What is Computer File Transfer? (Explained)

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What is computer file transfer? In simple words, a computer file transfer is a process in which a file is moved from one location to a new one.

For example, when you move a file from the hard drive of your computer to a USB flash drive or a floppy drive, this process is termed as file transfer.

File transfer is also a process that involves moving files from one computer to another computer over a network. Therefore, file transfer is a process in which a file is moved either locally or over the internet.

File transfer programs are often used to download or upload files from or to a server over the internet.

Apart from that, files can also be transferred from one location to another by using FTP commands.

This is a more preferred process since such types of file transfer utilities typically make it much easier to connect and send files.

In this article, you will come to know more about file transfer, its methods and types, evolution, importance and features as well. Therefore, keep reading.

What is a Computer File Transfer?

What is a Computer File Transfer

Technically speaking, file transfer is a process in which a logical data object is shared, transferred or transmitted between different computers and/or users either locally or remotely.

In layman’s words, it is the process of copying and moving files from one computer to another.

Files can be copied and moved from one drive to another drive within the same computer as well.

In the olden days, files were typically transferred locally from one computer to another through a cable that connected two computers placed side by side. During these times, the serial ports and parallel ports were used extensively for this purpose.

Later on, Ethernet, modem and other devices were used to transfer files between two computers.

Today, different file transfer protocols are used for that matter to upload or download a file. These protocols govern the file transfer process.

These protocols are typically a set of rules for communication that specifically defines how exactly information and data is to be transferred between two computers in a network.

Some of the most commonly used protocols for file transfer these days that are used both in computer networks as well as online are:

  • FTP or File Transfer Protocol
  • HTTP or Hypertext Transfer Protocol
  • TCP or Transmission Control Protocol
  • SFTP or SSH File Transfer Protocol and
  • BitTorrent.

Typically, there are two major types of file transfer. These are:

  • Pull based file transfer – In this type of file transfer, the request for it is typically set off by the receiver and
  • Push based file transfer – In this type of file transfer, the request for it is made by the sender.

Data files that are transferred can be either structured or unstructured and may of different forms such as:

  • Documents
  • Graphics
  • Multimedia
  • Text and
  • PDFs.

These files can be transmitted within or outside an enterprise as well by using upload or download.

Evolution

File transfer is not a new process. In fact, it started way back in the 1970s when people felt the necessity to distribute digital contents amongst users looking beyond floppy disks. Since then the process has evolved significantly.

Several online file sharing platforms were used henceforth and one of the first of such platforms is Usenet.

This is actually an electronic bulletin board. It allowed posting news items by the members of its community which enhanced the functionality and ability of the users to transfer data files among the other members in the newsgroup.

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Later on, in 1985, FTP was established, which is considered to be the first communications protocol.

This particular standard for file transfer allowed the users to share data between diverse computer systems.

This protocol typically uses a relatively simple set of rules and syntax.

Further, in the 1990s, with the advent of the internet, newer, faster, and better avenues opened up to establish communication all over the globe.

This technology allowed the users to share and transmit textual data and information over a huge network of computers.

One of the first internet service providers then was America Online, commonly referred to as AOL that offered an email platform.

This subscription-based feature allowed the users to stay connected with the world by using a wide range of web services which included file transfer.

For sharing music files, the Napster music site was launched in 1999. This site allowed users to transfer mp3 audio files with other users.

This site is considered to be the first P2P file sharing service and had about 4 million songs in circulation within a year of its launch.

The Napster music site paved the path for other similar networking sites such as Freenet and Gnutella that came up in the early 2000s.

Today, you will find several different file transfer solutions which you can use to share logical data files at a high speed.

These solutions are more sophisticated and are capable enough to handle the flow of massive digital information.

Then, there are other services such as cloud storage systems like iCloud and Dropbox.

These particular services not only allow the users to store digital files safely irrespective of their types including videos and photos but also allow them to access and transfer them anytime and from anywhere by using any device to another device.

Therefore, file transfer and sharing digital content today has become easier and widespread but it has also presented quite a few legal as well as ethical challenges over the years.

This is because extensive file sharing by anyone and everyone easily raises significant copyright and security issues. It has also resulted in several lawsuits as well.

This is a critical issue, so much so that the US Supreme Court in one particular incident had to rule that the creators of P2P networks can be held liable in the case of their software being marketed as a means for copyright violation.

Moreover, there is also a high chance of digital data files to be exposed due to faulty FTPs.

A particular survey by Digital Shadows revealed that about 1.5 billion data files have been exposed this way.

This can also happen in the case of remote synchronizing of directories and files, often referred to as Rsync.

Similarly, other systems for file transfer may also lead to enormous exposure of data. This may include sensitive documents such as:

  • Medical records
  • Payroll data
  • Credit card information
  • Tax return information and
  • Intellectual Property.

All these security breaches, copyright issues, as well as incomplete or failed transfers may eventually affect the bottom line of a company and its reputation.

This will also result in a huge cost to the tune of millions of dollars, as pointed out in a study by the Ponemon Institute and IBM Security.

Importance

File transfer is quite important today because it happens to be the core of business operations, and use of computers makes the process much more seamless, faster, and more productive.

The companies can now exchange data related to business internally with the people working with them and externally with their customers much more easily and safely.

Now they can also exchange data with their partners and suppliers routinely every day.

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Businesses can transfer batch transactions through files to any outsourced payroll provider and even send digital video for their upcoming marketing campaign.

All data and information will be sent efficiently and securely.

Therefore, organizations today rely heavily on file transfer. Reports show that more than 50% of all systems integration is made through this process whether it is in the banking sector or manufacturing industry or in the healthcare sector or defense services.

File transfers help businesses run smoothly and at the same time they can emerge constantly by using developing forms to share digital data and information packed in a file.

There are several other vital forces that impact the requirement of computer file transfer. Some of these forces are mentioned as follows.

Larger data volumes have increased the workload and requirements for better and faster file transfer.

It is now needed to make at a much higher frequency batching than before and also in larger volumes.

More varied files are to be sent now than it was required in the past. And, most importantly, there was an immediate need for a more innovative application process for streaming transfers safely and effectively, and hence computer file transfer is required.

Extensive use of IoT or Internet of Things and big data also calls for computer file transfer that allows making transactions of files in bulk in minutes.

This helps in big data analytics. The computer file transfer technology enhances the speed of data transfers and at the same time it supports more detailed analytics of larger data volumes in quick time.

As it is said earlier, transfer of sensitive data across peers locally or externally should be done in a secure and effective manner.

Computer file transfer ensures this even though cyber security today seems to be a growing concern.

However, by adopting better security technologies and file transfer protocols, the modern file transfer systems compensate the security overhead by supporting newer and better security process software, better hardware accelerators and more improved file transfer throughput.

Major concerns like non-compliance to data privacy and security regulations and absence of end-to-end monitoring and visibility have been removed now from the modern file transfer solution.

With their enhanced features such as easy integration through APIs, cloud support, and other major themes for development have improved the capabilities of accessible file transfer solutions which offer much improved user experience.

Features

File transfer solutions of today are much more sophisticated and come with specific features that add to the effectiveness of making such transfers of digital information ensuring a much more reliable flow.

These features include the most up-to-date security features that help in protecting sensitive information while it is being transmitted.

Apart from that, these features also offer enhanced operational visibility while moving the files from one location to another.

This helps in detecting issues in the process such as failed transfers, delayed transfers, and incomplete transfers.

As a result, while choosing a file transfer solution, the key features and capabilities that you should look for are:

  • High performance – Typically when you move digital data, it can achieve high speeds of up to several gigabits per second, irrespective of the distance the file has to be moved to. Therefore, the solution should be a high-performing one so that it can handle thousands of simultaneous transfer sessions most effectively.
  • Full visibility – You should typically have a complete view when you transfer files in real time. This will help you to know what type of file is being shared as well as the volume of data moving through the system.
  • Security – The solution should come with proper and secure protocols of communication, better encryption methods while making external or internal file transfers, and use digital signatures. Add to that, it should also come with other additional capabilities such as protocol inspection and session breaks which will further help in protecting sensitive data and information at multiple layers.
  • Public and private cloud – The solution should allow deploying it in a hybrid or in a cloud infrastructure. This will help you to take the maximum advantage of higher availability of unlimited storage as well as a transfer scale-out at the same time.
  • Managed File Transfer – Commonly referred to as MFT, Managed File Transfer feature is a viable and reasonable option to choose. This specific type of file transfer solutions will help you to manage each and every aspect of the file transfer process more efficiently. It includes all the communications channels, workflow, protocols, APIs, and provisioning. MFT is a more efficient and reliable technology that will guarantee more secure data transfer even outperforming FTP and other applications.
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It is always good to go with a high speed file transfer solution because it will allow transferring large files of high-definition broadcast videos quickly through WAN or a Wide Area Network.

Reliable file transfer solutions come with patented Fast and Secure Protocol or FASP technology.

This specific technology enables these file transfer solutions in particular to attain speeds that are more than hundreds of times faster as compared to HTTP or FTP.

These file transfer solutions will also ensure secure and complete delivery of files irrespective of their size, the conditions of the network, or the distance of transfer.

However, you should always look beyond FTP when it comes to file transfer. Secure FTP or SFTP is one of the most commonly used file transfer methods today.

One of the most significant reasons for its popularity is that it is a simple method to use and it is also usually inexpensive, if not free.

Still, most of the files even today are transferred by way of an FTP website which anyone can access.

It is good for organizations or users who transfer files occasionally and the contents do not involve any sensitive information.

But, when you send large sensitive files and use FTP generally, it can certainly put things at major risk.

Several study reports show that over 400 million files are available publicly online from the FTP servers.

These files are therefore exposed to a significant amount of risk since the protocol does not authenticate the users and neither does it log security violations.

These are the basic capacities that are required to detect security issues and prevent breaches and cyber threats.

Moreover, this is also not a safe process because this technology sends files on a first-come, first-served basis. This means that the organizations are not able to prioritize vital transfers or react to business needs as quickly as possible.

Due to all these reasons and limitations of FTP, you should look over and above the hidden cost and apparent risks involved in it and always choose a more scalable and secure file transfer software.

Conclusion

Computer file transfer today is much more than a means to copy and move files from one location to another. As this article shows, it helps the users, individuals and businesses alike, to establish communications in a much more secure and effective way to their advantage.