Nine Pitfalls of Relying on FTP to Move Large Media Files

FTP was once an easy and cost-effective way to move media files over the Internet — small files. But there are some serious drawbacks to relying on this 50-year-old technology. Trying to transfer today’s large, numerous, and complex media files with FTP can be a tedious, costly and time-wasting experience.

Why is FTP still used by so many businesses today?

When it comes to general file sharing over the Internet, there are many options. For large file transfers, however, there are only a few. Although FTP alone lacks many requirements that are necessary to meet the needs of today’s media and other data-intensive companies, it’s still being used as a foundation technology for many file transfer solutions. 

Surprisingly, there are still thousands of media companies using FTP. After all, FTP is an open protocol. Because there’s no direct charge to use FTP and it’s been around so long, many IT professionals are familiar with it. But, as files continue to get larger and more frequently exchanged over longer distances, and security continues to become more and more critical, media professionals realize FTP is the wrong technology for today’s complex global media workflows.

Why is FTP out of date??

1. FTP is slow 

Time is one of the most important commodities and content creators and distributors have less of it than ever before. FTP has no acceleration technology built in so it’s slow. Moving a 30-50GB or larger file — which is very common in media — can take a very long time with FTP, especially over long distances. Latency and packet loss may not be noticeable when moving a small file, but with large files over long distances or congested networks, the difference can mean hours or even days. FTP on its own does nothing to help deal with these common issues with standard IP networks.

2. FTP is unreliable

Most FTP solutions do not have built-in checkpoint restart, the ability to continue data transfer from the point of failure if the transmission is interrupted. This means starting over from the beginning. With large files and a lack of acceleration, network interruptions can be incredibly time-consuming and costly.

“There’s no guaranteed Quality of Service over the Internet. You can’t depend on FTP to get the file there on time. You need a guaranteed transfer time, or you can’t work on the kinds of projects we work on.”

~ Henric Larsson, COO of the Chimney Group

3. “Free” FTP actually costs you money

FTP is often considered “free”. But when you consider all the maintenance and management impacting IT resources, staff time, restarts, and waiting to use the files, FTP is far from free. It’s most obvious with even basic IT requests such as adding or removing users. In the media business where partners, contractors and freelancers are abundant, user management can become very time-consuming and costly. However, there are other costs with FTP, related to customizations, automation, monitoring and reporting. Not to mention the cost of delays waiting for IT to get through their own list of priorities.

4. FTP requires storage management

High on the list of complaints from FTP users is storage management. You can manage storage for FTP, but it requires someone to write scripts with basic rules to manage archiving so large files do not consume all your storage. 

5. Security is not standard

Secure file transfer is not a standard element with FTP. While it’s possible to complete an FTP file transfer securely, it requires scripted customization or security software, which also means ongoing maintenance and resources. In fact, security breaches in the past few years at HBO, Netflix and Disney have been blamed on hackers exploiting FTP used by third-party post-production companies. As a result, many top tier media companies now forbid FTP in an effort to close security holes.

6. Lack of visibility and notifications

FTP solutions often require IT resources to parse through log files to understand transfer activity. IT personnel can write scripts or deploy legacy software to enable notifications and reporting, but FTP generally lacks the power of more modern solutions.

“The user interface on FTP was a nightmare. You have to be more of an IT person to understand how an FTP works.”

~ Michael Ball, postproduction supervisor, Accord Productions

7. Intimidating end-user interface

Most FTP software has an archaic user experience. To nontechnical users, FTP interfaces can be downright intimidating. Most media professionals that need to transfer files are creatives, often in a hurry to meet a deadline, and are accustomed to modern interface designs. FTP does not contribute to a productive, engaged workforce. Its antiquated look also makes you look unprofessional to your customers.

8. Automation is not standard

FTP is often used to automate transfers between systems or computers. Automated transfers are helpful for regularly occurring transfers between business locations or with partners, but automation with FTP requires IT professionals to write, manage and update scripts leading to more cost and more potential delays.

“FTP physically pains me, now that I’m used to Signiant.”

~ Dylan Yastremski, Founder of Allegiance Studios

9. FTP is difficult to update

As a protocol, FTP (File Transfer Protocol) is a set of communication rules used between computers rather than a single solution or software application. It is typically the foundation for a pieced-together solution needing numerous customized scripts and software addons to meet business requirements. Most FTP systems are far from elegant or scalable — and are very difficult to update and support.

The gap is only increasing 

As the size of files continues to grow, media channels diversify, businesses become more global, and the entire media supply chain becomes more interconnected, the gap between existing FTP technology and business needs is only increasing.

“We built our FTP probably 15 years ago. It worked great at the time, but had a lot of limitations when files got bigger and people needed stuff sooner. Then when high Internet speeds were more available, FTP just got seriously outdated.”

~ Michael Ball, Accord Productions

There’s a Better Way

The Signiant Platform

Signiant offers two distinct, but interoperable, SaaS solutions that replace FTP with intuitive web interfaces making it easy to transfer any size files anywhere in the world with speed, reliability and security.

Media Shuttle

Media Shuttle is the easiest and fastest way for people to send and share large files, any time they need to, and to anywhere across the globe. 

“It used to be like the wild west of file transfer, when every vendor had their own FTP-like service. Media Shuttle has become a centralized place that we trust and know is secure, fast and reliable, so we are continuing to invest in it.”

~ Jesse Korosi, former Director of Workflow Services, Sim

Jet is the easiest and fastest way to automate system-to-system file transfers, replacing scripted FTP for regularly recurring transfers.

“Adopting Jet has enabled us to launch a brand-new service, which will handle our DCP deliveries to hundreds of cinemas throughout Malaysia.” 

~ Avinash Suresh, Director at Yusari Filem

Speed and Reliability All Signiant products are built on patented file acceleration technology which can be up to 100 times faster than FTP. In addition, the Signiant Platform employs reliability mechanisms or checkpoint restart, the capacity to restart a transfer from the point of failure. 

Storage Independence Signiant invests heavily in developing software that works with any storage solution. After all, you know best how to store your valuable assets. Signiant is dedicated to providing fast, seamless access to those assets – wherever they might be physically stored, including traditional on-premises file storage, on-premises object storage, and cloud object storage from AWS or Azure.

Industry-Leading Security Signiant is a recognized leader in security, and was awarded the DPP ‘Committed to Security’ mark for both production and broadcast. Signiant utilizes standards-based security technology like Transport Layer Security (TLS) to secure data and information as it is transmitted, including advanced authentication, data integrity, and data confidentiality.

Cloud-Native SaaS When you purchase a subscription to Media Shuttle or Jet, you’re entering into a partnership with Signiant that includes 24×7 SRE (DevOps) to ensure the system is always up and running with the highest performance and availability. Signiant’s customer success team will work hand-in-hand with you to make sure you get onboarded quickly, and our customer support will be there to address any issues that might come up. As SaaS solutions, Media Shuttle and Jet also offer you the benefit of ongoing innovation without having to worry about costly upgrades; Signiant handles that for you.

Don’t Risk Falling Behind

FTP can’t keep up with the modern global media supply chain. Whether you are a top tier company or a small startup, being in the media business today requires next-generation acceleration software. Signiant prides itself on being an easy company to do business with. The Signiant Platform is easy to deploy, and easy to try in your environment. With simple, predictable pricing, Signiant works for companies of all sizes.

Contact us to learn more about replacing your outdated FTP systems.

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