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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Be like Tom Cruise (or Peter Graves) and Get Your Files to Self-Destruct Securely

Summary: Just like the messages that deliver ‘the mission’ to Ethan Hunt or Jim Phelps in the Mission Impossible series, files on the Accellion Secure File Transfer Appliance (SFTA) will ‘self-destruct’ when you say the time is up.


Watching one of the Mission Impossible movies the other day, I got a kick out of how Tom Cruise’s character Ethan Hunt received his mission assignment through a pair of glasses. When he had all the details he needed, he tossed the glasses into the air and they blew up (cool!), preventing anyone else from accessing the vital mission information.

Alas, I am also old enough to recall the original Mission Impossible television series where Peter Graves’ character Jim Phelps received his mission via audio cassette. The tape would fizzle in a puff of smoke to self-destruct (cool!), again to protect the secret information.

This got me thinking about the life of files that are often left to languish in places such as FTP servers and email in-boxes. Unlike the self-destructing messages delivered to the Mission Impossible team, these real-life files hang around forever until someone takes the action to remove them. And the longer the files sit around, the more susceptible they are to prying eyes, including search engines like Google.

While state secrets may not be involved (and, in any case, the secretary shall disavow any knowledge), most business processes and senders would like to ensure that information doesn’t hang around any longer than need be. Accellion SFTA has a lifecycle management feature that allows an administrator to set global default limits for how long files remain on the appliance before they ‘self-destruct.’ Actually, they are merely deleted, so don’t worry about the appliance sending out puffs of smoke or exploding in the data center. Sorry.

Furthermore, while there is a global default, say 30 days, the default time length can be overwritten by an authorized sender. This user can specify whatever length of time he needs to keep the file on the appliance, say, one day or 12 months.

Finally, you wouldn’t want people putting files on the server indefinitely because they might use the appliance as a long-term storage medium. (Great for Accellion because people would need to buy more SFTA boxes, but integrating your Accellion SFTA with you SAN is probably a better ROI for your IT budget.) For this, the SFTA administrator holds the ultimate power of setting the maximum lifespan of files that no user can exceed. This could be an important part of your overall corporate electronic record retention policy.

So, what does this file lifecycle management tool mean? For end users, this means senders do not have to clean up the email attachments. (Don’t you hate when your email system tells you to delete or archive files to free up space? Your SFTA would never do this to you!)

Of course, the person who is most grateful for this lifecycle management feature is the system administrator. If he sets a reasonable global default time for files, and he allows authorized users to override that default as needed, then he is not the bad guy when files are automatically removed from the appliance. Users can’t complain about disappearing files when they know it is company policy to remove files after x number of days, weeks, or months. In addition, the system administrator does not need to spend his time wading through files to determine if they are ripe for removal from the appliance. This process will happen quite naturally and automatically. In short, there’s no impossible mission when it comes to lifecycle management with the Accellion SFTA.

And, the secretary shall never disavow your actions.


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