MFT Pricing: Factors and Resources

Comparing pricing for managed file transfer (MFT) solutions can be confusing: MFT solutions available in the marketplace range from simple, free tools to comprehensive, enterprise-level solutions costing thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, of dollars. Furthermore, MFT tools may reside on-premises, in the cloud or in a hybrid architecture consisting of both on-prem and cloud.

Since this diversity can make MFT price comparison a time-consuming and painstaking endeavor, we’ve written (and updated) this blog to cover common cloud versus on-premises MFT pricing models and costs, additional cost considerations, vendor offerings and MFT price negotiations:

cloud mft saas pricing illustration

Cloud Managed File Transfer Pricing

Subscription Business Model

Cloud MFT is a software-as-a-service (SaaS), also referred to as MFTaaS. Services are provided and paid for on a subscription basis. Charges are usually based on monthly usage but billed annually with a 1-year minimum term. Generally, the MFT vendor provides

  • Maintenance and management of the cloud infrastructure, including functions such as
    • Software updates
    • Scaling
    • Load balancing
    • Fault tolerance
  • High availability and disaster recovery
  • 24/7/365 support

What Determines the Cloud MFT Price?

Nowadays, volume of data transmission is usually the basis for cloud MFT pricing. Vendors may use other variables to determine price, including feature bundles, interfaces or endpoints.

Common Cloud MFT Pricing Models

Two common cloud MFT pricing models are pay-as-you-go and tiered.

Pay-as-You-Go Pricing

Pay-as-you-go pricing means charges and their payment are for usage each month instead of being bound to a fixed contract fee or extended term. The usage metric could be files transferred or bandwidth. Bandwidth is the total data sent, and it’s calculated as the number of files multiplied by the average file size. For example, if 100 files are transferred each month and each file is 1MB, the total data transmitted will be 100MB.

Advantages: Disadvantages:
  • Maximum flexibility
  • May be economical for inconsistent file transfer volumes since charged only for actual usage during low usage periods
  • Not locked-in to a rate for a specified period so monthly charges may greatly fluctuate even with consistent file transfer volumes
  • Miss out on discounts that annual (or multi-year) contracts usually include

Bottom line: If flexibility is an important aspect, this may be the perfect choice for your company. Just stay on top of how much is spent each month. It may be more economical in the long run to commit to an agreement.

Tiered Pricing

With tiered pricing you commit to a contract and are put in a pricing tier based on predicted data transmission volumes. The vendor reserves that capacity for your organization.

If usage goes above your contracted level, the cloud accommodates the demand easily, however, you’ll likely receive overage fees or an option to upgrade.

Advantages: Disadvantages:
  • Features are included as part of the tier, i.e., features are not grouped into modules for additional fees
  • Easy to save money on transfers if use cases are known. Some examples of use cases are MFT agent file transfers, B2B file transfers and ad hoc file sharing
  • The more data transmitted, the less paid per unit
  • Longer agreements can result in more discounts per unit
  • May be difficult to control usage, especially in larger companies
  • May be difficult to predetermine what capacity of data transmission is needed
  • Overage fees
  • Less flexibility with multi-year commitment

Bottom line: If you have well-defined use cases and a plan to control usage, go with tiered pricing. If not, figure out your key use cases before looking at other pricing models.

On-Premises Managed File Transfer Pricing

Perpetual Licensing Business Model

On-premises MFT pricing is often based on a one-time perpetual license fee and ongoing annual maintenance fees. This one-time cost could take these factors into consideration:

  • The number of servers required for all file transfer needs, including additional servers to guarantee high availability and disaster recovery
  • The number of partners
  • The number of agents
  • The number of domains

Annual maintenance fees usually include support and future upgrades; however, your contract will spell out the specifics.

Advantages: Disadvantages:
  • If the price has multiple factors, the price is more customized. The one-time cost could be less than a monthly subscription cost over 3, 5 or 10 years.
  • Additional servers for high availability and disaster recovery purposes add to initial purchase and ongoing maintenance costs—for servers that aren’t used often, if at all. Scaling up capacity to meet quickly increasing file transfer demand may be more costly than expected or budgeted for.

Bottom line: Clarify in your licensing agreement what happens if you need to scale up quickly. Try to negotiate a lower cost-per-partner or cost-per-server as you scale.

User-Based MFT Pricing

This pricing model used to commonly be used by both cloud and on-premises MFT vendors but it’s not as common nowadays, having been replaced by the other models we’ve covered. However, some MFT vendors may still use this model.

User-based (a.k.a. per-user or per-seat) pricing is based on how many user logins your company requires. Tiers consisting of minimum and maximum number of users usually exist within this model.

Advantages: Disadvantages:
  • May work well for smaller businesses with a static user base or less complicated use cases
  • Charges may be based on a minimum number of users. For example, the basic plan may require payment for at least 5 users even if only using three logins.
  • May be less cost-effective for enterprises. Charges are based on a specified number of users regardless of whether they log in and use the tool or not.

Bottom line: Research and confirm the number of users in your organization that require access. Do not over purchase seats, however, do not limit users to the extent that it makes processes inefficient. Ask vendors for a team- or company-wide trial period to see how many employees use it.

Cloud versus On-Premises MFT Costs

This table highlights the differences between cloud and on-premises MFT costs. Be sure to read the following sections for more information regarding costs that may be incurred for each.

  Cloud MFT Cost On-Premises MFT Cost
Expense Type Periodic operating expense Capital, or one-time, expenditure
Infrastructure Vendor manages scaling and maintenance Your organization purchases, sets up and maintains servers
Security Software Vendor provides and manages antivirus, encryption, etc. Your organization purchases and manages antivirus, encryption, etc.
High Availability and Disaster Recovery Vendor provides and manages Your organization purchases and manages
Physical Environment Not applicable: No physical space to incur costs Your organization pays for servers’ physical space, security, electricity, etc.

Additional MFT Cost Considerations

Besides the baseline cost of the managed file transfer solution, there are additional costs to consider. Some are specific to whether it’s in the cloud or on-premises, while others are incurred regardless of where the tool resides. However, the costs of these activities can greatly differ depending on whether cloud or on-premises.


Cloud Instance Deployment

The costs for cloud MFT deployment and migration depend on several factors, including

  • Public cloud instances can be provisioned faster and managed by the vendor, so typically they are less expensive.
  • Private cloud instances are more time-consuming to deploy. Your company may be expected to manage the private cloud, which can increase the strain on your IT personnel.

On-Premises MFT Start Up Costs

On-premises managed file transfer with its one-time cost and smaller annual maintenance fees can seem like a great deal; however, post-purchase costs can add up significantly.

A new server can take 6-8 hours to set up. Your organization will also have to set strict security policies, ensure high availability and make a disaster recovery plan. If an on-premises IT infrastructure is already in place, ask your admins:

  • How long does it take to set up a server?
  • How much time is spent maintaining other servers?
  • How is server security ensured?
  • What is our disaster recovery plan?

Their answers will help you understand whether cloud or on-premises MFT is more feasible.


Migration costs are highly use case and buyer-dependent. To understand how much migration may cost, ask your IT personnel to estimate how many servers and file transfer connections will need to be moved over to the new solution.

Training and Onboarding

When switching to a new MFT solution, users need training to understand and use the new tool and its interface. Factors that influence onboarding costs include

  • Number of employees being trained
  • Length of training
  • Cost of travel for on-site training

Support and Maintenance

Some managed file transfer vendors include 24/7/365 support with every contract. Others come with a basic level of support and require extra payment for emergency support.

According to Pro2col, an MFT consultancy, “Support contracts are typically 20-30% of the license cost per year.” Keep in mind that this percentage is an estimate and may not apply to every case.


If files are to be stored in the cloud after delivery, this cost could be affected by

  • Country or geolocation
  • Redundancy or backup requirements
  • Amount being stored

Total Managed File Transfer Cost

The total cost of ownership (TCO) for MFT (cloud or on-premises) can vary widely, depending on your use cases and which solution is selected.

A simple automation solution can start at around 3000 British pounds, or $4,100 USD, according to Pro2col. More advanced solutions fall into the 10-50,000-pound range, or $13,000-$68,000 USD.

With that much on the line, you should investigate a variety of vendors to find the best option.

Vendor MFT Pricing Comparison

Vendor Deployment Type Pricing Model
Axway MFT On-Premises, Cloud Hosted and Cloud Service Unknown
Fortra’s Globalscape EFT and EFT Arcus (MFTaaS) On-Premises and Cloud Features are bundled into Core Server, Collaboration, Starter, Premium and Enterprise bundles
Fortra’s GoAnywhere MFT and Gateway On-Premises, Cloud and Hybrid Features are bundled into Core Server, Collaboration, Starter, Premium and Enterprise bundles
Progress MOVEit and MOVEit Cloud On-Premises and Cloud

Pricing depends on application(s) required:

  • Automate, available only on-premises. Pricing based on Tiers 1, 2 and 3.
  • Transfer, available on-premises or in cloud. Pricing is based on users.
Thru Cloud, On-Premises and Hybrid Starter and Enterprise tiers based on usage capacity levels

Cloud MFT Price Negotiation

As clear-cut as it sounds, the term “best price” for MFT is somewhat subjective. It depends on what is prioritized: the best price in total or the best price per unit (user, transfer, etc.)

According to one of our account managers, “The way to get the best price per unit is to sign up for a multiyear agreement and pay for the full term in advance.”

To get the best total price, pick the right tier for your company’s usage and then prepay a multi-year contract in advance. Avoid overage fees as much as possible by making a detailed usage policy and checking transfer volume every month.

Always negotiate with the vendor to see what they are willing and able to compromise on. Negotiation points could include:

  • Monthly or annual billing amount
  • Billing manner and frequency
  • Subscription duration
  • Support and training costs
  • Renewal procedure

MFT Pricing Conclusion

The total price of managed file transfer solutions can be difficult to understand since it’s heavily both vendor- and use-case dependent. We hope this blog helps in understanding the common MFT pricing models, their pros and cons and what may be negotiable.


[Note: This blog was originally posted on April 12, 2021, and has been updated to reflect the current MFT marketplace]


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