How to Determine the Best File Transfer Tool?

by | October 20, 2022

How to Evaluate If Web-Based File Transfer or UDP Is Right For Your Business

Introduction

One thing we hear a lot from media organizations evaluating MASV is,

“Why don’t you use UDP?”

At MASV, we are confident that we offer the most well-rounded large file transfer tool available today; one that is equal parts simple, fast, reliable, secure, and affordable.

But it’s true, we don’t currently use UDP for file transfer like Aspera, Signiant, or FileCatalyst do.

We built our technology on the web (which primarily uses TCP) and we deploy our own acceleration stack and infrastructure to make web-based transfers move faster.

But, at the end of the day, the type of underlying network protocol shouldn’t matter.

What should matter is which service best resolves the user problem(s) at hand. Does the file transfer tool send data faster? Is it more affordable? Is it less complicated?

In our experience, common file transfer problems can be bucketed into the following five principles by which to evaluate file transfer tools:

  1. Simplicity – How easy is the tool to set-up and use (either alone or with others)?
  2. Speed – How quickly can it deliver large files?
  3. Reliability – Does it provide a consistent level of performance and stability?
  4. Security – Does it protect your data?
  5. Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) – How much will it cost to operate?

Whether you want to go for a web-based file transfer tool like MASV (which currently uses TCP), or UDP-based file transfer solutions like Aspera, your decision should factor in the above five principles.

With that said, let’s take a look at how web-based file transfer (hereby referred to as web-solutions) and UDP-based file transfer solutions (UDP-solutions) stack up against the following five principles.

File Transfer for Cloud Media Workflows

A Brief History of Large File Transfer Solutions

There was a time, during the boom of consumer internet era in the late 90’s/early 00’s, where a UDP-solution was the only way to quickly send large files across far distances.

FTP servers (which use TCP) were popular but not very secure or user-friendly. Back then, TCP-based solutions could not communicate large distances without being a huge speed bottleneck.

So when Aspera and others launched the first iteration of UDP-based file transfer in the early aughts, it was a breath of fresh air, especially for video professionals working with high-resolution camera footage.

In more recent history, web-based file transfer as a means to send large files has really taken off. Mainly thanks to advancements in cloud computing and browser-based technology.

Web-solutions run on top of HTTPS and therefore need a web browser to interface. These solutions likely transport information using TCP* — the backbone of the modern-day internet.

*To be clear, HTTPS solutions can leverage UDP but it’s not the default transport layer. For the sake of this comparison, we will stick to TCP when referring to web-solutions.

TCP vs UDP for File Transfer

Both TCP and UDP try to get your file over the finish line as fast as possible.

The difference is that UDP is a connectionless protocol. UDP doesn’t have to acknowledge a formal connection with the end server before sending data, nor does it monitor network traffic.

This speeds up delivery time but doesn’t guarantee data integrity. There are no checks and balances in place to prevent dropped packets. This method of delivery is considered aggressive and why many UDP-solutions are blocked by firewalls and require whitelist support from IT.

TCP, on the other hand, requires a connection to be acknowledged and verified before it continues a transfer, which guarantees data integrity. TCP also monitors network traffic. If a web-solution detects congestion, it automatically slows down to take pressure off the network.

Because of its sensitivity to congestion and send-acknowledge messages, TCP is more reliable and stable than UDP — but it is perceived to be slower because of the back-and-forth communication (which isn’t the case but more on this later).

The Five Principles of Large File Transfer Explained

Whether you choose a web- or UDP-solution, I think we can all agree on the following five principles to govern the efficiency and effectiveness of file transfer tools:

The five principles of large file transfer tools

1. Simplicity

File transfer should be easy-to-use; it needs to reduce friction and speed up turnaround time for senders and recipients. Solutions should be as accessible as email or chat apps.

2. Speed

Quick, efficient delivery of large files is critical — especially in today’s hybrid and remote world. What took days when shipping a hard drive needs to be delivered in a matter of hours online.

3. Reliability

Users — especially those on a deadline — just need their file transfer to work. A good solution should deliver files on time without failed uploads or missing data.

4. Security

Does the file transfer solution prioritize data protection? It is advised to source a tool with proven certifications as part of its security posture, like ISO 27001 and TPN.

5. Total Cost of ownership

Is the solution affordable even beyond the sticker price? Consider TCO — like the hidden operating costs associated with installation, maintenance, and staff training.

Rankings

As a visual aid, we’ll use the following scale to rank how each solution fares against the five principles.

5 principles all ranks

From left to right: Needs Work > Just Okay > Good > Great

Evaluating Web File Transfer Against the Five Principles

Given these five principles, how do web-solutions fare? Especially with the improvements in cloud and browser technology we mentioned earlier?

The answer: extremely well. Let’s find out why.

1. Simplicity

5 principles great ranking

Web-solutions, like MASV, run on your web browser; they don’t need firewall updates or special software.

Web browsers are designed to be as ubiquitous as possible. They are easy-to-use, accessible on any device, and understood by everyone. You can be up and running with a web-solution in just a few minutes.

It’s also far easier to onboard teammates and other users.

Since UDP-solutions require IT support, every user needs an account to upload and download files. This is a blocker to productivity. For example, if you need to share files with a client, your organization’s IT manager has to create their account, walk them through the onboarding process, and troubleshoot any issues. All this happens before an upload.

💡 The MASV Advantage

  • Get started with MASV in seconds (receive 100 GB when you do).
  • Download files or contribute to a MASV Portal without an account.
  • Invite as many teammates as you need per account (no per seat license fees).
  • No delivery size limits. Send up to 5 TB per file.
  • Download an optional Desktop app to sidestep any browser limitations and boost performance.

Get Started With MASV >

2. Speed

5 principles good ranking

Remember when we said TCP is perceived to be slower? That’s because of a reputation from 20 years ago, when internet infrastructure wasn’t as good. Thanks to ongoing investments in fiber cables, satellite internet, and public clouds from big providers like Google and Amazon, traditional TCP-based bottlenecks are literally a thing of the past.

And unlike other web-solutions that use TCP (WeTransfer, Dropbox, etc.), MASV has a special two-prong approach to achieve faster web-based delivery speed:

  • When in-transit, large files are split into smaller chunks using computational logic and sent through multiple channels. It is then reassembled at the destination. This multi-threaded approach maximizes bandwidth more effectively. The result is a faster delivery for your large files.
  • MASV is built on premium AWS infrastructure which has its own set of private servers located around the world. Over 300 locations to be specific.

💡 The MASV Advantage

  • Use up to 95% of your available bandwidth.
  • Get access to a global network of private servers in 300+ locations.
  • Automatically adjust for network congestion.
  • Schedule transfers with periods of low network usage.*
  • Bond many internet connections (such as Ethernet and 5G data) to create a stronger network.*
  • Reach speeds of 10Gbps.*

*Desktop app exclusive

3. Reliability

5 principles great ranking

TCP relies on a connection process known as the “three-way handshake”. That means the destination target must acknowledge the transfer before the sender establishes a connection. The target machine must also acknowledge receipt of every piece of data during the file transfer process.

For these and other reasons, TCP is the preferred method of transmitting important data without errors.

💡 The MASV Advantage

  • Access premium AWS cloud infrastructure to further minimize latency, increases bandwidth, and eliminate packet loss.
  • Automatically recover from network outages from the point of failure.
  • Pause & resume transfers without any loss in data.
  • Automatic checksum verification.

Get Started With MASV >

4. Security

5 principles great ranking

HTTPS has built-in TLS encryption. That means TLS automatically protects all in-flight file transfers simply by using a modern web browser such as Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge, or Apple Safari.

All four have similarly strong security features, including:

  • TLS encryption
  • Javascript blockers
  • Exposed password notifications
  • Phishing/fraudulent website protection

UDP-solutions are very secure but they require constant upkeep by the provider. Web-solutions inherit the built-in security of modern web browsers. That means they have huge teams monitoring for and rectifying vulnerabilities. And once these teams identify a vulnerability, they act on it quickly since millions of users depend on peak browser performance every day.

💡 The MASV Advantage

  • ISO 27001 certified.
  • Verified by the Motion Picture Association’s Trusted Partner Network.
  • Password protection and malware scanning.
  • Get notifications when someone downloads a file or uploads to a Portal.
  • Set permissions, download limits, and custom expiry dates.

Get Started With MASV >

5. Total Cost of Ownership

5 principles good ranking

Web-solutions are much more affordable than UDP-solutions, both from an initial cost and TCO perspective. Most UDP-solutions require an expensive multi-year contractual commitment to get started.

The UDP-solution, IBM Aspera offers pay-as-you-go transfer plans starting at $0.95 USD per GB. In comparison, MASV charges $0.25 USD for every GB downloaded (uploads are free and storage is included for the first seven days).

But the affordability difference is even more apparent when viewed through a TCO lens. Web-solutions don’t require dedicated hardware or infrastructure that must be installed and maintained with various updates. They don’t require software installations or port-forwarding/firewall reconfigurations. They also usually offer free trials like 100 GBs of free credit.

Because of the above, these solutions typically don’t need IT support to set up and run; another significant potential expense when using UDP. Most web-solutions are easy to use out-of-the-box with no time-sucking training or tutorials required.

💡 The MASV Advantage

  • Only pay when a file is downloaded successfully.
  • Only charge per download, not per user or seat.
  • Get seven days of free cloud storage (only $0.10/GB/Month after that).
  • No IT support or training required to get started; save on resourcing hours.

Get Started With MASV >

Experience the MASV Advantage

Everything you need in a large file transfer solution — and then some.

Evaluating UDP File Transfer Against the Five Principles

If web-solutions stack up well against the five principles of file transfer, how about UDP-solutions? Most UDP applications are somewhat older, after all, and were designed during a different era. Let’s have a look.

1. Simplicity

5 principles poor ranking

Most UDP-solutions were built with speed in mind, not ease of setup and use.

UDP-solutions are quite complicated to get up and running. They’re often blocked by restrictive IT environments. IT teams (on the sender or recipient side, or both) need to get involved to tweak firewalls and open ports before the software will work.

IT support aside, most UDP-solutions require a desktop client or a special plugin for browser usage. They’re not readily accessible across different browser types and machine OSes. This complexity makes it incredibly difficult to work remotely or in a hybrid environment, making onboarding new team members a chore.

2. Speed

5 principles great ranking

True to its reputation, UDP-solutions are fast.

As mentioned, back in the day, when internet infrastructure was far less robust, the margin between UDP-based file transfer and anything else was stark. While UDP-solutions are still fast, it’s now much easier to achieve similar or greater speeds using HTTPS-based transfer than it was even a decade ago.

That being said, UDP-solutions are faster in certain circumstances, like when collaborating in the same city. When moving files over larger distances, UDP-solutions often require dedicated infrastructure, such as a multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) line, to keep speeds at a decent level. And that gets expensive.

Note: It’s important to consider the overall turnaround time when evaluating file transfer speed. In other words, how long does it take to get from point A to B, including the people involved, the assistance needed, and any errors/issues along the way.

3. Reliability

5 principles medium ranking

Thousands of people use UDP-solutions everyday. It is reliable enough to keep data flowing and workflows operational — but it’s not as simple as it should be.

The fact that UDP sends data at maximum speed, regardless of congestion, means it has developed a bad name with ISPs. Many ISPs now automatically throttle UDP traffic because of UDP’s long history of causing congestion.

The protocol is also a primary vehicle for “UDP flood”-style distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks; another reason UDP traffic is often blocked or severely restricted by firewalls.

Most workarounds require specialized software and IT approval. This is a non-starter for organizations without IT support.

Added to this is the nature of UDP itself, which, as we said earlier, doesn’t guarantee data integrity since there’s no formal send-acknowledge communication.

4. Security

5 principles good ranking

While most UDP-solutions are relatively secure, they’re not inherently secure because they don’t have all the browser’s security features (as with HTTPS-based solutions). That means custom UDP-solutions require constant user monitoring and updates against vulnerabilities.

If you have the right resources in place, then you can rest-assured your data is safe. However, there is a catch when it comes to the hand-off between browser and desktop clients.

UDP-solutions require each user to download a desktop client to operate. Some of these providers offer a browser plugin to be more accessible. This is where things get tricky; any browser-based activity requires certain TLS certificates, whereas a desktop app doesn’t.

If any file you receive through the browser ends up in your desktop app — without any sort of consent (a pop-up window asking to download files in the app), it is a breach of user data and a potential security risk.

All this to say, If you prefer going with a UDP-solution, don’t sign any contracts without having your IT staff verify the platform’s security and threat model.

5. Total Cost of Ownership

5 principles poor ranking

The high startup costs surrounding UDP-solutions are well-known. For small and even medium-sized businesses, however, those costs can be prohibitive. IBM Aspera’s most popular plan, for example, starts at nearly $10,440 annually for just 6 TB of data — and it goes up from there.

Depending on the UDP-solution, adding an extra member to your account also means an extra license per seat (for an even greater annual cost).

But the sticker price is just a fraction of the TCO of UDP-solutions. The same ongoing cost issues around IT support, dedicated maintenance, and training for new users that we mentioned earlier all apply.

Summary: Choosing the Right File Transfer Solution

As a summary, here’s how web and UDP-solutions stack up against the five principles:

5 principles chart

As it stands today, web-solutions have the edge over UDP as cloud-based workflows become more and more popular.

In this paradigm, it’s important for users to get up and running quickly. They need to operate entirely within the cloud using simple tools that ensure their files will arrive safely and in one-piece.

With that in mind, web makes the most sense. But remember, twenty years ago, UDP-solutions were the best way to send large files. Who’s to say that need won’t arise again in a few years, especially as UDP-based file transfer continues to evolve?

That’s why it’s important to use these five guiding principles as a litmus test when evaluating a large file transfer solution. Situations change, technology evolves, and what was popular yesterday might not be popular tomorrow.

Make the Switch to MASV

TCP-based accelerated large file delivery. Ready when you are.

Why MASV is the Ultimate Web-Solution to Send Large Files

If you’re ready to get started with a web-solution that is simple, fast, reliable, secure, and affordable, then sign up for a free trial of MASV today and start sending files within minutes.

MASV is a large file transfer platform built for cloud media workflows. Deliver terabytes of data at incredibly fast speeds, with enterprise encryption, built-in congestion control, and a suite of additional tooling to rival the best UDP-solutions:

MASV Portals

An easy way to request and collect file uploads from contributors.

Learn about MASV Portals >

Cloud Integrations

Integrate with cloud storage, media asset management tools, Slack, and more.

See Integrations >

Desktop App

A powerful, free desktop app to accelerate transfers beyond the constraints of a web browser.

Explore Desktop Features >

Automations

Assign Watch Folders on your computer to automate uploads, downloads, and cloud backups.

File Transfer Automations >

File Transfer API

A highly flexible API to introduce fast media ingestion to your custom workflow.

Explore our API >

MASV is strictly pay-as-you-go at $0.25 for every gigabyte downloaded. Uploads are free — and we offer special discount pricing per gigabyte for those who purchase large volumes of data in advance.

We also provide advanced features like Custom Metadata and SAML-enabled SSO for those within our Enterprise tier.

Fast, Easy, and Secure Transfer of Large Files

Get 100 GB of data to play with right away.