Potential Downsides of Using an FTP Solution
Let's take a look at some of the potential downsides of using a File Transfer Protocol (FTP) solution and also explore how it works.
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File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is not totally outdated, many enterprises still use this protocol for electronic data interchange. However, the rise of cloud computing has spawned new types of integration challenges, which are hard to cut through with traditional FTP. This protocol’s initial role was to ensure that files can be passed through applications to reach the target systems. Over years, FTP has lost its luster and is now considered intricate and time-consuming for modern-day data exchange. Here are some reasons why the solution doesn’t meet all the requirements of an enterprise.
What Is File Transfer Protocol?
File Transfer Protocol evolved in 1971 and soon became a standard for B2B data exchange. Enterprises started using the protocol for transferring files between server and clients on a network. This method of file exchange soon ended the dominance of HTTP file protocol.
How it Works
FTP solution is installed on a server-client along with separate data connections and controls for data exchange. This protocol is built around a client-server model, which establishes controls and connections between the client and the server. In active mode, the client gets data from the server on the port.
FTP users use the clear-text protocol to sign-in and authenticate themselves. They can also connect without authentication if their server allows. Initial FTP solutions were command-line programs and many of them still run on Windows, Linux, or UNIX based operating systems.
FTP solutions run in active or passive mode. In passive mode, the client sends a PASV command to the server to receive an IP address along with a server port to establish data connectivity. Active and passive modes were updated to support IPv6 standards. Data transfers through FTP can be done in three modes: Stream Mode (uses continues stream to send data), Block Mode (parses data into blocks), and Compressed Mode (compresses data for processing).
This arrangement allows users to transfer multiple files. File transfer resumes automatically when the connection is restored. Some FTP solutions also carry scripting capabilities and synchronizing utilities as well.
Downsides of FTP
FTP is an architecture that drives b2b operations. Many FTP solutions have traditional middleware under the cover, which lacks service building capabilities. Complex B2B networks need a process-driven approach rather than an infrastructure-driven approach. They also require a boatload of capabilities for building service compositions and deploying processes across different execution environments. FTP cannot scale to address integration needs that are dynamic and unpredictable. Simple pre-defined connections do not ensure governance to manage unpredictability.
FTP is not the right solution for a modern-day B2B ecosystem where there are thousands of enterprise systems and hundreds of business partners.
In the good old days, only employees were creating information in an enterprise. Back then, enterprises were having only 2 or 3 enterprise systems that had to connect with 4 or 5 partners or customers. Today, however, enterprises have thousands of legacy and on-premise systems with differentiated design models and data formats. With FTP, it is not possible to combine these systems for data exchange. Moreover, it is not an ideal solution for extracting data from smart machines & gadgets which reside in organizations.
Here Are Some Other Snags Associated With the Transfer Protocol:
Lack of Encryption
FTP solutions don’t provide encryption to safeguard the information. Anonymous users using a web hosting account can get access to a particular directory. They can access sensitive information like usernames, passwords, etc. To secure information, enterprises need to tie up with third-party vendors for encrypting the information. Overheads rise when costly licenses need to be purchased for encrypting the information.
Lack of Large File Data Ingestion and Encryption
FTP solutions support a limit size of data and fall flat when large data needs to be processed. The protocol doesn’t feature functionalities to run simultaneous data transfers to multiple receivers. Mass uploads using FTP client can be cumbersome and painful. Users have to parse data files and aggregate them post processing. It is a painful process and not an ideal approach for processing large data sets.
FTP requires client program for interacting with hosting services provider. Enterprises need to purchase the client program for uploading and download files from web space. Users need to install FTP on their VPS server and use it on a shared web hosting package. Cost overheads increase over time when more formats or partners need to be added.
Shared Hosting Limitations
Another relevant drawback of FTP is that its usage is limited to strict guidelines defined by web hosting provider. If users forgot their password then they are blocked by the service provider’s firewall. This can disrupt business transactions for a long time.
Lack of IT Scalability
FTP users face many problems when the back-end data gains more volume. File transfers take huge time to complete. Developers need to make alterations to codes for accommodating huge data loads. Adhoc scripts and custom coding can be difficult to scale.
Alternatives to FTP
FTP is 30 years old and has started to show its age. It has become outmoded for modern-day B2B data exchange. Here are some top alternatives to FTP:
Secure FTP (SFTP)
A Shell (SSH) based program for files transfer that enables end-to-end encryption for data exchange over a network. It runs on a single port and that’s why considered more flexible than FTP.
Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS)
An extension of HTTP which works with popular web browsers like Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer. It has the provision of encrypting information with Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) or Transport Layer Security (TLS).
Applicability Statement 2 (AS2)
A popular format for electronic data interchange (EDI) involved in B2B operations. It bundles Mozilla Developer Network (MDN) that generates receipt on what is being exchanged and what is being delivered.
Managed File Transfer (MFT)
The most advanced technology built for B2B data exchange is MFT. It packs all standard protocols for exchanging information. It allows users to transfer data between locations in simple and efficient ways. Data synchronization, orchestration, validation behind or outside firewall becomes fast and easy.
MFT solutions deliver security, governance, and management, in addition to data mapping and routing capabilities. They pack run-time governance tools, which can be a critical part of the enterprise infrastructure. They can be leveraged with existing middleware to build services.
MFT is an industry proven framework for secure exchange of EDI, EDIFACT, and HL7 data. It helps users exchange business data, respond faster to partner or customer needs, elevate customer experience, and improve time-to-revenue.
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