B2B Supply Chain Integration - Why It's Better Than FTP For Meeting Today's Global Requirements and Industry Standards

Martyn Davies

To meet business goals, organizations worldwide link more processes, exchange more data and share more applications internally with colleagues and externally with global suppliers, partners and clients than any time in the past.

The challenges of moving files, especially product design data (CAD data), database, media, financial and other business-sensitive files in complex and expanding collaboration networks are growing as file sizes also grow. FTP (File Transfer Protocol) and email don’t cut it today. Organizations need a better way to exchange all types of files while:

  • Providing security, monitoring, control and management of all data exchange activities.
  • Meeting today’s data protection and regulatory compliance mandates for audit trail and archiving.
  • Eliminating storage issues and delays due to the increase in demand for rapid data exchange and support of ad hoc collaboration with business partners, suppliers and customers.
  • Ensuring traceability of data exchange processes so organizations can track all their enterprise data movements on the journey to the intended recipient and can be sure that the information has arrived.
  • Reducing IT overhead through simple administration and efficient use of the existing IT infrastructure.

Challenges with FTP-Based File Exchange

FTP software seemed to be a quick and cost-effective method for file exchange, and it was widely used to transport even large volumes of sensitive and business critical data.

Over recent years, the number of companies who depend on FTP for their file-transfer needs has reduced, as awareness about security and reliability concerns has improved, as has the knowledge and availability of more fit for purpose solutions. Data sent via FTP is vulnerable to sniffing, spoofing and brute force attacks, among other basic attack methods. In fact, FTP was not built to be secure. If you are asked to use FTP with one of your partners, please think twice and make them aware of the risks by sharing the following table with some of the reasons why.

Risks, Inefficiencies and Weaknesses of FTP-Based File Exchange

Compliance, Record Keeping and Audit Trails FTP servers alone do not have the necessary record keeping and audit trail capabilities to enable compliance to business IT security, data security, access security, regulatory and non-repudiation requirements.
Access Security The biggest problem with FTP is that the server can only handle usernames and passwords in plain text. So, if your FTP password is “sniffed” by a packet sniffer, then company data can be compromised.
Access Permission Many company IT security policies prevent the use of FTP TCP port 21. This means in B2B situations, not all users have access to an FTP server.
Data Security Files are uploaded or downloaded from FTP servers without encryption.
Error Handling If something goes wrong with an FTP server, there is no record of it and people just try to continue to use it. If people forget their usernames or passwords, the FTP server administrator is responsible for resetting. If an error occurs during uploading or downloading, the process must be restarted from the beginning, resulting in significant delays and time wasted for large file data exchange.
Cost of Ownership FTP servers need to be set up on computer hardware in the DMZ of a company, usually by IT people. Then, usernames and passwords need to be distributed so users can access shared and/or dedicated folders. Each time a new user is required, the setup process is repeated. When users are no longer permitted to use the FTP server, their accounts need to be disabled (e.g. when an employee leaves). This cost of ownership is high when FTP sites are used in B2B situations.
On-going Maintenance FTP servers are usually set up for user access to one or many folders where files can be uploaded or downloaded. The FTP server does not remove files from these folders automatically, meaning the administrator has to manually work out or set up data removal scripts to ensure that the FTP server does not get full of already consumed and out of date data. Effectively, users and administrators do not know when a file has been downloaded or not. This limitation creates an ongoing maintenance cost of ownership.

B2B Supply Chain Integration Solutions Overcome the Risk of FTP

More and more companies realize the negatives of using unmanaged FTP and have moved towards stronger methods of managing the data exchange process, giving them central visibility and control of their data transfers.

Rocket Product Design Data Exchange (PDX) and Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) collaboration solutions make it easy to stay in control of your data with tools that provide automated processing, tracking and comprehensive audit trails—all while reducing administrative costs and keeping data and IP safe.

Rocket TRUfusion Enterprise provides automated, traceable and secure product design data exchange integrated with your PLM and CAD systems. If you use a Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) system like Siemens Teamcenter™ or PTC Windchill and CAD systems like CATIA, Creo and NX, it’s time you meet Rocket TRUfusion Enterprise.

Game-changing things you can do with TRUfusion Enterprise

  1. Improve employee productivity through process automation and management.
  2. Streamline your entire product development process, from RFQ to approval of a production-ready design.
  3. Share CAD and related design data in less time, with lower costs.
  4. Prevent costly errors, project delays, and false starts.
  5. Protect valuable intellectual property.
  6. Simplify compliance with internal and/or regulatory policies, standards, and best practices.
  7. Review audit trails automatically and thoroughly.
  8. Help your customers comply with their Product Design Data eXchange (PDX) mandated workflows.
  9. Expedite and standardize data exchange for designers, engineers and buyers, regardless of geographic location.
  10. Deliver standard and modular solutions with customer-specific configurations.
  11. Improve employee productivity using batch processes through integrations with leading PLM and CAD related software products.

Rocket EDX, an EDI cloud managed service solution, empowers you to outsource all your EDI-related requirements, opportunities and day-to-day tasks, so that you stay focused on the bigger picture. Rocket EDX provides numerous benefits:

  1. Fast, efficient trading partner and business system onboarding.
  2. Reduces total cost of ownership of B2B integration, with a fast return on investment.
  3. Speed issue resolution and business optimization.
  4. Integrate easily with your ERP and related business systems.
  5. Supports all EDI standards and communication protocols.
  6. Powered by two decades of hands-on EDI expertise across multiple industries.

Rocket’s B2B Supply Chain Integration solutions eliminate the inefficiencies and risks associated with unsecured FTP-based data transfer and enable you to:

  • Improve productivity.
  • Provide “one place to go” simplicity.
  • Protect intellectual property.
  • Provide track and trace business data communication.
  • Reduce administration.
  • Deliver a higher level of service for all data transfers.
  • Drive bottom-line revenue via reduced errors, reduced cost of operations and faster process execution.
  • Drive top-line revenue via lowering barriers to automation, improving customer and external business partner satisfaction, and increased “stickiness” once automated processes and data exchanges are implemented.

Learn more about Rocket’s B2B Supply Chain Integration solutions.