We use automation every day, from grocery shopping to entertainment systems. We rely on algorithms and automatic processing more than we realise, and unless it goes wrong we rarely notice it.

At QuayTech we’ve been looking at ways we can automate certain tasks to improve customer service and free up team members from repetitive tasks, but there is a stigma behind automation.

How Automation can Supercharge Customer Service
Humans are… well, human. A human can’t check a mail box 60 times a minute, and a human can’t reply to an email in less than a second. An algorithm can. When it comes to automatic replies, nearly every support team on the planet has one. Everyone knows it’s an automatic email of course, but getting a quick response can turn a satisfied customer into a happy customer. Why not take it a step further?
It can take hours for the human brain to detect patterns (and anomalies) but a bot can do this instantly. A simple alert to an engineer’s phone that says “6 clients have had the same problem with this software in the last hour” means you can have a problem resolved in minutes and hours, not days.
Communication between departments is a struggle for every growing business, but why not run an automatic notification to relay information from one team to another? In a software company, passing a ticket from development to QA automatically can drastically shorten the ticket life cycle. And no chasing other teams!

In the age of AI, self driving cars, and computer landed rocket ships, holding on to past processes can leave your business behind the market.

But is it all good?

 

When Automation Goes too Far
Robots are… well, robots. You can’t replace the human response with a line of code, and ultimately customers will always appreciate personal treatment. To that effect, an automatic reply to an email is good customer service, but only if it’s followed up later but a real human response. It’s also probably not a good idea to try and get your bot to draft it’s own responses like Asos did back in 2016 (Trust me – https://tinyurl.com/y936eb66)

 

Like most things, moderation is key, and unless you can reduce time spent or increase customer satisfaction, sticking with the human route is probably best. When you can though, automation could make a world of difference to your customer service team.

At QuayTech, we’re currently in the middle of a migration containing a few million files, so I’ve had plenty of time to think about File Transfers over the last week or two.

Back in the early 1970’s, FTP (File Transfer Protocol) was the only way of sending data across the Internet. Of course in 1973 the Internet was made up of only 83 Servers and most of them were Universities like Harvard or Tech Giants like IBM, so there wasn’t much need to encrypt or protect the data. There were no hackers, no phishing, and everyone knew who was on the other end.

The internet in 2018 is a very different place, so we need to make a few adjustments to the way we bulk send files.

 

Why you shouldn’t use Plain FTP

When we say FTP it can be a general term referring to all types of File Transfer, but more specifically it usually means Plain FTP. It’s called plain because the Data, Usernames, and Passwords are not encrypted, neither are host names, IP addresses or anything else. So what does this mean? Anyone listening in can not only view your files, but also where they are going, where they came from, and the necessary passwords to gain access.

It may have worked when Aberdeen were sending their research to Harvard 40 years ago, but sadly the Internet isn’t the safe place it was back then.

 

What should you use instead?

There are a few answers to that question, the most well known being file sharing programs like Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive. Maybe more time consuming than FTP, these software companies have to go through a huge number of security checks and procedures to be able to handle your data securely, so you’re in good hands. The advantage of this is that it requires almost no set up on your part.

If that doesn’t suit you, there are two successors to FTP – SFTP and FTPS.  These use the same interface as Plain FTP, so the immediate benefit is that most FTP programs can also use SFTP and FTPS. More Importantly, both also encrypt passwords and data transmissions.

SFTP uses SSH, this means that prior setup is required to send files. Both sides of the transfer must have the SSH Key required to operate, as well as the username and password.

FTPS is certificate based, and uses TLS for encryption rather than SSH, making it quick and easy to connect to a Server with a trusted Certificate, as long as you provide the username and password.

Both of these iterations of FTP make secure transmissions between trusted systems fast and easy, and automated transmissions secure and efficient. One of the best things about SFTP and FTPS is that most Plain FTP programs now allow you to enable SSL/TLS (FTPS) or SSH (SFTP) and automates a lot of the process for you. Just remember – Don’t choose Plain FTP.

Good luck with your file transfers!