MFT Resource Center

MFT: Managed File Transfer

As companies embark on digital transformation, they create and adopt a rapidly growing stream of data and applications. To manage this web of data and technology, they require file and data transfers to and from internal teams, applications and external partners. But in many organizations, both teams and individuals have selected and implemented isolated, ad hoc file movement tools to support specific workflows. These siloed band-aids often leave organizations with duplicated, broken, unsecured processes that cause complexity and waste.

Enter managed file transfer (MFT).

What Is MFT?

MFT, or managed file transfer, is the secure, automated movement of data via a central solution, helping organizations eliminate duplicate, unsecured tools. It encompasses all aspects of inbound and outbound file transfers, while enhancing security with industry-standard network & encryption protocols, digital certificates & signatures, non-repudiation, and other security features.

MFT systems are playing an ever-larger role in organizations, replacing legacy file transfer systems and ad hoc tools with a unified, streamlined approach that eliminates waste and duplication.

The "managed" in managed file transfer refers to the software's ability to automate and transfer data across your entire organization: networks, systems, applications, trading partners, and cloud environments. And it does it all from a central point of administration.

Built to Solve Security Problems

Historically, many file transfer tools were built simply to send and receive files, with security treated as an afterthought - leaving organizations vulnerable to dangerous security risks.

MFT, particularly modern managed file transfer software, is built to reduce security with several key security mechanisms.

Encryption - File-Level Security

MFT solutions use modern encryption to secure the actual data, requiring the recipient system to possess and use a private encryption key to decode the message itself.

Secure, Standard Protocols - In-Transit Security

One of the places data is the most vulnerable is during transit. Whether it's email, a flash drive, or SMS, data can be intercepted and stolen whenever it gets sent. One way to prevent that is to send files via a secure protocol.

Earlier protocols like FTP, HTTP, and SMTP were unsecured. But modern protocols, such as AS2, SFTP, and FTPS secure data transfers across organizations, over the web to trading partners, and between apps & databases. Unfortunately, most organizations have many ad hoc file transfer solutions using older, unsecured protocols, especially FTP, a major vulnerability.

For more details on MFT protocols, visit our MFT/EDI protocols page.

DMZ Proxy Serves & Firewalls

MFT solutions will often provide a proxy, so you don't have to open up your firewall to send and receive files. This is a key part of security.

Digital Certificates, Signatures and Non-Repudiation

MFT also enhances security by providing digital certificate and signature management. Any document transmission and receipt is accompanied by the issuance of a unique certificate and signature, verifying the identity of the sender and recipient, and guaranteeing the file was not altered in transit. This process also provides legal proof of document receipt, called non-repudiation, a critical element of partner exchanges.

MFT Use Cases: What Types of File Transfer can MFT Handle?

You can use a unified MFT software solution to handle for several types of file transfers. No matter how you use it, MTF lets you move large files very quickly. You can also easily automate file transfers.

Ad Hoc

Transfers can be made from person to person, between teams and departments, or to other organizations via the web. It can reduce hassle and digital clutter by replacing whole suites of applications currently used for the same purpose.

B2B/EDI - Electronic Data Interchange

MFT solutions enable organizations to exchange important business documents with key trading partners. For example, a shipping company could use MFT to send out spreadsheets, shipping information, and keep track of inventory with supply chain partners. Via the secure AS2 protocol, purchase orders can be sent and received in officially recognized EDI formats.

For more information on EDI, see our EDI resources guide.


App-to-app file transfers are used to move files directly between applications and databases as part of a broader A2A integration within your business.

What Are The Benefits of MFT?

Unlike a typical one-off FTP or SFTP solution, MFT software usually includes a range of features designed for business. The following are just a handful of the biggest benefits, and there are many others.

Centralized, Streamlined Transfers

Handling all transfers from a centralized point of administration lets you eliminate expensive duplicate solutions, while reducing maintenance and time-waste. Activity logs track where your files go, whether they were opened, and whether transfers failed and must be resent.

Automation & Scheduling

Modern MFT solutions are built to not only process file transfers, but also to enable efficient automation and scheduling of manual processes, reducing time waste. MFT eliminates the need to use manual file transfer methods or hand-code scripts. They can also detect and notify you of failed transfers, then automatically retry failed transmissions.

Very Large Messages

Whether it's a product catalog, inventory log, or simply a massive transmission, MFT solutions are designed to efficiently and affordably process very large messages (VLMs) - without fees. MFT incorporates end-to-end streaming and restart capabilities, which allow interrupted transfers to restart where they left off without having to resend files from the start. Many non-MFT, ad hoc FTP clients and other tools are not capable of dealing with very large files.

Enhanced Security

As we mentioned earlier, MFT significantly reduces the risks and dangerous vulnerabilities present in ad hoc file transfer band-aids.


Truly modern MFT solutions are built with an API-based architecture and data connectors for individual data sources, supporting innovative technologies like microservices and containerization. This leading-edge approach stands in stark contrast to the isolation of ad hoc file transfer tools and enables connectivity to applications, databases, and partner systems.

Reliability & Uptime

MFT solutions deliver more reliability than ad hoc file transfer tools can provide, such as high availability for optimal uptime, which is often crucial when managing multiple data centers, depending on your business' SLA requirements.

Enhanced Visibility, Reporting & Dashboarding

For reporting purposes, MFT is also advantageous. By centralizing and streamlining file transfers, it's easier to track processes. And quality MFT solutions come with a central dashboard that provides insight into throughput, the number of users, where the data is flowing, who opens messages, and more.

How MFT Works

We've said MFT offers a streamlined experience when transferring data, eliminating worries when sending and receiving large files in the cloud and over private networks. But how exactly does MFT work? The process can be broken into three steps.

Step 1: Sending the Original File

Say you need to send a confidential file to someone in a remote office, and you need to do it quickly. Maybe you're a restaurant owner and you're sending out the seasonal menu for one of your locations, or you're sending an audit report to your trading partner. Whatever file you need to send, it'll start in an MFT program or plugin. Files can be sent through an email plugin or a web client accessing the MFT software via your browser. You can set up the system to automatically send the file, or place the file in a dedicated folder that your partner or client has access to. MFT ensures the data is transferred quickly and securely by utilizing encryption.

Step 2: Encrypting the MFT File

After the file is sent by email, uploaded to your browser, or dropped into a monitored folder, the MFT software goes to work to secure it. It's capable of using FIPS 140-2 compliance AES cipher or the Open PGP standard to encrypt the data, and can protect files using the following transmission standards.

For added efficiency, MFT solutions let you compress files before sending them.

Once the data is protected with encryption, you're free to schedule file transfers. MFT also lets you translate files into popular formats like Excel, XML, or JSON.

Step 3: Delivering and Decrypting the File

Once the recipient grabs the file, MFT software can decrypt and translate it to a particular format as needed. MFT solutions generally include audit logs, so you can track crucial information, such as what was sent to whom, and when. These logs let you see whether a file was delivered, if it was open, and whether the transfer failed. The tracking and logging features also ensure file transfers remain compliant with key regulations, such as PCI, DSS, and HIPAA.

CData Arc: Enterprise MFT

Today's IT squads need a centralized managed file transfer model that meets core requirements, supports digital transformation, and enables business users without overwhelming IT resources. MFT systems offer just such a solution. That's the reason many modern businesses are modernizing their scattered mishmash of unsecured, ad hoc solutions with the centralized efficiency of MFT. CData Arc is not only a powerful MFT solution, but also offers 100% affordable, scalable MFT.