Anyone involved in the search for a Managed File Transfer (MFT) solution knows that the MFT process is becoming increasingly complex. Previously, we’ve discussed some crucial aspects of the MFT process. Today, I’d like to introduce you to another key issue–the volume and frequency of file transfers.
Knowing the volume/frequency of file transfers is especially important for a large enterprise solution, or a system with many trading partners. Why? Because the chances of deploying a successful solution are substantially reduced without such data. You will be reduced to fumbling around like the Goldilocks character in children’s story “The Three Bears” until you find a solution that is “just right.”
Put another way, you will produce a system that has three possible outcomes–something too small to provide processing capacity for your volume; too much capacity for the actual throughput; or lucking out and getting it “just right.” Unfortunately, the latter outcome doesn’t usually occur. Without the file transfer frequency/volume information, you really have no good way of sizing an appropriate installation.
What are the results from each such outcome? An oversized system will produce waste, in terms of unnecessary expense for oversized machines and unneeded software licensing. An undersized system will produce much displeasure because you will not be happy with the downtime, missing or resending data, long periods of 100% capacity, or worse.
A small or medium-sized business probably will not experience such drastic consequences. Even though such businesses rarely collect this sort of data on a regular basis, the power and capacity of most modern servers will probably cover the volume unless the hardware is significantly undersized. A mature MFT software solution should be capable of running on multiple platforms. bTrade’s MFT solutions run on all the major platforms, from a Windows PC to the giant mainframe machines. So you should be fine if you are doing a few thousand transactions a day on either a laptop or a full-on backroom server. You should make an effort to look at what you are doing now and reflect on the collected data to provide a good insight into the importance of your MFT system, as well as providing a solid number from which to work. In general, this type of software can run on most any hardware, but the key is in knowing your current system and how active it really is.
Now with some background information out of the way, the next thing to consider is of your data movement. For outbound file transfers, you obviously have the ultimate control over when the files are presented for transmission. For incoming transactions, though, you probably have little control over when they are received. For a global network, they are likely coming in around the clock, which will make it tricky to schedule any needed downtime.
A good piece of software should let you customize schedules so that you can spread the load out throughout the day. Our software allows very flexible scheduling with our Cron like ability to be very specific in when files should be sent or picked up If you transfer numerous large files–i.e., those over 100 MB, and especially those over 1 GB–then you really need to be active in managing this activity. There would be nothing worse than dumping thousands of huge files into the queue and then watching your system slow to a crawl as it struggles to push them out.
The other thing a good piece of software should do is be able to set SLAs (Service Level Agreements) for particularly important transfers. These can allow you some latitude in designing a system that notifies you when a certain set of activity has not occurred–e.g., when you need a particular file from each of your partners in a particular timeframe, or you should receive 5 files with a particular filename within a set period of time. If these activities do not occur, the system will notify the appropriate personnel to investigate.
In closing, remember that the activity of your system is the one item that you can control. So make sure that the solution you select will run on the proper hardware with appropriate specs and bandwidth, and have notification functionality so that you can manage the activity effectively. If you have these things, at a minimum, you will have less sleepless nights, a happier trading partner community and the satisfaction of a job well done.