FTP vs HTTP – What’s the Difference ? (Explained)

FTP vs HTTP – What’s the Difference ? (Explained). This article introduces file transfers: FTP and HTTP. Well, FTP is a client server communication protocol using transmission control protocol according to the TCP/IP model, allowing bidirectional file transfer in FTP server client arrangement. The other solution is also an interesting protocol for transferring hypertext documents is the World Wide Web protocol. Truly, HTTP is used to transmit requests to share web docs and link click information, as well as information from forms.

This article introduces both protocols, their uses cases, pros, cons and features. The final part of this blog presents their differences. 

Shall we start with FTP vs HTTP – What’s the Difference ? (Explained).

What is FTP?

First of all, the standard network protocol used to transfer files from one host to another over a TCP-based network, such as the Internet. So, FTP is a client/server protocol. This means that the user’s computer (client) must connect to the FTP server to upload or download files. The protocol provides commands for uploading and downloading files and creating and deleting directories on the server. Commonly used for large file transfers and bulk file uploads or downloads.

In addition, FTP is still widely used for behind the scenes file transfer for other applications, such as banking services. Also used for downloading new applications via web browsers.

How does FTP work?

Here is a general overview of how FTP works:

  • Clients usually connect to the server using the FTP protocol on port 21.
  • Login request is sent to the server, usually with a username and password.
  • The server verifies the credentials and, if correct, establishes a secure connection for file transfer.
  • Then send commands to the server to upload or download files, create or delete directories, and perform other tasks.
  • Server responds to the commands and performs the requested operations. 
  • The client continues to send commands to the server as long as the connection is active. When the client terminates, it sends a logout command and closes the connection.

Features of FTP

The File Transfer Protocol (FTP) has several widely used features for transferring files over the Internet. Some of the major features of FTP are:

Client server architecture – FTP is a client server architecture in which a client sends a request to a server and the server responds with the requested information. This allows users to more easily access and transfer files from a central location.

User authentication – Users must log in with a username and password, so only authenticated users accesses files. Also configure your server to support secure authentication mechanisms such as Secure FTP (SFTP) or FTP over SSL/TLS (FTPS).

Multiple file transfer – Allows the transfer of multiple files at once, making it efficient for bulk transfers.

Resumable transfers – Supports the ability to resume file transfers that have been interrupted, so you don’t have to start over from the beginning if the connection is lost

Transfer compression – Configured to compress files during transfer, reducing the bandwidth required for transfer and speeding up the transfer process.

Overall, these features make FTP a reliable and efficient method for transferring files over the internet.

FTP Pros

  • Ability put items into a queue to be uploaded or downloaded.
  • No size limitation on single transfers (browsers only allow up to 2 GB).
  • Faster transfers then HTTP.
  • Supported on almost all hosts.
  • Scripting capabilities through command line.
  • Ability to resume transmission when connection is lost.
  • Synchronizing utility.

FTP Cons

  • Servers can be spoofed to send data to a port on the wrong computer.
  • Filtering active FTP connections is difficult on your local machine.
  • Difficult to script jobs.
  • Inconsistency/inability to track what has been uploaded on the remote system.
  • Easy for inexperienced users to wipe out work.

Up next with FTP vs HTTP – What’s the Difference ? we understand HTTP concept.

What is HTTP?

Next one is HTTP protocol used to transfer data such as web pages, images, videos, and other multimedia content from a web server to a user’s web browser.

Meaning that the user’s web browser acts as the client and the web server hosting the content acts as the server. When a user requests a web page, the browser sends an HTTP request to the server, and the server responds with the requested content in the form of an HTTP response. The response usually includes information about the content of the web page, as well as how it was displayed and any error messages that may have occurred.

Interestingly, HTTP is a widely used protocol that plays a critical role in the functioning of the World Wide Web and is supported by all modern web browsers.

How does HTTP work?

It works as a request response protocol between client and server. Here’s how it works:

  • A client (such as a web browser) sends an HTTP request to the server. A request specifies the type of action you want to perform, such as fetching a web page or submitting data to a form.
  • Receive and process the request. If the request is for a web page, the server retrieves the requested page and related resources such as images, videos, and style sheets.
  • Then send the HTTP response back to the client. The response includes a status code indicating the result of the request and the requested content, such as web page or form data.
  • Respond and process. If the response is to a web page, the client uses the information provided in the response to render the page in the web browser.

Features of HTTP

Support for different methods – supports different methods, such as GET, POST, PUT, and DELETE, allowing clients to perform different types of operations on resources stored on the server.

Caching – HTTP supports caching, which allows clients to store frequently requested resources locally, reducing server load and speeding up delivery of content to clients.

Request response model – uses a request response model in which the client sends a request to the server and the server returns a response.

Text based format – has a plain text format for requests and responses, making it easy to understand and implement.

Stateless – stateless, that is, the server does not store information about the client’s session or previous requests.


  • HTTP uses an extended addressing scheme. Assign IP addresses with recognizable names for easy identification on the World Wide Web. 
  • Whenever an application requires additional functionality, HTTP loads an extension or plugin and displays its data (Flash player and Acrobat Reader).
  • The handshake process occurs over HTTP only when a connection is established. Therefore, there is no post-request handshake procedure. Greatly reduces connection latency.
  • When a page loads for the first time, all HTTP pages are stored in an internet cache known as the page cache. So when you revisit the page, the content loads quickly.


  • Because HTTP doesn’t use encryption methods, there’s a chance someone could change the content. This is why HTTP is considered an insecure method subject to data exfiltration.
  • Even if HTTP receives all the data it needs, the client takes no action to close the connection. 
  • Uses more system resources and therefore results in higher power consumption. 
  • Sending an HTTP web page requires creating multiple connections. This incurs administrative overhead for the connection.

Now it is time to understand FTP vs HTTP – What’s the Difference ? 

FTP vs HTTP - Key Differences

Are two widely used protocols for transferring data over the internet. Although both protocols are used for transferring data, they have several key differences:


One one hand, FTP is considered more versatile because it is designed specifically for transferring files between clients and servers. Handles a wide range of file types, including large files, and is commonly used for large data set transfers, software updates, and backups.

On the other hand, HTTP is mainly used to transfer data over the internet for downloading web pages. Limited to sending HTML files and related resources such as images, videos, and scripts. However, while it is used for other types of data transfer, it is not optimized for this purpose and may not be as efficient as FTP.


Here, FTP uses two separate ports for communication, one for control and one for data transfer. The control port is typically assigned port number 21, while the data transfer port is assigned port number 20.

But HTTP uses a single port for communication, which is port 80. This is the default port for HTTP communication and is commonly used for transmitting data over the web.

Data transfer

Data transfer with FTP happens with transferring of files in binary format. Suitable for transferring all types of files including images, video, audio and executable files. Binary data is transmitted as-is without modification, ensuring the integrity of transmitted data.

Where, HTTP data is transmitted in plain text, making it easier to read and debug, but less secure because it is easier to intercept.


Uses two separate connections for communication. One for control and one for data. A control connection is used to send commands and receive responses, and a data connection is used to transfer files. This two connection approach gives you better control over the transfer process and allows FTP to handle errors and other exceptions more efficiently.

Oppositely, HTTP uses a single connection to communicate. Client opens one connection to the server, sends a request and receives a response. This approach is simpler and more efficient for small amounts of data, but may be less reliable and scalable for large amounts of data.


Because FTP transfers data in binary format, binary data is easily intercepted and therefore insecure. To solve this problem, FTP provides an option to secure data transmission using encryption (FTPS). FTP also uses user authentication to secure access to the server.

Comparatively, HTTP is less secure than FTP. Transfers data in plain text. However, HTTP encrypts data transmission using SSL/TLS (HTTPS) encryption. This ensures a secure connection between the client and the server and the transmitted data cannot be intercepted.


User authentication is required to access the server. Users must provide a user name and password that are verified by the server before access is granted. Additionally, FTP also provides the option of using encryption (FTPS) to secure the authentication process.

However, HTTP is extended to support authentication using a variety of methods such as basic authentication, digest authentication, and certificate based authentication. Basic authentication transmits the user name and password in clear text over the network, whereas digest authentication provides a more secure method by sending a hash of the user name and password. Certificate based authentication uses digital certificates to provide the highest level of security.


Lastly FTP is generally faster than HTTP for large file transfers because it uses binary data transfer, which is more efficient for large files. What is more, FTP also uses two separate connections for control and data transfer, so errors and other exceptions can be handled more efficiently, resulting in faster transfer times.

On the other hand, HTTP is better suited for small amounts of data because it uses a single connection for communication and transmits data in text format. Remember, HTTP is also more complex to implement and takes longer to transfer than FTP.

Thank you for reading FTP vs HTTP – What’s the Difference ? (Explained). We shall conclude.

FTP vs HTTP – What’s the Difference ? (Explained) Conclusion

Both are used to transmit data over the internet, but there are some key differences that make them suitable for different use cases.

Therefore, the choice between FTP and HTTP depends on specific requirements for data transfer, such as data size, security requirements, and network conditions. Both protocols have their pros and cons, and the right choice depends on your specific use case.

Do explore more of our FTP content by clicking into this section of our blog

Avatar for Kamil Wisniowski
Kamil Wisniowski

I love technology. I have been working with Cloud and Security technology for 5 years. I love writing about new IT tools.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x