Recently we added an “app-less transfer” option in Media Shuttle to enable file transfers to be performed without using the installed Signiant App. We’d be happiest if nobody ever had to use this option. Seriously.
To understand what this app-less transfer option is designed for, it is useful to first step back and consider why installed Signiant software is needed for normal operation.
How accelerated file transfers are enabled
All Signiant products rely on a proprietary transport protocol that minimizes the impact of latency and packet loss, thereby enabling much faster transfer of large files than is possible with TCP-based transfer mechanisms (including HTTP and FTP). Any communication protocol requires software at both ends that speaks a common language – and the Signiant protocol is no exception. On the ‘server’ side of the transfer, the customer’s IT team installs Signiant software on a computer connected to the storage that will be used with Media Shuttle portals. (There’s no need to do this if you’re using AWS or Azure storage. In that case, Signiant handles the server-side compute resources and software.)
On the ‘client’ side of the transfer, each Media Shuttle user needs to download and install software known as the Signiant App. As with any accelerated transfer solution, this software is necessary if you want to enjoy the full benefits of fast, secure and reliable file transfers.
Media Shuttle’s new app-less alternative – the pros and cons
As large-scale adoption of Media Shuttle swept across the Media & Entertainment industry and other data-intensive verticals, special situations arose where corporate IT policies made it impractical for certain users to install the Signiant App. To accommodate these edge cases, we developed the app-less transfer feature.
So what gets lost? The big thing that is missing with app-less transfers is speed. Without the Signiant acceleration protocol, files are transferred using regular TCP – so app-less transfers are therefore generally much slower. Due to limitations of native browser download capabilities, app-less transfers are also restricted to only sending single files, as opposed to multiple files or folders as is possible with the installed software.
There are other features in Media Shuttle that rely on capabilities provided by the Signiant App, and are therefore not supported by the app-less method. Checkpoint Restart – for resuming interrupted transfers at the point they stopped – is not available, although there may be limited provisioning within some browsers. Auto Delivery – for unattended delivery of content to/from designated folders – is also not supported.
Finally, on the business side, it is important to note that app-less transfers still count toward the active user totals on which Media Shuttle subscriptions are priced. Moreover, app-less transfers are routed through the Media Shuttle cloud and therefore also count against the monthly cloud payload allocation for each subscription tier.
On the plus side, using Media Shuttle in the app-less mode offers significant advantages over alternatives such as FTP or consumer-grade online file sharing services. The easy-to-use interfaces as well as features like email notifications remain unchanged. From an IT perspective, the security model remains the same and all the centralized management, monitoring, tracking and reporting functionality is available.
Using the app-less option allows Media Shuttle customers to keep all their file transfers within a single centrally managed and controlled tool, with all the benefits that this implies. Even edge cases, where the users are unable to install the Signiant App, can now be brought within a common user experience for the entire ecosystem. Unsanctioned and unmonitored solutions can be eliminated and awkward alternatives, such as FTP or shipping hard drives, can be avoided.
One final benefit of app-less is that users can easily access Media Shuttle via browser from mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets running iOS or Android.
When to use it, and when not to
For the vast majority of Media Shuttle users, installing the Signiant App software is not an issue – it is a quick and simple operation requiring zero technical skills. Media Shuttle should be used in this mode whenever possible.
Signiant introduced the new app-less option to accommodate situations where corporate IT policies have created barriers to software downloads by employees. For example, advertising agencies may need to distribute content to Fortune 100 companies with locked-down corporate IT environments. Highly regulated industries – such as finance, insurance and healthcare – may also tightly control access to third-party software. Emerging companies collecting data and images via drone might be providing services for the energy sector or government agencies, both of which may have highly restrictive IT policies. In all of these cases, where it is not practical for certain users to install third-party software, app-less makes perfect sense as “plan B” for a subset of the overall user base.
IT administrators can choose whether or not to allow app-less transfers on a per-portal basis. In a typical scenario, a special app-less portal will be created for users with installed software restrictions. All other portals will be configured for normal operation, requiring that users download the Signiant App in order to use Media Shuttle. This approach will ensure that the majority of users gain the full benefits of Media Shuttle – acceleration above all.
The app-less option was designed for specific real-world scenarios where the broadest possible roll-out of Media Shuttle is hampered by restrictive corporate IT policies. We want to make the solution accessible in these special cases, but the limitations are very real. This is why we are absolutely serious when we say we would be happiest if none of our customers ever had to use the app-less option.