In my role as a bTrade services professional, I am routinely tasked with estimating the hardware requirements for a new installation or upgraded application. In the managed file transfer (“MFT”) world, there are many bits of information that are needed to accomplish this. I therefore find myself asking many questions: How many transactions need to be processed? What is the average file size? What is the peak period? Is there a requirement for the speed in which transactions complete?
The most interesting thing I have found so far is that there are a lot of people out there who do not have the information necessary to answer these questions. Admittedly, it can be difficult to accumulate the data needed to answer my questions, especially if the existing solution does not provide a way to access the accumulated data. Our secureXchange solution has an easily accessed Dashboard that can give you answers to these questions, either within the application or from reports produced from the transactional data.
For other products, a user may actually have the data, but never really looked at it in order to determine whether the solution is working for them in the way they expect. In many cases, the MFT product was installed and left to its own devises as long as there are no problems; the phrase “out of sight, out of mind” comes into play, although this seems to be more common in smaller shops with limited numbers of trading partners and limited staff. After all, you don’t necessarily want or need to devote a full-time staff person to the solution. But of course, your mileage will vary.
But once the solution has finally hit the wall, it is an all-out battle to keep it running, thereby requiring more valuable time from even more stretched resources. At this point, management often times begins looking at the solution more critically and reaching out to vendors to provide an upgrade or full-scale replacement of the existing platform.
Below, in no particular order, is the information you will need in order to get an accurate estimate:
1. Know Your Data: It is vital to have a good idea of the volume of data you send and receive on a regular basis. Whether it consists of 10kb files or 10mb files, we need to know how many of them you process in a particular time frame. This number will answer a lot of questions, from how much memory to have, how much disk capacity you need, to even more importantly, how big an internet connection you need to have. If you have a dial-up internet connection over a 56kbps modem, there really isn’t going to be a way to process 10 GB files in your lifetime. Ditto for using a spare machine you had lying about with Windows 95 and a 100mb hard disk possessing 1mb of memory.
2. Know Your Partners: Processors and memory are more important if you have a couple of thousand trading partners and 75% of them are going to send you files between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., with a response required within 1 minute. In that case, you are going to need some serious hardware to process that volume in that amount of time. Conversely, if you have a steady flow of transactions throughout the day, you will need to worry less about peak volumes and more about average volume.
3. Know Your Network: For most small businesses with a single, shared internet connection, having a high volume of data is going to impact everyone else on the network. You may want to consider having a dedicated connection that funnels the data directly to your MFT solution if this is a concern.
4. Know Your Storage: This is often a concern when the solution has been left to its own devices for a considerable period of time and various backups, logs and activity reports have been quietly filling up all available space. Until one day, usually when you are anxiously waiting for that one file to arrive, when suddenly the last bit of space has been written to and the applications running on the machine begin to fall all over themselves and crash due to insufficient disk space. Make sure you set up a good cleaning schedule to prevent this from happening. Having more disk space than you think necessary is always a good idea. A solution such as secureXchange allows the ability to setup archiving and purging to make sure your system only contains the exact amount of information you need to have available online. Ensuring that excess files are deleted or archived is one of the many initial steps to have a steady, solid performer. In addition to longevity, having enough disk space to process inbound files comes into play. You should have enough to provide for simultaneous connections. Trying to receive many multi-megabyte files will require you to have enough space to store the received file along with temporary copies as it traverses through receipt and decryption.
Hopefully, the above gives a little more insight into how inter-related all these items are. The amount of data is tied together with partner knowledge, networking and storage items, and everything needs to be specified accordingly to provide you with a solution that will work for you daily, as well as in the long run. Nothing is worse than having that shiny, brand-new system that constantly needs help and attention because one part of this equation was missed.
If you have any questions about sizing a managed file transfer application, or want to learn more about how our solutions can help in that regard, please send a confidential email to firstname.lastname@example.org.