Review: File Transfer Appliance Aims To Deliver -- Securely

Accellion's Courier Secure File Transfer Appliance (SFTA) allows large numbers of files to be consolidated into one folder and sent with one click via a familiar e-mail-like interface -- without needing FTP.

Marc Spiwak, Contributor

January 22, 2007

5 Min Read

Palo Alto, Calif.-based Accellion aims to deliver when it comes to secure file transfer.

Anyone who regularly transfers files via e-mail knows that the process can be troublesome, and the large attachments quickly fill up an inbox. FTP file transfers also can do the trick, but many users find that to be confusing. Another alternative is to burn a disc and overnight it. But that's expensive and takes a day for the files to be received. Accellion has found a better way with its Courier Secure File Transfer Appliance (SFTA).

The Courier SFTA allows large numbers of files to be consolidated into one folder, either for convenience or to preserve subdirectory hierarchy of a group of files. Files and folders as large as 10 Gbytes can be sent with one click. Folders are sent and received using a familiar e-mail-like interface, without needing FTP.

Another problem with FTP, e-mail and overnighting discs is that those methods don't meet secure file transfer regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley and HIPAA. But with the Courier SFTA, files and folders are encrypted, fingerprinted, compressed and delivered via secure tunnels in a process that complies with such regulations. Auditing and tracking is made easy using detailed reports generated by the appliance. It also provides automated download receipts and automated file and account management.

The Courier SFTA works as follows: A user transfers a file to the appliance and then sends the recipient an e-mail containing a secure link to the file or folder. The recipient then simply clicks on the link to download the file. Users can set the amount of time for a file's availability, after which time it's automatically deleted.

The appliance also enables businesses to receive large files and folders, using one of several ways. One way is to send a proactive e-mail to the outsider, which sets that person up with an account and provides them with a secure upload link to the appliance. If an e-mail has already been sent to the outsider, an account will have already been created for that person. Another alternative is to have the outsider log in to the appliance as a guest user and set up an account. The file will then be pulled off that person's system and transferred to the Courier SFTA.

The Courier SFTA provides complete security without bothering users with behind-the-scenes complexities. Users will no longer have to worry about mailbox quotas or attachment limits, leaving IT staff free to focus on more important matters. The appliance is accessed using a Web mail-like interface or e-mail client plug-ins for Exchange/Outlook or Domino/Lotus Notes. So the appliance can be deployed quickly, and users don't need a lot of training to get up to speed. The standard configuration for single site deployment calls is one appliance, but that can be coupled with a second unit for disaster recovery. Enterprise configurations are better served by deploying appliances at multiple locations. In such a configuration, files and folders are replicated to the unit that is closest to the recipient, which provides improved performance plus automatic failover.

Prices for the Courier SFTA start at $3,500 for the ACA 100 model, which is configured for 50 Web users. Four models are available -- the ACA 100, ACA 250, ACA 500 and ACA 1000 -- and pricing is based on the number of licensed users internal to the appliance owner's domain. The top-of-the-line ACA 1000 is licensed for several thousand users and costs upward of $40,000.

Depending on the model, the Courier SFTA is delivered as a 1U or 2U rack-mount unit. Each unit offers directory services integration -- including Active Directory, LDAP and Notes Address Book -- and each comes with a custom "Powered by Accellion" user interface, e-mail client plug-ins for Outlook and Lotus Notes, and antivirus for file uploads and downloads.

The appliance is easy to set up and configure using a Web-based management console. All that's needed are a monitor and keyboard, 1U or 2U of rack space, and one or two power connections (depending on the model purchased), as well as two 10/100 switch ports, an IP address on the DMZ for the main Ethernet connection and an optional IP address for maintenance. An installation wizard is available the first time the appliance is powered up to guide the installer through setup. Automatic troubleshooting tools can check for proper connectivity, and an Accellion installation engineer can remotely access the appliance to help with an installation, if necessary.

Accellion's channel program consists of three levels. The Gold tier is for partners that are experienced with directory services integration and take part in sales training and joint marketing efforts. The Silver tier is for partners that won't be performing such professional services, and the Bronze tier is for agents that simply refer business to Accellion.

Gold and Silver partners receive free sales and installation and integration training, and they can participate in a lead-generation program, seminars, Webinars and Accellion's deal-registration program. Margins range up to 30 percent on hardware and software for registered deals. Partners also can earn up to 20 percent on yearly support and maintenance contracts plus sell support renewals at the same margin.

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