Strengths: Simple to deploy and easy to manage, requires almost no end-user training, highly secure, good value
Weaknesses: Reporting facilities could be more sophisticated
Verdict: Say goodbye to couriers for large file transfers, as Accellion offers a far simpler method that is easy to use and highly secure
Businesses that regularly transfer large files may have a number of solutions at their disposal, but strict compliance with data protection regulations can limit their choices severely. Some options, such as secure FTP, can demand high levels of expertise from users and admin, which, in itself, may lead to security lapses.
Accellion's Secure File Transfer System (SFTS) offers an easily deployed solution that provides high levels of encryption and yet requires minimal end-user training.
In SFTS, large files are sent as email attachments. Mail server administrators will be horrified, but the beauty of it is that the attachments are stored by SFTS on its own system. They do not go via the mail server: the email only has a link to the attachment.
SFTS offers a number of options for user interaction, the first being a web browser client. If users can send email, then they can use this. They compose an email and add attachments - stored on SFTS - when the message is sent.
The recipient's email has a link to the attachment and selecting it loads a secure browser session with SFTS. After verification of their Accellion account details, they can download the files over a secure connection. The price includes plug-ins for MS Outlook and Lotus Notes, and support for LDAP/Active Directory.
SFTS offers a number of deployment options and Accellion provided us with one of its standard appliances, based on a good quality HP ProLiant DL320 1U rack server, with a pair of mirrored hard disks for storage. Other options include a choice of four standard SFTS appliances, a 2U FIPS 140-2 certified appliance and a VMware virtual appliance.
For deployment, you point a web browser at the appliance and run through a wizard-assisted setup. Along with securing administrative access, you provide a location hostname for the appliance that will be used by all clients.
The latest version includes options to automatically email reports and usage summaries, and allows users to request files and share them among multiple recipients. Accellion also offers F-Secure anti-virus scanning, for an additional £600 per year.
You start by deciding how you want your files to be handled, from a huge range of options.
Fingerprints can be included in the recipient's email. Return receipts advise users when the recipient downloaded the file, quotas restrict the amount of space they may use and filters block certain file types.
User security is controlled with a range of global settings. SFTS can generate passwords for users, sent in their invitation email.
We had no problems deploying the Outlook plug-in to our test clients. When creating an email, you select the Accellion icon and choose the file you want to attach - and that's all there is to it.
The email received by the recipient contains a web link to the appliance where they are invited to log in via their SFTS account. Once authenticated, files can be downloaded automatically or manually and on completion an email receipt is sent.
Good levels of control for the Outlook plug-in are provided - you can set file-size thresholds, allowing smaller attachments to be handled by the normal mail server. Local attachment encryption and compression by the agent can be enforced and you can stop recipients of forwarded emails downloading the files listed.
For reporting, you can view tables of send and receive activity, see how much data each user has transferred and load summaries of general traffic. Although the tables can be exported to CSV files, some graphs would be useful.
Accellion scores highly for its simple deployment and easy setup. Managing and securing large file transfers just got a whole lot easier.