FTP, the traditional and long-standing Internet File Transfer Protocol, is not dead, nor moribund. In fact a worldwide business outsourcer uses it for information transfer between its clients and itself. FTP is combined with Wide Area File Services (WAFS) to get the information across long distances fast and securely.
Williams Lea is a business process outsourcing company. The firm’s 10,000 employees around the world focus on making clients’ information work better and more efficiently.
Its services offer the world’s leading organisations a better way to connect with their staff and customers, offerings that can transform the way organisations communicate and exchange printed and electronic information with the outside world. Most projects include fulfillment, bulk mailing, distribution, and campaign support. The idea, a pretty standard one, is to allow businesses to maintain focus on their core competencies rather than devoting internal resources to non-strategic efforts.
Williams Lea relies on accurate and timely exchange of information between its customers and its business partners. Security is a major concern; much of the files passed in and out of the company contain sensitive and critical information. Another challenge is that the solution must fit into the business process workflow of the various systems each department uses to fulfill customer requirements.
And since Williams Lea is founded on information exchange, what if files get lost, corrupted, or a disaster strikes? Business would be brought to a standstill, resulting in lost revenue and unhappy customers.
FTP and better FTP
The company had been using another FTP solution to share files, but found it unreliable and lacking in functionality; files couldn’t be moved to the FTP environment directly without some human intervention; it did not provide the level of security they required; nor provide adequate back up; and there were business-continuity and disaster-recovery concerns.
The company looked for a better product.
Bola Salami, senior technical architect at Williams Lea Holdings Plc, said: “Our research found that GlobalSCAPE products were very reliable and economical. Upon further review, we discovered that not only could they answer our file transfer needs, but they also offered a solution that could alleviate our disaster recovery concerns.”
The company first started by deploying GlobalSCAPE’s Enhanced File Transfer (EFT) Server for Windows, which leverages industry standard secure protocols to exchange files.
It also installed GlobalSCAPE’s Gateway Proxy into the DMZ (de-militarised zone), which brings multi-layered security for data storage and retrieval, authentication, and firewall transversal. The DMZ Gateway acts as a communication proxy—replacing inherently insecure inbound connections to the company’s network. This enables the organisation and its partners, suppliers, and customers to share information in a convenient and safe manner, and ensures critical information is not stored outside the firewall.
To insure business continuity, Williams Lea uses GlobalSCAPE’s Wide-Area File Services (WAFS) solution for bidirectional file replication and backup. The company deployed WAFS at two separate datacentres that automatically share data. One is always active; the other is on standby in case of access problems or a disaster.
Today, Williams Lea uses GlobalSCAPE’s EFT product for strategic file transfer between customers and suppliers, and the WAFS product to share and backup data between internal users and sites.
With EFT Server, Williams Lea is able to establish "event rules" that guide various interactions and ensure nothing falls through the cracks. For example, administrators established a rule so that if a customer tries to download a file and is unsuccessful, an email is automatically sent to certain individuals to alert them of the issue.
The EFT Server is particularly useful in the production environment. They linked the software to various internal applications so that when a customer transfers files via FTP, the files are instantly picked up and delivered to an application for composition, and then forwarded to printing.
With all these functions automated, the company has gained tremendous productivity benefits. "GlobalSCAPE’s software has been a huge time saver for us,” Salami said.
Williams Lea administrators have also been impressed with the feature-rich software.
“There are loads of features available to us,” Salami said. “We can do so much with the administration GUI. It’s so much more powerful than our previous solution. Administrative tasks are a walk in the park; for instance we can easily set quotas for each user, control the amount of bandwidth used, and tie customers to certain folders.”
For security purposes, the GlobalSCAPE solution allows Williams Lea to guarantee authenticity and non-repudiation by using public key technology. “We always know for a fact who is sending us files, and we always know who we are sending them to, and if they received them. When dealing with as many critical files as we do on a daily basis, this is a tremendous benefit and competitive advantage to our company.”
The WAFS software is used by more than 300 users who share and back up files. “Everything is transparent to our users, always available, and always replicated in case something happens. Overall it’s been simple to integrate our suppliers into our workflow process. We’ve received excellent support from GlobalSCAPE, and the software has had a very positive impact on our organisation. And the best part is, if anything should occur, we know we are ready to go live almost instantaneously by simply switching our users to our other data source, and we are fully confident that the critical files our customers send us will never be lost.”
“How our customers integrate with our environment is drastically improved,” Salami continued. “From their point of view, they see an increase in productivity because our FTP environment is always available to them, and they do not have to be concerned with loss of data, even in the event of a disaster. It also saves in administrative costs because it’s so much easier to use than what we used before. As a result of implementing the GlobalSCAPE EFT Server, DMZ Gateway, and WAFS solution, not only are our response times improved, but our customers also find us easier to do business with—and that really helps our competitive edge."