers, these systems are dedicated to transferring large files within organizations, between businesses and customers, or in business-to-business or application-to-application transactions. Email newsletters many times use MFTs to blast users about the latest news or promotions from their company. Financial institutions that send large numbers of documents to customers and other business partners may use MFT, too.
Managing all these file transfers is a sizeable market: Gartner analyst Ben Huang estimates it to be at between $700 million to $800 million per year, but that only takes into account recorded revenues. Other researchers estimate the market could be more than $2 billion.
Among the bigger players in MFT are IBM and Citrix, while a growing crop of startups such as YouSendIt aim for the small-business and consumer markets.
But the larger, more compelling trend in how these file transfers are managed is one that's seen across the tech landscape today. These businesses, and users, are attempting to adapt to a new cloud-based world where file transfers are not only done in the cloud, but cloud services allow for even broader capabilities compared to on-premise systems.
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There's been a flurry of activity in the past few weeks by vendors specializing or competing in file transfer management. No less than a half-dozen vendors have made news, mostly about extending their platforms to include new cloud-based services. Ipswitch File Transfer could be the clearest example. The company offers a series of MFT products, including a server for on-premise MFT. Last week, though, Ipswitch announced MOVEit, a completely cloud-based MFT.
"CIOs are facing pressure to manage data," says Simon Yates, a Forrester researcher who works with CIOs on mobile and workplace technology. "These are big trends around the amount of data being produced and providing ways to safely share content with a variety of users, and synch across all the devices workers are using."
Yates calls this the "anytime, anywhere" worker. Forty percent of information workers, he says, use three or more devices for work, while more than one-third of workers already use consumer-focused cloud applications, such as Dropbox, Box or iCloud. These trends are not slowing down; they're accelerating, and MFTs are seen as one way of helping to manage the flow of large amounts of data across these devices.
Vendors are looking to step in and take advantage. Gartner analyst Huang says the industry is dominated by big-name players. IBM's Sterling is seen as the market leader on the enterprise side, Huang says, with other players like Tibco, Axway, Seeburger, Informatica, Software AG and Citrix ShareFile in the mix.