FTPs vs sFTP: Which Protocol would be the Best for your Business? Print

  • ftp, sftp, ssh
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When deciding to transfer data to a secure protocol system, questions arise often regarding the secure transmission methods that should be used and how they differ from one another.

What is Secure FTP and what is the difference between FTPs and sFTP?

The File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is a network protocol that allows clients and servers to exchange data. Secure FTP makes FTP's most important feature - file transmission – more secure. FTP is insecure by default; thus, it's usually encrypted with SSL/TLS (to become FTPS) or replaced with SFTP (SSH File Transfer Protocol).

FTPs vs sFTP: What's the Difference

The main differences between FTPS and SFTP are outlined below:

Connection Security via SSL/TLS via SSH channel
Security A public key infrastructure is used to verify server authentication. Usernames and passwords, as well as client certificate verification, can be used for client authentication. Server authentication is usually accomplished by sending the server's public key to clients in a safe manner ahead of time. Users and passwords, as well as public key authentication, can be used to verify clients.
Adoption The most widely used, owing to its illustrious history. In modern gadgets and software, it has become increasingly frequent.

Connections Required 

There should be at least two: one for issuing commands and another for each directory listing or file transfer. 

There is only one requirement (commands and data use the same connection) 

File and Directory Listings and Operations 

More primitive and inconsistent. There is no common mechanism to get/change file or directory characteristics, for example. 

Uses a standardized directory listing and established standards to operate. 


There are three types of key exchange: asymmetric, symmetric, and key exchange. 

There are three types of key exchange: asymmetric, symmetric, and key exchange. 


x.509 certificates were used (which contain a public key and some ownership information along with a private key) 

SSH keys were used to complete the task (which only provide a public key and do not normally confirm ownership information) 

Server Requirements 

A server's X.509 certificate and private key are required. 

SFTP functionality is included in most SSH server setups (or Open SSH can be used) 


FTPS was created with speed in mind: you may choose to encrypt both connections (the command channel and the data channel) or only the data channel with FTPS. FTPS may reach a high data transmission speed since the control and data channels run asynchronously in two separate connections. 

SFTP isn’t identical to FTPs as it is slightly slower than SFTP. 


Comparing Cases: sFTP vs. FTPs


  FTPs sFTP Preferred Protocol


FTPs’s requirements for at least two ports (and possibly many more depending on the volume of file transfer activity) can make troubleshooting difficult and expose novel attack vectors that become possible thanks to the constantly changing data connection between the client and server. Special attention to the network configuration and server security options can help mitigate these risks. 

sFTP uses a single connection port for all communication between a client and server. This tends to greatly simplify interoperability concerns and reduces the attack surface when compared with FTPs. 



Certificate visibility offers high degree of trust 

SSH keys can be harder to validate because they usually require the server administrator to securely distribute the server’s public key to clients ahead of initial connection 












Due to FTPs’s length of time in the market more devices and systems are compatible with FTPs. However, the lack of standardization for many functions can sometimes lead to client and server interoperability issues. 

sFTP will generally be accepted by more modern devices and systems (Linux and Unix) but is not ideal for communicating in legacy situations. (For example, VCL and .NET frameworks do not offer built-in support) 

 sFTP or FTPs 

Setup & Configuration 

Can cause firewall/transmission issues due to more complex configurations required. 

Primarily due to its streamlined connections that reduce firewall issues. 




Offers the highest possible secure transfer speeds. 

sFTP transfers carry a lot more overhead due to the robustness and flexibility of the protocol. 


File/Directory Manipulation 

FTPs’s available commands are limited and not standardized, which can require additional administrative configuration. 

Offers a number of standardized controls and commands for activities such as file directory manipulation, permissions locking, etc. 


Server to Server Communications   

Due to limitations in sFTP 

Server-to-server communications are not well-supported 


Internet File Transfer   

Due to SSL/TLS support built into many internets' communications frameworks 

Can be configured but will require extra steps. 



Depending on your organization's requirements, any secure FTP method may be sufficient to protect your file transfers. However, if you are still not sure which method you should choose then consult IT Company as our technical experts are available to provide you a solution which can work for your business needs.

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