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Making SFTP Cool Again

Making SFTP Cool Again

by Matt Mattoon, Cloud Leader, GuideIT

In this article we are going to look at three ways that you can propel your business into the future by looking at one of the least glamorous services in your IT infrastructure, the Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP). You probably don't even realize how integral this is to the functioning of your business. Some ways SFTP may be integrated into your business process:

  • Claims Data
  • Payroll Data
  • Financial Data
  • Patient/Chart Data
  • Sales/Commission Data
  • Inventory Data

If you have any of the above use cases (and too many more to list in this article) then there is a very good chance that you are using SFTP as part of your processes.

If you are a business leader or even just a technologist who doesn't directly support this solution, here are some questions I think you should ask to find out if one of these approaches would be of value to you and your team.

  1. Do we have any high availability protecting our SFTP solution?
  2. How do we ensure that we don't run out of storage space on our SFTP solution?
  3. How long are we retaining the data that comes in via SFTP?
  4. How often do we process the data that comes in via SFTP?

Now let's dive in. 

Increase Resiliency while Simplifying the Management of your SFTP Infrastructure

When I am considering a managed service there are three main areas to consider when it comes to deciding to build or buy. 

  1. Is this solution already a core competency of my team? 
  2. Does this solution contain some sort of competitive edge over your competitors? 
  3. Does this solution provide significant business value?

If we apply these questions to our understanding of SFTP, then we would likely determine that SFTP is not likely a core competency of a majority of your team (maybe you have one or two, but likely not a plurality). In addition to this SFTP is SFTP, there really is not a competitive edge or intellectual property which can be applied here. Finally, generally these processes are integral to the backend operations of the business so they must happen, but we don't increase the business value based off of building and maintaining this solution in house. This is a prime candidate for a buy versus build.

Purely On-Premise environment

The challenge here is in building a solution that is truly highly-available, in order for it to be highly-available it must be highly-available at all levels, one single point of failure and you have not built a highly-available solution at all.

  • Load Balancer (clustered)
  • SFTP Servers
  • Storage (shared or replicated)
  • Replication process for user database (or some sort of multi-on/offboard process for users)

Cloud, Hybrid or Multi-Cloud environment

  • AWS Transfer Service for SFTP

Now this may feel like kind of a cop-out, but the benefit here is the whole solution is managed for us, so we have a lot less to build. This service is so good that I actually would use this regardless of the cloud that my customer is on. They manage a highly available (multi-az) SFTP server set which lands your files directly into Amazon���s S3 service. If your infrastructure is based in Azure then you can build a replication process to move your data from Amazon S3 into Azure Blob Storage or wherever your solution is built.

From a pricing perspective it is pretty simple pricing ~$219/month assuming you have your endpoint up 24x7, plus $0.04/GB transferred. Now the really interesting thing about this solution is that we can also enable FTPS and FTP endpoints (for an additional cost) on the same dataset. So it enables us to support a wide variety of protocols without having to design for each. Quick note on FTP, this endpoint is only accessible internally to your AWS account due to its inherent lack of security.

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