How Teck and Deloitte think about FTP

While security has historically been the only concern when purchasing a file transfer system, some Canadian operations have begun taking management, ease-of-use and overall system intelligence into consideration when upgrading their FTP software.

For Vancouver-based mining giant Teck Resources Ltd., in addition to the lack of sufficient audit and compliance functionality, its aging FTP system was cumbersome to use and difficult to manage. But one of the biggest issues with the system was that it just wasn’t too smart, according to Andrew Pruett, IS operations manager at Teck.

“Our global MPLS network that links between North and South America is very fast, whereas the Internet is relatively slow,” he said. “We wanted a product that would be able to intelligently replicate files that were destined for internal users over our inter-country link, rather than having it go straight over the Web.”

Prior to a recent upgrade, Teck’s FTP system would use the Internet to transfer files, when it had the option to take advantage of its own network, Pruett added.
In areas with slower inter-country links, such as Australia, Argentina and China, Pruett said Teck wanted to take advantage of global DNS and easily distribute a virtual appliance in a matter of hours to create a secure file transfer server.

“So what that means is we have a specific URL that we use and distribute to our users based on where in the world they are and that URL resolves to their closest secure FTP point,” he added.

With the company’s huge investment into virtualization technology over the last several years, finding an FTP solution that met its criteria and worked well with its virtual environment was crucial. Teck chose Palo Alto, Calif.-based Accellion Inc.’s virtual appliance-based file transfer system, which runs on any standard x86 desktop or server using VMware Inc. products.

For physical environments, Accellion also offers an enterprise-focused managed file transfer solution to securely send and receive large files.

At Deloitte and Touche LLP’s Toronto-based office, the consulting and accounting firm recently implemented this offering to upgrade its FTP server. The company picked up an FTP server six years after purchasing a small business involved with accounts payable and GST reviews for their clients.

“They had their own FTP server that did this and when they integrated into Deloitte we had continued this functionality by setting up our in-house FTP server just for their use,” said Ruben DeKemp, an IT systems engineer at Deloitte’s Toronto office.

Managing the FTP system was incredibly tedious for IT administrators, he added.

“The group (using the FTP) didn’t have the capability to change passwords and whatnot, so that was all done through us,” DeKemp said. “Because they had to give user IDs to external people all the time, we had to give them a list of 20 generic IDs and set up FTP directories for them.”
“After a while it looked messy, as basically we would say, ‘You’re going to be FTP 19 and here’s your password,’” he added.

When deciding to take the FTP company-wide, Deloitte chose to use the Accellion offering for not only the increased security it delivered, but also because it simplified IT’s role in managing the system. The Accellion system integrated well with Microsoft Outlook and gave control back to the users, DeKemp said.

“The extent of our involvement now is that we add users to an Active Directory group and from there they’re off to the races, with anybody who uses the product able to invite their own clients with IT’s help,” DeKemp said. “If someone has a file they want to send or receive externally, they can go in, send an invitation to an external person, get that person set up with an account, verify their identity and they’re done.”

Deloitte has also put policies into place that will automatically clean up these accounts after a few weeks, which minimizes IT’s involvement even more, he said.

In addition to simplified management, DeKemp added, with files getting bigger every year, the ability to send files and folders of up to 20GB in size was also attractive to Deloitte and a big jump over the standard 10MB e-mail cap.

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