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In today’s cyber security environment you can no longer risk transferring your data across an unencrypted connection. Standard FTP ( File Transfer Protocol ) has been around a long time and does not on its own encrypt data, it’s simply not secure and the files you transmit over standard FTP can be intercepted and read.

A number of safer versions of FTP exists, and one of these is SFTP also known as Secure File Transfer Protocol or indeed SSH File Transfer Protocol. It’s used to send files and manage FTP sessions, but it’s not just a better version of FTP, it’s actually an entirely different protocol which has functions similar to FTP.

Understanding how Secure FTP works

First, SFTP uses a secure shell (SSH) connection to securely send files over the internet. So, instead of unencrypted transmissions like FTP, SFTP offers secure and encrypted transmission of all the data – including your credentials and the FTP command sequences.

You’d think there is little reason not to use SFTP, and you’d be right, but unfortunately, not all the FTP clients support SFTP. It’s worth noting that SFTP is actually an extension on another protocol, SSH-2 which is a protocol used to transfer files across secure shell and other protocols, including transport layer security (TLS).

Most platforms can support SFTP, and you can rest assured that SFTP is always secure, but of course SFTP relies on some underlying secure protocol – which is SSH in most cases.

What’s the difference between SFTP and FTPS?

FTPS is different from Secure FTP – it is an extension of the standard FTP protocol which allows FTP sessions to be encrypted. It uses AUTH TLS or AUTH SSL as commands to start this secure connection, which then allows you to perform transfers across either SSL or TLS.

Both SSL and TLS are used around the internet but not every FTP server support FTPS over these protocols. Choose between an implicit FTPS connection that will always encrypt any data that is transferred or an explicit FTPS connection where you can start both an unencrypted and an encrypted session.