How Does MFT Work?

We have discussed what is and which benefits it will bring for your organization. But how does MFT (Managed File Transfer) actually work? In this blog we break it down to 5 simple steps to give you a closer look.

How Does MFT Work?

We have touched down on the subject what MFT is exactly and how it can benefit your organization. But now for the money question, how does MFT actually work? The functioning of MFT (managed file transfer) is broken down into five steps – upload, encryption, arrival, logging, and automation. Let us dive a bit deeper in what that means: 

1. Upload Your File to Your Choses MFT Solution

Managed file transfers in the real world takes place in two different scenarios. First scenario is external file transfer where MFT helps to send confidential documents and information to an external location, such as a client or a supplier. Alternatively, it moves information around within your organization by securely traversing different systems and environments. A user or IT administrator must first upload the file to an MFT program in both cases. 

External file transfers typically happen via an MFT-enabled solution. Both MFT solutions (sender and receiver) will send any attachement via one of the various Managed File Transfer Protocols (AS2 for example) rather than public routes. Internal file transfers rely on an MFT program installed on an endpoint device (desktop or laptop). The person initiating the transfer uploads the file to the MFT program completes an identity verification process if needed, and triggers the next step. 

2. The MFT Solution Will Encrypt the File(s) and Prepare it for Transfer

Once the file (or files) is available to the MFT solution, it will encrypt the files as per the latest cryptographic standards. 

MFT technologies use various kinds of Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) cryptographic techniques to comply with FIPS 140-2 levels of encryption security. In some cases, it may use the OpenPGP format to secure the information, mainly if it is an email message. 

Once the file is encrypted, MFT will prepare it for transmission via a secure protocol like HTTPS, SFTP, or FTPS. The files can be sent as is or may be converted into enterprise-ready formats like Excel, XML, Flatfile and JSON by using a capable mapping tool like Cleo Clarify for example. 

3. The File(s) Will Arrive Safely at the Recipient's Endpoint and Will be Decrypted

In the third step, the target destination receives the file(s) that originated from the MFT server. 

By now, it has traveled across several devices and secure pathways – but the file(s) remains encrypted at every step to prevent a databreach. In this encrypted form, it will arrive at the destination folder on a server or at a designated email address. The user can decrypt the file and access the information contained within it. An automated system with the correct credentials can also decrypt the file and leverage it for business processes, such as analytics. 

A capaple MFT solution will then record the arrival of the file(s) at the target destination and the sender will receive a notification confirming the transfer.

4. The MFT Solution Keeps an Audit Trail on all Transfers

Managed file transfers track the information sharing process from the beginning to the end: 

  • It maintains a record of when the transfer was initiated and the credentials used.
  • It follows the transmission pathway and notifies all involved stakeholders of the file’s arrival.
  • The user also receives an alert when the file is decrypted at arrival. 

MFT provides two kinds of data logging: real-time and historical. It allows you the follow the transfer with real-time alerts and statistics via a centralized dashboard. Besides realtime MFT also maintains historical records for audit trails. IT managers can generate monthly, quarterly, or annual reports on data sharing activity in order to maintain pre-set requirements and rules. 

5. The User Sets Up Automation to Integrate MFT and Enterprise Applications

A primary reason to adopt MFT is to drive file transfer automation. Legacy processes involve a lot of manual effort to set up the transfer, encrypt files, transfer files in bulk, etc. Using MFT automation, you can effortlessly configure the movement of information between different systems, users, and external Trading Partners. 

Some of the critical processes that can be automated include: 

  • Recurring File Transfers
  • Very large message (VLM) file transfers
  • File encryption in batches 
  • Scheduled file copying 

MFT will provide you with the correct tools to automate processes and securely send/receive file transfers internally and externally.


Not every MFT solution is as capable as the next or as easy to use. At ECS we have over 20 years of experience choosing the correct MFT solutions and have done over 1.000 implementations so far. If you have any questions or are looking into MFT solutions contact us today for support.