The world is full of highly processed structured data that is exchanged and understood by computers all over the world, typically with EDI. However, did you know this structured classification of data represents only 20% of the world’s data? The other 80% comprises unstructured data that needs to be exchanged amongst humans as well as computers. Exchanging such data goes beyond the boundaries of EDI.
EDI – A Staple Business Data Diet for Years, But Things Have Since Bulked-Up.
Business have been exchanging data with other businesses (B2B) via Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) since the 1970’s. Since then platforms are not so much about a style of footwear, but more so one’s IT capability. EDI was designed to be (and still is) extremely efficient at exchanging small files (typically KB’s) of process oriented structured data, the type that keeps the world of commerce spinning. The term ‘structured’ refers to data that conforms to an agreed standard between both sides of the exchange. Such standards (of which there are many and which evolve) generally dictate the positioning of fields within files, and what type of data can or cannot populate those fields. All perfect for a computer to understand. However, 50 years on since the inception of EDI, we find ourselves in a world where commerce extends beyond the boundaries of only exchanging small structured files between computers. We now deal with file sizes in terms of MB’s, GB’s, TB’s, even PB’s that need to be shared not only between machines, but humans too. For example, seismic survey data in the oil and gas industry, development builds for games in the gaming industry, risk analysis reports in the insurance industry etc. Large files such as these often contain sensitive data and as such need to be exchanged securely between businesses. EDI is simply a non-starter for this ‘bulked-up’ data, so what to do?
Trying to Cope With Data Bulk Without an Appropriate IT Fitness Regime
When a dynamic (of any nature) shifts, we tend to try and cope with it by making the best of what we have. Generally, we don’t like to invest in something new to allow us to better cope unless it’s absolutely necessary. In the case of exchanging large files, not investing is of course an option, but ask yourself ‘is it really a viable option’, i.e. will your business suffer as a consequence? Over many years the author has witnessed countless efforts by companies to handle the exchange of large and sensitive files with e-mail (both corporate and personal), ‘free’ file sharing services, storage devices sent in the post, FTP, and shared network storage areas. The bottom line is that all of these methods will do the job, but the harsh reality is that they won’t do it very well. This is hardly surprising as these methods could never have foreseen the modern day file sharing requirements of corporates. The downside to each of these existing methods varies, but in summary they either i) do not adhere to data protection compliance obligations, ii) do not sufficiently protect intellectual property and / or brand value, and iii) are not efficient enough to allow companies to focus on their core business. So what’s the answer to coping with data bulk? Invest in an appropriate IT fitness regime, it’s called MFT.
MFT – The Essential IT Fitness Regime
A Gartner coined phrase, Managed File Transfer (MFT) is a modern method for fulfilling the requirements of exchanging large data files, securely. There are numerous vendor suppliers in the MFT space, often specialising in either human-to-human OR system-to-system file transfer. Human-oriented transfer is typically accomplished by way of off-loading attachments from a regular e-mail server and sending them via a dedicated secure server. This negates the need to keep attachments down to a size below the e-mail server limit (typically 8MB to 12MB), sends the files encrypted, and all with an audit trail. System-oriented transfer is typically accomplished by employing a robust transmission protocol that can cope with transfer interrupts / incomplete files, duplicate files, renaming of files etc., again all with an audit trail. However, not all file transfer requirements fall into the category of being only human or only system oriented. These two modes of operation often need to be mixed, e.g. a human sending information, pictures, videos, etc. from their mobile phone securely back to their insurance company’s servers in the event of a vehicle accident, or the healthcare records of patients needing to be securely sent from a hospital’s servers to doctors for patient consultation purposes.
Very few vendors are able to offer a single platform solution that covers BOTH human and system oriented MFT requirements, let alone all of the permutations between them. Even fewer vendors are able to offer EDI capability alongside MFT capability. And only SEEBURGER is able to offer all of this and more from an organically developed unified codebase that seamlessly works in harmony so that your IT operates as a lean and reliable data exchange machine.
If you decide to step-up and make the necessary investment in MFT, please consider this holistic capability from a vendor perspective carefully, after all, it’s just one aspect that makes our Hybrid Integration Platform (HIP) class leading.
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Written by: Ian GoldsmithIan Goldsmith is Business Development Director at SEEBURGER, a global market leader in business integration software. With ~25 years integration experience spanning development, consultancy management, pre-sales, solutions management, account management and marketing, he is well versed in understanding integration requirements of today (and tomorrow) from all angles. Ian, has utilised his industry and technical knowledge to brief Industry Analysts and ‘C’ level execs on numerous occasions, and has won awards along the way for outstanding work with clients.