May 8, 2024

    MFT vs. EFSS: Choosing the Right Solution for Your Business

    MFT vs. EFSS: Choosing the Right Solution for Your Business
    14:22

     

    In today's digital age, the secure and efficient transfer of files within and outside an organization is not just a convenience—it's a necessity. For businesses managing sensitive data across regulated industries like defense, healthcare, and finance, choosing the right file transfer solution can be pivotal. Managed File Transfer (MFT) and Enterprise File Sync and Share (EFSS) are two leading technologies that facilitate the secure transfer of data. This blog post will explore the differences between MFT and EFSS, helping systems administrators and business decision-makers select the best option for their organization.

    Understanding Managed File Transfer (MFT) and Enterprise File Sync and Share (EFSS)

    Managed File Transfer (MFT) is a solution that provides secure data transfer management across a network. MFT software allows organizations to manage, monitor, and report on file transfers more efficiently than with traditional file transfer protocols (FTP), ensuring compliance with legal and corporate policies.

    Enterprise File Sync and Share (EFSS) solutions, meanwhile, are designed to allow employees to sync and share documents and files across multiple devices, ensuring accessibility and collaboration, often integrating with cloud storage services.

    While MFT is traditionally used for high-volume, secure file transfers, EFSS is best suited for collaborative work environments where sharing and editing documents is a frequent need.

    File Transfer Protocols (FTP) and Security Features

    MFT and EFSS utilize a variety of file transfer protocols to ensure data is securely managed and transferred:

    • FTP/S, SFTP, HTTP/S, and AS2/AS3 are commonly supported by MFT solutions for secure and reliable transfers.
    • EFSS solutions often use WebDAV, HTTPS, or proprietary APIs that integrate with cloud services.

    When it comes to security, MFT solutions are designed with robust features such as encryption at rest and in transit, secure authentication methods, and detailed logging of all file transfer activity, making them suitable for industries regulated by standards such as CMMC, ITAR, HIPAA, GDPR, SOX and more.

    EFSS platforms, while also secure, focus more on user convenience, archiving, and offering features like document collaboration. However, they might lack the advanced security controls and detailed auditing capabilities required for high-compliance environments while simultaneously coming at a much higher cost.

    Security Features Comparison 

    Security Feature

    MFT (Managed File Transfer)

    EFSS (Enterprise File Sync and Share)

    Encryption

    Full encryption at rest and in transit

    Often only in transit

    Authentication

    Multi-factor, robust authentication mechanisms including, Single Sign-On, and SSH keys when using SFTP

    Basic, Single Sign-On, and sometimes multi-factor

    Compliance Support

    High (FedRAMP, CMMC, ITAR, NIST SP 800-171, HIPAA, GDPR, SOX)

    Moderate (Primarily GDPR, some HIPAA, and FedRAMP on pricier solutions)

    Logging and Auditing

    Extensive logging, real-time monitoring, and auditing

    Basic to moderate, lacks granular audit trails

    Access Controls

    Granular access controls, role-based permissions

    User-level permissions, often less granular

    Endpoint Security

    Strong endpoint security measures, device management

    Limited endpoint controls, relies more on device compliance

    Network Protection

    Advanced network protection including firewalls, intrusion detection systems

    Basic network protections, and relies on cloud infrastructure security

    Compliance and Industry Applications

    Both MFT and EFSS must handle data responsibly to meet compliance requirements:

    • Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) and ITAR Data: MFT solutions are typically preferred in the defense and aerospace sectors due to their enhanced security measures and ability to handle large files securely and efficiently.
    • HIPAA ePHI: Healthcare organizations benefit from MFT's robust audit trails and encryption capabilities, ensuring that ePHI remains secure during transfer.
    • Financial Information: Banks and financial institutions often opt for MFT because of its strong encryption standards and reliable tracking, crucial for financial audits and compliance.

    Usability and Functionality

    Usability varies significantly between MFT and EFSS. MFT solutions are often tailored for IT teams with features geared towards centralized control and monitoring, whereas EFSS products focus on end-user simplicity and accessibility across devices.

    Integration with existing systems also plays a critical role:

    • MFT solutions seamlessly integrate with enterprise applications like ERP and CRM systems that often have an FTP, SFTP, or FTPS connector
    • EFSS platforms are commonly integrated with collaboration tools such as Microsoft Office 365 and Google Workspace, enhancing user productivity.

    Examples of MFT Solutions and EFSS Solutions

    Prominent MFT products include Sharetru, which offers extensive security and compliance features, and IBM Sterling File Gateway, known for its robust integration capabilities.

    In contrast, popular EFSS solutions include Dropbox Business, Google Drive, and Box, which are known for their user-friendly interfaces and efficient collaboration tools.

    When should you choose MFT?

    Choosing a Managed File Transfer (MFT) software over an Enterprise File Sync and Sharing (EFSS) solution could be the right decision for several reasons, particularly when answers to the following questions lean towards scenarios where security, compliance, large-scale file transfer capabilities, and intricate workflow needs are paramount. Here are a few reasons you might choose an MFT solution over an EFSS solution.

    Sharing Outside Your Organization

    • Managed File Transfer software stands out for its versatility in facilitating both internal and external file sharing, delivering a secure and comprehensive platform for seamless data exchange. This adaptability makes MFT a top choice for organizations looking to streamline communication not just within the company, but also with external partners. Adding users to an MFT system is straightforward, avoiding the often complex and cumbersome process associated with integrating external users into an EFSS platform like Sharepoint. This is why we often see Sharetru continue running in parallel to some EFSS platforms.
    • Enterprise File Sync and Sharing (EFSS) platforms are designed to enhance internal collaboration, making these solutions a go-to for boosting organizational productivity. Although EFSS platforms offer some capabilities for external file sharing, their core functionality is geared towards refining and optimizing internal workflows and processes.

    Security and Compliance Needs

    • If your security requirements are stringent, an MFT solution typically offers advanced security features such as end-to-end encryption (encryption at rest, encryption in transit), secure protocols (e.g., SFTP, FTPS), and detailed audit trails. This is crucial for industries like finance, healthcare, aerospace, defense, and government, where protecting sensitive information is mandatory.
    • For strict compliance with regulations like GDPR, HIPAA, PCI-DSS, CMMC, or ITAR, MFT solutions often provide comprehensive compliance features out-of-the-box, ensuring that data handling meets legal and industry standards.

    Managing Large Files and Volumes

    • When transferring large files or large volumes of data is a regular requirement, MFT solutions are designed to handle these needs efficiently, without compromising performance or reliability much better than EFSS tools that are not built with this in mind.
    • For automation of intricate workflows, MFT platforms offer sophisticated capabilities to automate file transfers, integrate with backend systems, and streamline processes, reducing manual errors and improving efficiency.

    High-Level Control and Customization

    • If granular control over user access and permissions is needed, MFT solutions excel. They provide detailed control mechanisms, allowing administrators to finely tune access rights and permissions at a very granular level.
    • When integration with enterprise systems is crucial for your operations, MFT solutions are typically better equipped to seamlessly integrate with existing infrastructure like ERP, CRM, and custom applications, enabling smoother workflows and enhanced productivity.

    Reliability for Critical Operations

    • For organizations where file transfer operations are mission-critical, MFT platforms deliver high reliability and uptime guarantees. They are built to support essential business processes without disruption because some have native integration with SFTP, which is a stateful protocol.
    • In scenarios demanding thorough audit trails for compliance and monitoring, MFT solutions offer robust logging and reporting features. This is vital for tracking every file's journey and ensuring operations are transparent and accountable.

    Cost Consideration for Large User Bases

    • If your organization prefers a clear cost model without limitations on the number of users, some MFT solutions, like Sharetru, provide pricing that is more favorable in scenarios with a large user base, as opposed to the per-user pricing model commonly found in Enterprise File Sync and Share solutions.
    • If your organization’s needs align with requiring strict data security and compliance, handling large files efficiently, needing detailed control and integration capabilities, valuing reliability and thorough audit trails, and possibly preferring a cost-effective solution for a large user base, an MFT solution is likely the more appropriate choice.

    What are Some Challenges and Best Practices in File Transfer?

    When it comes to secure and efficient file sharing, organizations face numerous challenges and considerations. Addressing these with strategic best practices is essential for safeguarding sensitive information and enhancing your organization’s operational efficiency.

    Challenges in Sending and Receiving Files

    1. Security Risks: Ensuring data privacy while sharing files, especially sensitive information, is paramount. The risk of unauthorized access is a top concern for businesses in this digital age. This can be easily solved by properly vetting the security controls during your vendor selection process.
    2. Handling Large Files: Organizations often search for solutions that offer an easy way to share large files efficiently without compromising speed or security—highlighting the demand for robust file transfer tools like SFTP, FTPS, or FTPeS. Earlier we discussed some of the issues with accomplishing this through an MFT platform vs an EFSS platform.
    3. Cross-Platform File Sharing: Achieving seamless file access and compatibility across various devices and operating systems presents a significant challenge in today’s diverse technological landscape.
    4. Compliance with Industry Regulations: Staying compliant with data protection laws (e.g., GDPR, HIPAA, CMMC) when sharing files is critical yet challenging for many organizations, necessitating compliant file-sharing solutions.
    5. User Error: Human errors, like sending files to the wrong recipient, amplify the need for user education on secure file-sharing practices. EFSS platforms, due to their depth of functionality, have a steep learning curve that might be more difficult for your administrators to adopt.

    Best Practices for Secure and Efficient File Sharing

    1. Implementing File Sharing Security Measures: Prioritize file-sharing platforms that offer end-to-end encryption, multi-factor authentication, and granular access to specific workspaces to enhance data security.
    2. Solutions for Sharing Large Files: Leverage Managed File Transfer (MFT) platforms, designed for fast and secure large file transfers that have integration with legacy protocols that are stateful (i.e. – if there’s a failure mid-transfer, they can pick back up where they left off when the connection is re-established).
    3. Maintaining Compliance: Choose file-sharing platforms compliant with relevant industry regulations to address the audience's needs for a compliance-focused solution, and then routinely review whether those regulations have changed, and ensure your solution still meets your needs. However, it is important to also consider the security of the platform to protect against potential data breaches and safeguard corporate data. If you’re not sure, reach out to your provider and ask about the specific controls you’re unsure about.
    4. Educate Your Workforce: Regular training on safe file-sharing practices can mitigate risks associated with user errors, appealing to readers aiming to enhance their organizational security posture.
    5. Keep Your File Sharing Software Updated: With many in-house file transfer solutions where you license the software yourself, you’re in charge of keeping the software up-to-date with the latest security patches, and versions. When you choose a SaaS-based solution, like Sharetru, we take care of this heavy lifting for you.
    6. Implement Access Controls: Utilizing platforms that allow for detailed access controls enhances overall data security. This might include specific access within folders or workspaces, or folder permissions such as upload, download, delete
    7. Develop a Response Plan: Your organization should outline steps you will take when unauthorized access occurs.

    Conclusion

    Choosing between MFT and EFSS depends largely on your organization's specific needs—whether security, compliance, compatibility, and monitoring are your priorities, or if usability and collaboration are more critical. By understanding the strengths and limitations of each solution, businesses can make an informed decision that best suits their operational requirements and compliance needs.

    If you're in need of an MFT, consider taking our 14-day free trial to experience our platform!

     

     

     

     

    Martin Horan

    Martin, Sharetru's Founder, brings deep expertise in secure file transfer and IT, driving market niche success through quality IT services.

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