What is Metadata?

In file transfer, “metadata” usually refers to information about files moved through a file transfer system.  Examples of metadata include usernames of original submitter, content types, paths taken through the system so far and affirmations of antivirus or DLP checks.

Metadata such as suggested next steps is often submitted to file transfer applications in control files. However, most metadata is typically collected during a file’s flow through a file transfer system.  (All the metadata examples above are examples of passively collected metadata.)

File transfer applications often use metadata in their configured workflows to make runtime decisions.  (e.g., A workflow engine may be configured to send files from two different users to two different destinations.)

Metadata is often stored in the status, workflow and log databases used by file transfer applications.   When these data stores are proprietary or inaccessible integrating metadata from multiple applications can be challenging.

Explicit file attributes such as file size, file name, current location on disk and current permissions are not typically considered metadata.  The reason these attributes are not considered metadata is because they are required by almost every operating system; by definition metadata is extra data used to provide additional context for each file.

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