When looking for an accelerated file transfer solution, you may run into an alphabet soup of acronyms and abbreviations. We’re here to help you on your quest to find the fastest file transfer solution for your business needs by clarifying what these many terms mean, and why you should care about them.
First, what exactly is fast file transfer, and how much faster is it than standard file transfer protocols?
What is Fast File Transfer?
Fast file transfer is a type of solution that executes file transfers at speeds up to 10 Gbps (billions of bits per second – but we’ll get to that). This is dozens of times faster than standard FTPs and, in real-world terms, can reduce transfer wait times from days to hours and from hours to seconds.
Related Reading: Dissecting the Values of a Fast File Transfer Solution
Fast file transfer also refers to the amount of data transferred. Solutions that perform fast file transfer can often send more files than typical file transfer solutions, even while maintaining that greater speed.
Here are the terms you’ll run into as you explore the world of accelerated file transfer:
FTP: File Transfer Protocol
FTP, short for File Transfer Protocol, is a standard network protocol used for the transfer of data files between a client and server on a computer network.
Gbps: Billions of Bits Per Second
Gbps stands for billions of bits per second, where G, Giga, is billions. This term is a bandwidth measurement, AKA how much data your network can handle or transfer at once time. Slower measurements use Mbps—millions of bits per second—or even Kbps—thousands of bits per second. Bits can often be confused with bytes, and you may see both terms (i.e., GigaBits and GigaBytes) used, but 1 byte is equivalent to 8 bits and there’s a difference in abbreviation: a lowercase b stands for bits and uppercase B for bytes.
Line speed is a network-related term that tells you the maximum file transfer speed that your internet link can support and is typically measured in Mbps. Note that line speed refers to the maximum speed—multiple factors can reduce your upload and download speeds, and ultimately result in slower internet and longer wait times.
If your internet speed has ever noticeably changed from hour to hour, you may have used a free online line speed test to diagnose whether your internet connectivity was slow or if the issue lay elsewhere. According to personal plan numbers from US News, download speeds typically range from 0.8 Mbps to 2,000 Mbps, and upload speeds are between 0.4 Mbps to 2,000 Mbps. High-speed internet is also based on line speed, and must meet these constraints:
- Minimum download speed: 25 Mbps
- Minimum upload speed: 3 Mbps
MFT: Managed File Transfer
Managed file transfer, often shorted to MFT, is a type of file transfer solution that typically encompasses many steps in the file transfer process. These include encryption, translation, workflow automation, and more.
Not all MFT solutions are also equipped for accelerated file transfer. While they can expedite file transfers overall by providing many of the necessary to-dos in one centralized tool, only some also address file acceleration in MFT.
Breaking this down, packet is a set of data, and packet loss is when that set does not arrive at its destination during file transfer. The most common reasons for this can include:
- Errors in data transfer, especially due to wireless (like WiFi), mobile, and satellite link errors
- Network congestion
- Problems with hardware.
RTT: Round-Trip Time
While RTT often refers to Real Time Text (text that is sent as it is being typed, such as in closed captioning for live TV), RTT for fast file transfer stands for Round-Trip Time. This is the amount of time it takes for a data packet to go from the sender to the recipient and back again.
TCP: Transmission Control Protocol
TCP, also referred to as TCP/IP stands for Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol. It’s the backbone of internet communications and helps connect devices across the world. TCP alone is the transport protocol, and its primary function is to ensure that the files that arrive exactly match the files sent.
Learn more about TCP: Getting Started with Fast File Transfer
TFTP: Trivial File Transfer Protocol
TFTP, which stands for Trivial File Transfer Protocol, is based around file transfer technology but uses a different approach to how files are transferred. It is a stripped-down—dare we say trivial—transfer protocol that can only be used to send and receive files. TFTP is best used when encryption or advanced security isn’t required, since user authentication and directory visibility are not possible.
Related Reading: TFTP vs. FTP: What’s the Difference?
UDP: User Datagram Protocol
UDP stands for User Datagram Protocol and it is one of the most used protocols for streaming audio and video, including VoIP and video conferencing. Despite its widespread usage, it’s not the most reliable of file transfer protocols. Where TCP is precise, UDP focuses more on quick delivery, but what it gains in speed it sacrifices in accuracy. Using UDP can result in files delivered with errors, or not delivered at all (known as packet loss) unless a specialized fast file transfer protocol like FileCatalyst is used, as these specially-built software solutions can overcome the common pitfalls of UDP.
Whether you’re on the latest tech or just begrudgingly upgraded from dial-up (we hope you’re long past that point!), connectivity can be an issue. While unreliable connectivity – when connections to other devices or the internet a whole waver between ideal and iffy – mostly results in longer wait times, it can also impact your data transfers. Some connections, like satellite links, are more prone to packet loss than others, and so are some FTPs. Others bottleneck themselves when packets are dropped: TCP misinterprets dropped packets as network congestion, which causes throughput to be reduced dramatically.
If this is a problem you run into, look for a fast file transfer solution that gives you more control over what should happen next: do you want to simply retransmit lost packets, or retune and adjust to the current network connectivity to avoid drops in the first place?
XFT: Extreme File Transfer
Extreme file transfer (XFT), is all about solving the problem of transferring overly large files, which have become known as “extreme files.” In some cases, the files themselves may be much too large. In others, the problem may be that the file destination is simply too far away for reliable delivery over TCP/IP.
ZIP files are very useful for reducing disk space, minimizing transmission times, and for keeping related files organized together. Zipping is also a great way to package, compress, and encrypt several files into one. The sender simply compresses (zips) any data they want to send, and the recipient can easily unzip.