Managed File Transfer (MFT) and Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) are both go-to solutions for sending files between internet-connected systems. However, SFTP prioritizes securely transferring files over a network, while MFT is a more robust solution for securing, managing, and even customizing file transfers to fit your specific needs.

Here are the key differences between MFT and SFTP that you should know:

  • SFTP securely transfers files, while MFT does the same and more.
  • SFTP secures files with only SSH encryption, while MFT provides multiple security measures.
  • MFT is more scalable and versatile than SFTP.
  • MFT lets you choose your preferred file transfer protocol to send data.
  • MFT simplifies satisfying compliance needs by providing reports and documentation.

In this guide, we'll discuss the key differences between MFT vs. SFTP and how they work. We’ll also discuss their similarities and unique advantages so you can pick the right one for your goals.

Table of Contents

What Is MFT?

Managed File Transfer (MFT) is a comprehensive solution for securely moving files between systems. These systems may be remote servers, cloud storage platforms, and other networked devices within or outside your organization.

However, while MFT facilitates file transfers, it is not a type of FTP (File Transfer Protocol). Instead, the solution allows you to choose SFTP, FTPS, or another transfer protocol to transmit data.

How Does MFT Work?

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Below is a breakdown of the steps MFT follows to transfer files:

  1. Authentication: Securely access the MFT system with your username, password, or other credentials, then select the files you want to transfer.
  2. Encryption: MFT will encrypt the selected files to secure them before transmission. The system may also compress the files to reduce their size and speed up transmission.
  3. Protocol selection: Select a file transfer protocol for sending the files. The appropriate protocol will depend on the file’s security requirements and the receiving system’s compatibility.
  4. Transfer initiation: Select the destination of the chosen files, then initiate the transfer process. You can set up custom workflows to manage validation, transformation, and decryption during the transfer.
  5. Transfer execution: Once the data transfer starts, MFT will check for errors and generate logs for auditing and compliance purposes. You'll receive reports and logs with details of the file transfer at the end of the transfer.

Advantages of MFT

Here are the benefits that set MFT apart from other file transfer solutions:

  1. Security enhancements: MFT offers file encryption and access controls to protect files during transmission. You can also pick your preferred file transfer protocol based on security. For instance, you can send with SFTP or FTPS, which are more secure.
  2. Centralized administration: You get a centralized platform for monitoring the entire file transfer process.
  3. Automation and workflow: MFT is highly customizable, allowing you to tailor file transfers to meet your unique needs or industry standards. For example, you can automate file transfers to execute with your preferred schedule.
  4. Integration capabilities: Integrate MFT with your frequently used tools, such as databases, ERP systems, and cloud storage systems. Doing so will facilitate seamless and secure file sending between integrated systems.
  5. Auditing and reporting: MFT generates detailed logs and reports that provide a comprehensive audit trail of all file transfer activities. The feature helps with compliance requirements, internal monitoring, and troubleshooting failed transfers.

What Is SFTP?

SFTP (Secure File Transfer Protocol) is a secure and encrypted method for transferring files between systems. It relies on SSH (Secure Shell) to encrypt data and secure files during transmission.

Compared to FTP, SFTP offers better security because it encrypts commands and data to reduce the risk of eavesdropping, data interception, and other forms of data breaching. Also, since SFTP offers cross-platform support, it can transfer data securely between different operating systems and devices.

How Does SFTP Work?

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Below is a breakdown of how SFTP secures and transfers files between systems.

  1. Authentication: Connect to the SFTP server (receiver) to start the authentication process. The server will authenticate the sender’s identity through username and password, public key authentication, or other methods.
  2. Secure channel establishment: SFTP will create a secure channel with the SSH (Secure Shell) protocol. Doing this will encrypt all data sent between the client and server.
  3. Uploading or downloading files: Select the file to send to or from the server and launch the transfer. The protocol will confirm each file’s successful transfer and send a confirmation notification to the sender.
  4. Handling errors: If errors occur during the transfer, the protocol will attempt to recover and resend the data until the transfer succeeds.

Advantages of SFTP

SFTP does have unique advantages over other protocols. Let's dive into those details.

  1. Secure encryption: SFTP provides end-to-end encryption for data with the SSH protocol and delivers the correct decryption key once the files reach the intended recipient.
  2. Platform independence: Since SFTP is platform-independent, it can transfer data between various operating systems and devices.
  3. Data integrity verification: SFTP automatically verifies data integrity. The verification ensures you don’t send or receive compromised or inaccurate files.
  4. Reliability: SFTP’s built-in error-checking and resuming capabilities ensure file transfers resume from where they stopped if an interruption occurs. The provision minimizes data loss and ensures reliable transfers.
  5. Easy integration: Most modern systems support SFTP, including popular operating systems and third-party file transfer clients.

MFT vs. SFTP: Key Similarities

MFT vs. SFTP debates exist because the two solutions share similarities. Here are the key similarities between MFT and SFTP.

  1. Security: MFT and SFTP provide impressive data security for file transfers. However, MFT’s security features are more extensive than SFTP’s.
  2. Platform independence: MFT and SFTP allow cross-platform data transfers, meaning you can use either solution to send files between different operating systems.
  3. Automation capabilities: MFT and SFTP support automation, allowing you to set up files to transfer automatically on a schedule or when specific events occur.
  4. Wide adoption: Various industries and organizations use MFT and SFTP for securing file transfers because the solutions are versatile and easy to use.
  5. Single-port communication: Both solutions rely on a single port for sending commands and data transfers. Using one port simplifies configuring firewalls and routers and maintaining network connections.

MFT vs. SFTP: Key Differences

Let’s now look at the key differences between MFT and SFTP.

  1. Robustness: SFTP helps secure and transfer files. On the other hand, MFT is a more robust solution that securely transfers files and offers advanced management features, such as centralized administration, automation, auditing, and integration capabilities.
  2. Security measures: MFT secures data transfers with various measures, such as encryption, authentication, access controls, and key management. SFTP, on the other hand, relies solely on SSH encryption to secure files.
  3. Scalability: MFT is more scalable and adaptable than SFTP, making it better for organizations that frequently perform large-scale file transfers.
  4. Versatility and flexibility: MFT lets you send files with SFTP, FTPS, HTTPS, and other file transfer protocols. If you have SFTP, you can only send files with the Secure File Transfer Protocol.
  5. Compliance requirements: Unlike SFTP, MFT offers compliance-oriented features that simplify meeting various regulatory requirements. For example, MFT solutions provide logs and reports for every file transfer. Such reports are essential for meeting GDPR, HIPAA, and SOX regulations regarding handling sensitive data.

Key Similarities Between MFT and SFTP

Key Differences Between MFT and SFTP

MFT and SFTP secure file transfers

SFTP securely transfers files while MFT does that and more

MFT and SFTP use single-port communication

SFTP secures files with only SSH encryption, while MFT uses multiple security measures

MFT and SFTP are widely adopted

MFT is more scalable

MFT and SFTP support automation

MFT can use various file transfer protocols

MFT and SFTP support cross-platform data transfer

MFT simplifies satisfying compliance requirements

MFT vs. SFTP: Which File Transfer Protocol Method Is Best?

Both solutions are excellent, but the best one for you will depend on your specific use case. For example, if you only want to send files securely to systems within or outside your organization, SFTP is sufficient and more cost-effective. On the other hand, MFT is the way to go if you want to transfer large amounts of data and want more advanced security features.

Also, MFT is better for organizations that must adhere to strict compliance rules regarding handling user data, such as GDPR rules. This is because MFT provides audit trails and reports that you can use to prove compliance. for Simple & Secure Data Integration

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