Comparing AWS/Box/Azure for Managed File Transfer Provider

As organizations continue to form fluid partnerships and seek more secure solutions than “give the partner VPN access to our network”, cloud-based managed file transfer (MFT) solutions seem like an important area to investigate. If your company wants to share data with another organization, how do you go about doing it today? Do you leverage existing (aging?) FTP infrastructure? Do you have an internet-facing extranet? Have you used email communication for data transfer?

All of those previous options will work, but an offsite (cloud-based) storage strategy is attractive for many reasons. Business partners never gain direct access to your systems/environment, the storage in cloud environments is quite elastic to meet growing needs, and cloud providers offer web-friendly APIs that can be used to easily integrate with existing applications. There are downsides related to loss of physical control over data, but there are ways to mitigate this risk through server-side encryption.

That said, I took a quick look at three possible options. There are other options besides these, but I’ve got some familiarity with all of these, so it made my life easier to stick to these three. Specifically, I compared the Amazon Web Services S3 service, Box.com (formerly Box.net), and Windows Azure Blob Storage.

Comparison

The criteria along the left of the table are primarily from the Wikipedia definition of MFT capabilities, along with a few additional capabilities that I added.

Feature

Amazon S3

Box.com

Azure Storage

Multiple file transfer protocols HTTP/S (REST, SOAP) HTTP/S (REST, SOAP) HTTP/S (REST)
Secure transfer over encrypted protocols HTTPS HTTPS HTTPS
Securely storage of files AES-256 provided AES-256 provided (for enterprise users) No out-of-box; up to developer
Authenticate users against central factors AWS Identity & Access Management Uses Box.com identities, SSO via SAML and ADFS Through Windows Azure Active Directory (and federation standards like OAuth, SAML)
Integrate to existing apps with documented API Rich API Rich API Rich API
Generate reports based on user and file transfer activities Can set up data access logs Comprehensive controls Apparently custom; none found.
Individual file size limit 5 TB 2 GB (for business and enterprise users) 200GB for block blob, 1TB for page blob
Total storage limits Unlimited Unlimited (for enterprise users) 5 PB
Pricing scheme Pay monthly for storage, transfer out, requests Per user Pay monthly for storage, transfer out, requests
SLA Offered 99.999999999% durability and 99.99% availability of objects ? 99.9% availability
Other Key Features Content expiration policies, versioning, structured storage options Polished UI tools or users and administrators; integration with apps like Salesforce.com Access to other Azure services for storage, compute, integration

Summary

Overall, there are some nice options out there. Amazon S3 is great for pay-as-you go storage with a very mature foundation and enormous size limits. Windows Azure is new at this, but they provide good identity federation options and good pricing and storage limits. Box.com is clearly the most end-user-friendly option and a serious player in this space. All have good-looking APIs that developers should find easy to work with.

Have any of you used these platforms for data transfer between organizations?



Categories: General Architecture

7 replies

  1. Thruinc is what Enterprises use… Pricing is more complex as we have more options on security, API (SOAP and REST), unlimited st

  2. Hi Richard

    Nice post. I hope these kind of solution options become a lot more common particularly for B2B file transfers. Everytime I see companies go through all of the infrastructure cost and hassle that seems to be involved with FTP based solution is just feels wrong.

    With organisations I have worked with it is usually the old security concerns again that it comes down too and probably training issues on the infrastructure side of cloud based services.

    I wondered a while back too about options like File Sync services such as DropBox and LiveMesh and if they would eventually have possible places as a B2B front end to do file transfer between organisations. I think drop box runs on Amazon anyway at the back end. In this area I remember one company I knew were next door to their B2B partner and used to pass data between them on a memory stick each day. Ironically the resiliance of this solution was fairly good even if there were security issues🙂 Eventually the companies moved buildings and they spent a fortune setting up SFTP capability. It was only a few years ago and you just felt like saying “hang on a minute why is this so hard you could setup drop box in 10 minutes”, obviously there are a few things to consider but the various cloud based options will eventually get rid of b2B FTP im sure

    All the best
    Mike

  3. See how Thru compares to some other kinds of file transfer methods here:
    http://www.thruinc.com/products-services/secure-file-transfer/

  4. Thru managed file transfer allows companies to securely send and store files of any size in the cloud.

    You should check it out. My company uses it and it’s great.

    http://www.thruinc.com/products-services/managed-file-transfer/

Trackbacks

  1. Managed B2B File Transfer Using “the Cloud” | The Phil Hartman BizTech Blog
  2. 3 Rarely Discussed, But Valuable, Uses for Cloud Object Storage | Richard Seroter's Architecture Musings

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