Surveying the FTP (File Transfer Playground) with Streaming Media & Signiant 

A large EXR file with many white files behind it in a blue tunnel with 0101 on it

A Simple Matter of Complexity

In April 2022, Streaming Media conducted a survey of 305 media companies regarding their use of file transfer services. An entire webinar was devoted to the survey’s many findings, but if you don’t have an hour to watch it, look here for the key takeaways.

First, we didn’t need a survey to measure the growing need for moving content among media companies. During the pandemic, we watched the amount of traffic across our platform increase massively. Adoption of Signiant software has skyrocketed as more companies are creating more content and that content is going to more places.

Second, if and only if you’re a small company with a small team working on small projects, using FTP as your primary file transfer service might seem like a viable choice. Spoiler alert — it isn’t. Yet, nearly two-thirds of respondents still use some form of FTP, by far the most used method by our respondents. However, as they added complexity to their workflows and size to their teams, FTP became even more of a business liability. By complexity, we mean more content being produced and transported, more partners involved, more versioning, more distribution endpoints, and more storage needed. Half of the respondents indicated they are adding partners and as the number of partners increases, so does the complexity. One-third said they transfer media to more than 11 partners. That’s a lot of partners!

Who Responded to the Survey?

The survey conducted by Streaming Media polled readers interested in file transfer. Beyond the usual pre- and post-production media suspects, a healthy variety of companies provided thoughtful responses, including retailers, financial service companies, religious organizations, educational institutions and more. Non-traditional entities understand the importance of video in their communication strategy and the need to think and act like a media company.

Complexity Increasing, Growing in All Dimensions

Today’s clear trendline indicates there is far more complexity across the entire media supply chain. Most of these trends were already in play but greatly accelerated by the pandemic.

In a new world of hundreds of streaming services, the distribution landscape is more complex than ever before. Many more moving parts and an influx of niche service providers add complexity to the way content is created. The ongoing advent of the cloud and the variety of services it makes possible adds complexity. A ‘working remotely’ distributed workforce (by all indications, one that is here to stay) adds a layer of, in this case, unforeseen complexity. Last but absolutely not least, these aforementioned factors give rise to the increased complexity in storing content. More than 75% of our respondents use multiple storage locations for their content. That’s a lot of storage. If you’re depending on legacy “free-to-use” technologies like FTP, or even other popular business transfer file services like DropBox, Box and Google Drive, their inherent limitations and the problems they create, add complexity.

Around 72% indicated they are moving more than 100GBs/month between partners, a number that surprised even webinar co-panelist Tim Siglin, Executive Director of Help Me Stream Research Foundation and a Streaming Media contributing editor.

“I would’ve figured moving under 100GBs per month would have been roughly 50% of the respondents,” Siglin noted. “That’s where the surprise was to me, thinking about pre-pandemic levels, then seeing these responses and realizing about a quarter doing 100GB or less where nearly an equal amount are doing 1TB and above. That really is a significant growth trajectory.”

One respondent summed up the general consensus with this statement, “We have a problem moving content beyond the traditional production mix.” Another concurred, “Clients have systems and they don’t want to change those systems.”

The bottom line is growing businesses need to push more content to more partners. That translates into significant growth in what needs to be moved on a monthly basis — the number and types of files, and the size of the files needing to be transferred. 4K is clearly having an impact, but the number of cameras being used is also a growth factor. It’s a problem of complexity.

Speed of Transfer vs. Speed of Business

While the speed of transfer is always an important factor, as complexity grows the “speed of business” becomes the main driving factor in modern media supply chains. It is not only critical to have the physical bandwidth you need and the right file transfer software to take advantage of that bandwidth but also the right tools to manage the speed of doing business. This matters, for example, when:

  • onboarding a new user

  • adding a new business partner

  • answering questions like, “Did that file land?” & “Did we check that off the list?”

  • understanding who had access to a file

  • knowing when and where a file was sent

  • ensuring a file is prepared properly before being sent

  • ensuring the entire file was transferred, particularly when network interruptions occur

If you’re unable to clearly understand any of the above, you’ll spend time and money trying to figure it out when it becomes necessary to know. As complexity grows, so does the need for centralized control and visibility. They play into the speed of business just as much as moving a file from Point A to Point B. When a variety of tools are in play such as FTP, DropBox, Box, Google Drive, etc. control and visibility becomes impossible to manage. That is why many companies are turning to ‘fit-for-purpose’ software that is easy for creative end-users and helps managers answer all the important questions noted above. And, of course, those tools need to be able to move any-size file anywhere in the world with speed, reliability and security.

Many respondents admitted to using more than one transport mechanism to move files with 66% stating they use FTP (28%) or cloud-based services like DropBox, Box,Google Drive, One Drive or pCloud (38%). An additional level of complexity is added whenever you add the moment you use multiple solutions. You are adding a level of complexity you don’t necessarily need to add. Complexity on top of complexity. As you grow you tend to pile on more technology and more pieces.


And finally, security. Security is absolutely at the top of everyone’s mind. Having several different solutions in play makes security that much harder. If you’re using FTP and Google Drive and other methods, how do you verify and understand what your security profile and risk looks like when your assets are stored and moved in different ways? The more complexity you have, the more you introduce security challenges.

Increasingly, rogue actors target FTP because of its unsecured entry points, putting businesses at risk. The National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Motion Picture Association, and the Trusted Partner Network (TPN) have standards, guidelines, and best practices to manage cybersecurity-related risk. FTP meets none of them.

Siglin concluded, “I think we’ll see more organizations representing content owners and distributors saying ‘don’t put us in the crosshairs of potentially using a non-secure solution.’”

The Signiant Platform

If you are looking for an alternative for secure, fast and reliable large file transfers between people, systems, or to and from the cloud, take a look at Signiant. Signiant’s cloud-native SaaS platform connects more than 50,000 media companies worldwide and moves petabytes of high-value content every day, and offers the best alternative for the media and entertainment industry, no matter the size or needs — or the complexity — of your business.

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