SFTP vs. FTPS: Secure File Transfer Protocols Explained

SFTP vs FTPS Secure File Transfer Protocols Explained 1

The massive volume of data is moved regularly by many businesses. In order to successfully do this, many businesses seek assistance from the two industry-stranded open protocols. They are SFTP and FTPS.

Both of them have names that are similar sounding. However, it is the “S” in the acronym that speaks about being “Secure”. It is an important element of the protocol. You could either add the security or begin with it as the base. Both accomplish a similar goal, which is transferring all your data securely. But there is plenty of difference under the hood. 

For a while now, we haven’t heard of any concerns raised with regard to FTP on account of security. Today this is a past matter, and it’s time that we get to know its successors FTPS and SFTP.

The world of file transfer has plenty of acronyms that gets overwhelming at times. For you to get the correct method to match your requirements, you must understand how they work.

This article is written to help you learn more about the two significant game-changers: FTPS and SFTP.

File Transfer Protocol Secure (FTPS) 

This builds on FTP by merging it with TLS/ SSL. For some of you who may not be familiar with the system. We have written an article in the past that you could refer to. However, to put it up, it began as a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and gradually evolved to TLS. TLS is short for Transport Layer Security.

It encrypts the data. This is very beneficial, especially if you become the victim of a malicious attack. In such a case, the attacker will be unable to use any of your data that they get their hands upon. However, the connection will be authenticated between the web server and the browser.

All this can be achieved with the help of TLS/ SSL certificates when a site procures a signed certificate by a certificate authority that is publicly trusted. It automatically increases the trust of their client’s software like operating systems and web browsers.

As soon as the browser is connected to a web server, it begins to check if it has a genuine certificate. Once it confirms the authenticity of the certificate, the so-called “handshake” procedure begins. Here the server and browser negotiate the process.

If the certificate is valid, it permits the server and the browser to proceed with the verification process. Once they identify each other as being legitimate, they make a connection that is binding. This connection is impossible to penetrate.

Once this security layer is added to FTP, it transforms file transfer that is being done through an unsecured method into something that cannot be hacked.

Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) 

This was developed to be an extension of Secure Shell Protocol (SSH). SSH helps you to log in to a computer from a remote location. This is done with the help of another system by using a network that is unsecured through a channel that is secure.

When you merge FTP and SSH, it becomes SFTP. SFTP is a process that helps you to transfer files through a connection that is secure. All your data and files are encrypted and sent to SSH streams.

By opening or creating credentials, you can initiate a connection. You will then need to enter it on an SFTP client, which will authenticate you and permit you to start the connection.

To connect, use a command or line terminal. You will, however, require to get logged into the system for being verified as a valid user.

SFTP versus FTPS 

You may be a WP user and in search of a way to duplicate all the files from the Server. In such a case, SFTP is the best. This is because you may not have a certificate that is required to create an FTPS connection.

Luckily you can find certain clients that specialize in file transfers like FileZilla. They permit you to choose a method that you prefer. As all the securing and encryption of a channel is conducted in the background, it works and looks similar at the visitor’s end. 

With FileZilla, switching from FTP into SFTP is very simple and straightforward. All you need to do is go to Edit optionand select Settings. 

Now it all comes down to how much you are concerned about your website security. If you do, then do something about it as soon as possible.

SFTP and FTPS Differences 

Just to clarify, SFTP isn’t a type of FTP. SFTP and FTPS are totally unrelated, with only a slight resemblance in terms of the order of multiple commands. Also, SFTP isn’t FTP on an SSH connection. Instead, it’s a separate protocol within its right. It utilizes the SSH protocol in order to offer connection authentication and security. As it uses the basic SSH protocol, making it normal to utilize SSH (port 22).

SFTP makes it possible to avoid utilizing specific encryption. Instead, you can utilize private/ public key pairs that do not hold signatures from trusted authorities. For instance, the FTPS certificate that is self-signed.

The SFTP server turns out to be who they say they are. Upon being entirely confident that the connection made is with the correct Server, only then should you acknowledge a server key. Further, you may continue to proceed, and the files can be exchanged over a session that is encrypted.

Overall there are 9 differences between SFTP and FTPS 

We have already considered a few basics. Now let’s look at two of the main differences between SFTP and FTPS. If you look at them closely, both do the similar with a couple of exceptions;

  1. FTPS allows you to customize commands.
  2. FTPS also permits you to utilize trusted x509 certificates. 
  3. EBCDIC transfers are also supported by FTPS. 
  4. FTPS is faster than SFTP because they have fewer steps in order to secure transfers. 
  5. SFTP has greater control over file permissions, properties, and ownership. 
  6. SFTP servers require just one port to be opened on the firewall.
  7. You can now create symbolic links with SFTP. 
  8. Installation of SFTP is straightforward that can be managed on Unix and Linux servers.
  9. SFTP is not natively supported by Windows clients and Server. 

To sum it up, which of the above protocols one must use finally depends upon the needs of the company. If they have Unix or Linux servers in their network, then SFTP will be a good choice. But, if the servers used are Windows, then SFTP isn’t a good solution. This will need the installation of SFTP clients everywhere.

Additionally, certain firewall admins would prefer to utilize SFTP with their single port. Whereas the other server administrators might not prefer SSH access to the servers enabled.

Lastly, there are a few who prefer to get a server software for file transfer supporting both protocols. They leave the option to their clients.

Personally, we always suggest SFTP. It is only because of its fantastic usability with regard to firewalls. We also feel that an enterprise must have a file transfer solution managed by MFT. This will assist in automating, monitoring, and managing the file transfer of the enterprise. This is done by utilizing multiple protocols that include SFTP and FTPS.

There are also certain companies that could assist you with MFT. These companies run on various platforms. They include Microsoft Azure (particularly helpful for companies that use the cloud), Linux, and Microsoft Windows. You can also check our article on SSL Certificates Explained: DV vs. OV vs. EV.

SFTP also has various additional features that include an ordered log that helps comply with all the industry regulations. They are also extremely flexible while exchanging data with other trading partners who seem to have different needs. It can also be automated along with workflows and data transfer procedures. 

That’s all for now, guys. I trust this article has clarified and explained things in a more straightforward manner. We do look forward to your suggestions and feedback.

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