If you have experience using Marketing Cloud Engagement Automation Studio, you likely are familiar with Data Extract, File Transfer, and Import activities. These activities enable the export/import of files to either SFMC SFTP or an external file location.
Frequently, people ask when to use an external file location instead of SFMC SFTP. A good example is when you need to limit access to exported files to specific providers, as SFMC SFTP users have access to all files and folders. Using an external SFTP location allows you to restrict access to only those who need it.
It is worth noting that when importing from an external file location, the file drop functionality is not available. Therefore, the automation will need to rely on scheduled automation or Trigger entry.
Recently, I was working on a solution that called for us to export a zipped segment to an external file location. I have worked with Data Extract and zipped files before, and there is a Zip extract type in the activity options. However, this would only enable the zipped file to be exported to the SFMC SFTP Export folder. Normally then we would use a File Transfer activity to export the file from the SFMC Safehouse to the external file location, so when I asked around I was told it was not possible.
But it is possible! In order to be able to export the zipped file to an external file location, additional steps are required to move the zipped file back to the safe house (step 4) and use the file transfer activity to export it to the external file location (step 5).
Step 1: Create a data extract activity, this is your standard data extract to retrieve data from a data extension and generate the file that has to be zipped.
Important: use a consistent file naming pattern across the activities and ensure to add the file type to the name (e.g. .csv).