Implement SFTP in Your Organization: A Step-by-Step Guide

Implement SFTP in Your Organization: A Step-by-Step Guide. In this post, we discuss how SFTP improves the data transfer process for your business and its features, benefits, and advantages. Then, we navigate to how to set up an SFTP server and use it to transfer files.

This is the digital age, and the safety and protection of your data are very crucial. Transferring data in a safe way has become a top priority across the globe. Now, businesses completely depend on technology to send or receive data. To carry out this process of exchanging information, a safe and reliable method is very important.

To resolve this issue, the STFP, or Secure File Transfer Protocol, has come up as the best solution. It offers an encrypted, safe, secure, and reliable means of exchanging files among parties.

All About SFTP Server

SFTP is the acronym for Secure File Transfer Protocol; it is a method of transferring files with encryption and security over SSH, i.e., a Secure Shell connection. It differs from its predecessor, FTP, which stands for File Transfer Protocol. FTP transfers data without encryption. SFTP methods keep your data intact and confidential.

Most sensitive and confidential data, like financial data, intellectual property, and personal data, is shared via SFTP. It could be used to share data among organizations and private entities.

In today’s fast moving world, businesses gain an advantage by using SFTP as a data transfer solution. It can improve data protection and facilitate the smooth transfer of files.

Advantages of SFTP for Your Organization

Data Security

The most crucial advantage of SFTP over other methods is the strong security it gives your data. When you exchange your data using SFTP, the data is encrypted, so no one accesses it except the receiver. The sender of the data is relieved about the confidentiality of the data.

Every time we share information or transfer data, there is always a risk of cyber theft, breaking into the data, and other privacy issues. The encryption used in SFTP protects confidential information and helps your organization comply with the data protection regulation.

Authentication and Access Control

When we share information and data using the SFTP method, it requires authentication of the parties via SSH keys, or passwords and usernames. It makes the security of the data transfer even more robust.

This extra layer of protection barred everyone from accessing the data available on the server except authorized personnel. On top of that, the administrator customizes the access to the information as per the roles and responsibilities of the receivers. This ensures that the information or data can’t be misused.

Reliability and Error Handling

Compared to other traditional data transfer methods, SFTP improves the dependability and security of file transfers. We don’t need to worry about data corruption during transmission either due to built in error checking and correction mechanisms. SFTP completes your file transfer successfully even in cases of interruptions, lost connections, and other technical errors.

Automation and Batch Processing

Schedule your data transfer or completely automate it using SFTP, as per your convenience. It is especially helpful for organizations dealing with large chunks of data.

What is more, SFTP saves you time, money, and energy by compounding the process of transfers, so you don’t need to check in manually to ensure the transfer of data. It also prevents the possibility of human errors in the file transfer.

Audit Trail and Compliance

SFTP offers you a complete audit trail for each transaction by keeping a log history of all file transfer activities. It is indispensable, especially for businesses that comply with regulations like PCI DSS, HIPAA, or GDPR. The logs help in maintaining regulation compliance, the security of data standards, monitoring user activities, and also helping to track file transfers.

Platform Independence

Used on any operating system, like macOS, Unix, Linux, or Windows. The flexibility of the operating system helps integrate file transfer processes for any entity, irrespective of the systems and devices.

How to Implement SFTP in Your Organization: A Step-by-Step Guide

In this section, we explain how to set up an SFTP server for your organization with real world command line usage examples.


  • A root user or a user with sudo privileges.

Install OpenSSH Server

An OpenSSH server is a core part of the SFTP server. So install an OpenSSH server to your system. Install it using the apt command.

					apt install openssh-server -y

After installing an OpenSSH server, start and enable the OpenSSH service.

					systemctl start sshd
systemctl enable sshd

Then, verify the status of the OpenSSH using the command given below:

					systemctl status sshd

You  see that OpenSSH is in running status.

By default, OpenSSH listens on port 22. Run the following command to verify it.

					ss -antpl | grep ssh


					LISTEN 0 128* users:(("sshd",pid=1065,fd=3))
LISTEN 0 128 [::]:22 [::]:* users:(("sshd",pid=1065,fd=4))

Create an SFTP User and Directory

Next, create a dedicated user for SFTP. Let’s create a new user called sftpuser with the following command.

					adduser sftpuser

Set your user’s password as shown below:

To control the SFTP directory access, create an SFTP directory as per the SSH server’s permissions requirements.

Let’s create a private SFTP directory and create some files inside it.

					mkdir -p /var/sftp/private
touch /var/sftp/private/remote1.txt
touch /var/sftp/private/remote2.txt

Next, assign proper permission and ownership to the SFTP directory.

					chown root:root /var/sftp
chmod 755 /var/sftp

Then, change the ownership of the private directory so only SFTP user reads and writes the directory.

					chown sftpuser:sftpuser /var/sftp/private

Set Up an SFTP Server

At this point, the SFTP user and directory are created with proper permission. Now, it’s time to set up an SFTP server. Edit an OpenSSH main configuration file to define SFTP server configuration.

					nano /etc/ssh/sshd_config

Add the following lines at the end of the file.

					Match User sftpuser
ForceCommand internal-sftp
PasswordAuthentication yes
ChrootDirectory /var/sftp
PermitTunnel no
AllowAgentForwarding no
AllowTcpForwarding no
X11Forwarding no


Save and close the file when you are done.

Here is a brief explanation of each configuration directive.

  • Match User: Define your sftpuser so that SSH runs all commands only to the specified user.
  • ChrootDirectory: Specify the default directory after the sftp connection.
  • AllowTcpForwarding: Disable port forwarding.
  • X11Forwarding: Disable X11 forwarding.

Finally, restart an OpenSSH service to apply the changes.

					systemctl restart sshd

Verify SFTP Connection

At this point, your SFTP server is configured. Now, its time to verify the SFTP connection. Run the following command from your local system to connect to the SFTP server.

					sftp sftpuser@sftp-server-ip

You are asked to provide your sftpuser’s password. After the successful SFTP connection, you see the following shell.

Now, run the ls command to list your SFTP directory.

					sftp> ls private

You see all files located in your SFTP server:

					private/remote1.txt private/remote2.txt

To access the SFTP via File Manager, open your File Manager and type the URL sftp://your-sftp-ip as shown below.

Press the Enter key to make an SFTP connection. Next, the SFTP login screen appears.

Provide your SFTP username, password and click on Connect. You get into your SFTP server directory as shown below.

Follow how to Implement SFTP in Your Organization: A Step-by-Step Guide to learn the commands next. 

Working with SFTP

In this section, we show you how to use SFTP commands to manage SFTP files and directories.

Run the following command to get help information.

					sftp> ?

You see all SFTP commands on the following screen.

To see your current working directory of the SFTP server, run the following command.

					sftp> pwd


					Remote working directory: /

To list all files and directories, use the following command.

					sftp> ls -la


					drwxr-xr-x 3 root root 4096 Aug 27 04:41 .
drwxr-xr-x 3 root root 4096 Aug 27 04:41 ..
drwxr-xr-x 2 root root 4096 Aug 27 04:41 private


If you want to see the current working directory of your local system, run the following command.

					sftp> lpwd

This shows your local system’s working directory.

					Local working directory: /home/vyom/Documents

Run the following command to list all files inside your local system’s working directory.

					sftp> lls


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To change the directory of your local system, run the following command.

					sftp> lcd ~/Downloads

Upload and Download Files with SFTP

In this section, we show you the transfer of files and directories to and from the SFTP server.

Use the get command to download a file from your SFTP server to your local system.

					sftp> get private/remote1.txt


					Fetching /private/remote1.txt to remote1.txt

To download a file from the SFTP server and save it to a different name, run the following command.

					sftp> get private/remote1.txt localfile.txt


					Fetching /private/remote1.txt to localfile.txt

To download a directory from your SFTP server, run the following command.

					sftp> get -r private


					Fetching /private/ to private
Retrieving /private

To upload a file from your local system to the SFTP server, use the put command.

					sftp> put localfile.txt


					Uploading localfile.txt to /localfile.txt

If you want to upload a directory from your local system to the SFTP server, run the following command.

					sftp> put -r localdir

To check the available disk space of the SFTP server, run the following command.

					sftp> df -h

You see the disk space of the SFTP server in the following screen.

To check the disk space of your local system, run the following command.

					sftp> !df -h


You see the disk space in your local system on the following screen.

Finally, exit from the SFTP session using the following command.

					sftp> exit

Thank you very much. Article how to Implement SFTP in Your Organization: A Step-by-Step Guide is concluded. Let’s summarize.

Implement SFTP in Your Organization: A Step-by-Step Guide Conclusion

SFTP, or Secure File Transfer Protocols, is the most crucial method for businesses in modern times to transfer information and data with security. The authentication protocols, encryptions, and other features protect your data from threats and make sure that data regulations are followed by the users.

It is also a convenient way to manage large scale file exchanges. SFTP is not only beneficial but essential today due to ever evolving cyber crimes and threats.
It is reliable and automated, along with audit and trial features.

Avatar for Hitesh Jethva
Hitesh Jethva

I am a fan of open source technology and have more than 10 years of experience working with Linux and Open Source technologies. I am one of the Linux technical writers for Cloud Infrastructure Services.

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