Based in Ottawa, Canada, Filecatalyst was recently acquired by HelpSystems in January 2021. It’s not clear what will happen to the Filecatalyst product line. As of this writing, HelpSystems continues to sell the file transfer technology and offer customer support. HelpSystems has acquired around 20 or so companies since 2011.
Like Aspera, Signiant, and other WAN optimized software-based file transfer solutions, Filecatalyst offers mature functionality for fast file transfer and file sharing; in some cases, filecatalyst workflows can be API-driven for automation.
Filecatalyst is well suited for basic file transfer services and use cases (including managed file transfer or MFT) and integration with some multi-step workflows. It’s also good for simple “hot folder” transfers and sending files via email links–i.e., one-way person to person or B2B transfers, where the entire file is sent in the file transfer.
On the downside, we’ve heard from customers that Filecatalyst struggles on unreliable networks (LTE, VSAT, WiFI). And, due to its point-to-point architecture, will not scale-out performance beyond a single endpoint–i.e. for use with faster networks (over 10 Gbps).
This blog covers some of the differences between Filecatalyst and Resilio Connect. For example, Resilio gives customers a lot of flexibility to move and synchronize files efficiently in any direction. Resilio has the capability to process and replicate extremely large data sets (up to many millions of files) and centrally manage thousands of endpoints.
Point to Point File Transfer Overview
Filecatalyst (like Aspera and Signiant) relies on point-to-point file transfer technology and UDP-based transport for moving files between 2 computers, or endpoints. UDP is well suited to moving large files at the maximum speed of the 2 computers, within the available bandwidth of the network (up to potentially 10 Gbps). It can be sufficient for overcoming latency and other drawbacks of TCP-based approaches like FTP, SFTP, and other file transfer solutions relying on TCP/IP. Overall, Filecatalyst works well moving digital assets between 2 endpoints and for some cloud-based backup scenarios.
There are, however, some challenges with this approach. Point-to-point architectures suffer from:
- Serialized transfer between at most two (2) computers
- Fixed resources on each computer: A fixed amount of CPU, memory, disk IO, and throughput could be limiting factors.
- Single point of failure in the event of an outage.
Like IBM Aspera, Filecatalyst relies on a similar point-to-point UDP implementation to mitigate latency for data transfers over long-distance networks (WANs). In both implementations, the file transfer software does a good job in terms of product features and usability. In fact, Aspera and Filecatalyst look very similar from a UI perspective and offer similar functionality.
However, for use across today’s high performance networks, the maximum speed of file transfers may be limited by performance bottlenecks on the actual endpoints. For fast networks, typically the bottlenecks are on the endpoints: disk IO (IOPS and/or throughput), CPU, network throughput, and/or RAM or NVMe. Point-to-point has issues with high availability and routing across network failures. In some cases, traditional HA for active-passive failover on Windows (or what’s offered for the host OS) may suffice.
As networks become faster and faster–scaling out to move larger data sets across higher performance networks may be desired. We’re now seeing customers go from GigE (1 Gbps) to faster networks from 10 to 20 to 100 Gbps and beyond. One prospective partner Resilio is working with has deployed 1 Tbps across sites over distance. In these situations, Filecatalyst simply can not keep up; transfer jobs would need to be partitioned and run separately in parallel across numerous systems, as separate jobs. In short, point-to-point solutions do not scale.
UDP-based File Transfer vs Universal File Delivery
So how else is Resilio Connect different from Filecatalyst and other file transfer software like Aspera and Signiant? Resilio’s universal file delivery system, powered by Resilio Connect, unifies file data from edge to core to cloud, across any device and location. Resilio’s unique scale-out peer-to-peer (P2P) design accelerates transfer performance in real-time for files of any size and type, and up to millions of files.
Resilio has purpose-built Resilio Connect from the ground up to maintain resilience and data integrity for use across any IP network, from extremely unreliable wide-area networks (WANs) to the fastest low latency networks, over 10 Gpbs.
The peer-to-peer (P2P) architecture of Resilio benefits from:
- Data resilience and reliability. Files are hashed across all endpoints to preserve data integrity, protect data, and dynamically route data in motion.
- Scale-out and -up performance. Simply add endpoints (what Resilio calls agents) to increase performance; endpoints also support multi-threading for scale up.
- Real-time synchronization to accelerate performance of individual jobs. Files are immediately replicated on change; only the changed portion of the file is sent over the wire.
- No file size limits. Data sets may contain many millions of files of any size and type.
- Resilio also offers turnkey WAN optimization through a proprietary (“zero gravity”) protocol.
Real-time Synchronization vs Scheduled File Transfers and Hot Folders
One fundamental difference between Filecatalyst and Resilio is the way files are transmitted and delivered. File Catalyst sends files on a schedule, or via a time-based policy on a hot folder. This could be set to zero so when files are dropped into the hot folder, they are transferred.
In the Resilio model, jobs–distribution, ingest (what Resilio calls “consolidation”), scripting, and synchronization–can be scheduled, automated, or set to replicate in real-time. Combined with Resilio’s ability to rapidly process large data sets, and replicate files in any direction, this provides exceptionally fast, efficient, and scalable file synchronization.
Resilio also makes efficient use of the network, minimizing the amount of data transferred across the network. Resilio sends less data over the network thanks to an optimized differential sync engine, built-in compression, and efficient recovery from failure.
Management Software Comparison
Both Resilio and Filecatalyst offer centralized management systems for managing jobs, bandwidth allocations, monitoring events, and adding notifications. Both systems integrate with digital asset management tools and tools from Adobe (like Premier) and Avid (Pro Tools and Media Compose) among other systems. Both systems offer RESTful APIs for automation and integration with apps and management systems, from open source tools (Resilio supports Grafana, Prometheus, Jenkins, et al) to enterprise management applications (Resilio supports a long list from Microsoft SCOM to Splunk to LCE).
To simplify management, Resilio’s management software, the Resilio Connect Management Console, puts IT in control to centrally monitor and visualize all jobs and events across the organization. Thousands of jobs and endpoints can be managed centrally. The Resilio management software supports running on Linux and Windows.
A big difference between Filecatalyst and Resilio is enterprise capability at scale: One Resilio customer is managing over 100,000 endpoints through a cluster of Resilio Connect Management Consoles. Another major Fortune 500 company supports one-to-many distribution to 3,500 point-of-sale (POS) systems (endpoints).
Scale-out N-Way Vs. One-Way File Transfer with Filecatalyst
Quite possibly the most unique differentiator between Resilio Connect and Filecatalyst is that Resilio Connect enables omni-directional (N-way) replication. That means files can be ingested, distributed, and synchronized in any direction: one-way (uni-directional), two-way (bi-directional), many-to-one or one-to-many (multi-directional), and many-to-many (full mesh).
With Resilio, delivering files to many locations (hundreds to thousands) takes nearly the same time as delivering files to a few locations. The system scales as endpoints are added.
Security and Data Protection
Cybersecurity and data protection are at the top of every IT manager’s list of must-have features. With Resilio, end-to-end security is built in, protecting file data globally.
Resilio does not rely on any 3rd-party software or cloud services for security.
Resiliio provides encryption for data at rest and in motion. Data integrity is provided end-to-end for all jobs.
Both Filecatalyst and Resilio support cloud-based backup and connecting to a variety of cloud storage providers. Resilio, however, offers turnkey configuration for a variety of them, including Microsoft Azure Files and Blobs, Azure NetApp Files, Amazon AWS, Google GCP, Backblaze, Wasabi, among others.
One of the coolest features available with Resilio Connect enables you to use Windows file servers as a cloud cache and storage gateway to nearly any type of cloud object storage. The key benefits of this provide an efficient way to download and sync data to and from the cloud without incurring excessive cloud egress fees. Resilio calls this transparent selective sync.
Filecatalyst vs. Resilio Connect – Comparison
This table provides a summary of which large file transfer and sync software solution is best for each use case, Filecatalyst or Resilio Connect (a Filecatalyst alternative). A more detailed explanation of each use case follows.
|Use Case||Filecatalyst||Resilio Connect|
|Transfer a few files from team A to team B||✔||✔|
|Send links to files in emails||✔|
|Ingest files from external partners||✔||✔|
|Transfer files to several locations at once||✔|
|High-performance point-to-point transfers up to 10 Gpbs||✔||✔|
|Resilience over extreme conditions in unreliable networks (VSAT, LTE, etc.)||✔|
|High-performance scale-out transfers and synchronization jobs beyond 10 Gbps||✔|
|Basic folder to folder sync (one-way)||✔||✔|
|Synchronize many files across locations (two-way)||✔|
|One-to-many distribution or synchronization||✔|
|Many-to-many distribution or sync||✔|
|Transfer files to/from cloud/private object storage||✔||✔|
Summary: Resilio Connect is a Superior Alternative to Filecatalyst
There are good reasons to consider a filecatalyst alternative such as Resilio Connect. Both products offer cross-platform support, solid management software, automation, in addition to bandwidth control. But Resilio Connect was designed for a broader variety of enterprise uses case–what we call Universal File Delivery. The breakthrough in how files are replicated at scale–using omni-directional, highly resilient, N-way file delivery, is enabling customers of all types to move massive numbers of files concurrently to nearly any number of endpoints. Thus, files can be synchronized in real-time, in any direction, to nearly any number of endpoints.
Moreover, for edge uses such as gaming, restaurant services, logistics, marine, oil and gas, emergency services from fire to police and an increasing number of other use cases — Resilio Connect is the hands down winner for moving files over whatever network happens to be available. From unreliable VSAT to the fastest networks in the world, Resilio will get your data where it needs to be, on time.
Summary of areas where Resilio Connect outperforms Filecatalyst:
- Scalability – Distribute, consolidate, and synchronize files for any size organization, from small to very large files and millions of files.
- Efficiency – Only send the changed portion of the file.
- Flexibility — distribute and synchronize files to any number of people and locations. File transfers (for distribution, ingest, and synchronization) may be one-way, two-way, one-to-many, or many-to-many.
- Architecture — Resilio Connect is based on a peer-to-peer architecture. Filecatalyst employs a point-to-point architecture.