The two standard file transfer protocols are FTP (File Transfer Protocol) and SFTP (Secure File Transfer Protocol). Users use these two protocols interchangeably, but there are significant differences between them.

What is FTP?

FTP (File Transfer Protocol) is a standard network protocol that aids in file transfers between different hosts (usually a computer and a server) over a TCP-based network like the internet. This protocol enables users to transfer large amounts of data quickly. Plus, business owners can use it to upload and download web application files, images, and web pages easily from their servers.

With FTP, employees can share files with coworkers across multiple locations, applications can exchange and share data across the internet, and IT teams can easily transfer data after disaster recovery.

Port 21 is the default communication port for this protocol, and it uses two different channels to transfer data; a command channel and a data channel. Both of these channels remain unencrypted by default, making FTP an unsuitable option for security-conscious users.

Features of FTP

  • FTP supports both structured and unstructured data.
  • FTP offers an interactive interface to enable users to interact with remote servers.
  • With user access control, FTP can accommodate multiple site administrators and standard users.
  • FTP provides users with multiple access methods, cloud storage, security, and compliance.
  • Businesses can use FTP to update and backup their data automatically.
  • FTP enables users to get complete control and visibility over their data transfer activity.
  • FTP manages three types of data representations — ASCII, EBCDIC, and 8-binary data.
  • FTP allows users to specify the type and representation of their stored data.
  • FTP transfers files using the stream, block, or compressed mode.

Advantages of FTP

    • There is no file size restriction on a single transfer.
    • FTP is one of the fastest ways of transferring files between two computers.
  • A username and password are required to access the FTP server.
  • FTP enables businesses to transfer files back and forth.
  • FTP allows users to restrict access to their files.
  • Many FTP clients have a synchronizing utility and offer scripting capabilities.
  • Individuals can schedule and resume their file transfers with ease.
  • Most FTP clients enable users to transfer multiple directories and files.
  • Businesses can use this protocol to hide files on individual computer systems.

Disadvantages of FTP

  • Not all FTP providers offer encryption, making them a non-secure data transfer method.
  • FTP does not allow users to run simultaneous transfers to different receivers.
  • FTP is not compatible with every system, and individuals find it hard to use the protocol for scripting jobs.
  • This protocol does not enable server-to-server copy and recursive directory removal processes.
  • It is hard to filter active FTP connections.
  • FTP is prone to human errors, and it is easy to intercept data with this protocol.
  • Compliance issues are common when using FTP to transfer files.

What is SFTP?

SFTP(Secure File Transfer Protocol) is a secure version of FTP, and it is a part of the SSH (Secure Shell) protocol suite for secure data transfer and access. This protocol offers fast and secure file transfers over SSH, and it provides access to all accounts on both local and remote systems.

SFTP, commonly referred to as SSH File Transfer Protocol, uses encryption to protect the data in transfer.

Businesses use SFTP in place of FTP in situations where file security is essential, and they can access it on ScalaHosting Cloud VPS solutions. Like FTP, you can use SFTP over the command-line interface, though many clients like FileZilla also support the secure protocol nowadays.

Features of SFTP

  • SFTP transfers files using WinSCP and SFTP clients.
  • Users can open multiple directories or files simultaneously.
  • SFTP supports all SFTP server versions, password and public-key authentication, and 64-bit file sizes.
  • Businesses can use SFTP to upload and download files, create remote directories, and download directory listings.
  • SFTP transmits data in binary format.
  • SFTP implements the SSH3 protocol and enables users to execute commands over the SSH channel.
  • SFTP supports TMUX, Screen sessions, custom channels, and IPV6 HTTP protocols.
  • This protocol offers secure file transmissions, and users can compress their communications with ease.
  • Businesses can set permission controls to restrict access to their files.

Advantages of SFTP

  • SFTP offers users a secure connection, and the risks during data exchange are limited.
  • Individuals can redirect uninformed TCP/IP ports using the encrypted channel in different directions.
  • SFTP protocol does not transfer clear text passwords.
  • SFTP servers support the effective transfer of large files, and it uses only one connection.
  • The SFTP directory is machine-readable and uniform.
  • Users can install and use the SFTP software with limited functionality.

Disadvantages of SFTP

  • SFTP cannot log the binary data transmission.
  • It is not easy to manage and validate SSH keys.
  • SFTP is a complicated protocol that is difficult to implement technically.

Similarities between FTP and SFTP

  • Both protocols enable users to use an FTP client to connect to their website servers.
  • Businesses can use both protocols to upload files to their server, download files to their local computer, and browse files on their server.

Difference between FTP and SFTP

  • Unlike the SFTP protocol that provides a secure channel for file transfer between hosts, FTP does not offer any secure channel to transfer files.
  • FTP protocol is provided by TCP/IP, while the SFTP protocol is a part of the SSH protocol suite.
  • FTP uses two channels for data transfer, while SFTP makes use of one channel.
  • By default, incoming connections are on port 21 for FTP and port 22 for SFTP.
  • SFTP provides encryption for data exchange, while FTP transfers passwords and data in plain text format.
  • FTP makes use of Client-server architecture, while SFTP uses SSH architecture.
  • FTP uses a direct transfer method whereas, SFTP uses a tunneling transfer method.

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