SFTP vs FTPS – What’s the Difference for Secure FTP (Pros and Cons)

SFTP vs FTPS – What’s the Difference for Secure FTP (Pros and Cons). At the beginning of the internet days, people believed that internet activity was not malicious and all data transfers were safe. But then came hacking and stealing data over the internet. At that time businesses started to grow digitally and rapidly so as the hacking news.

To save the data, companies started looking for modes that help transfer files and data more securely. This article is about remote file transfer servers. Learn more about SFTP and FTPS protocols by following this post.

SFTP stands for Secure File Transfer Protocol, and FTPS stands for File Transfer Protocol Secure. Both SFTP and FTPS offer a secure mode to transfer files and comprise various features that make them a great choice.

In this article SFTP vs FTPS – What’s the Difference for Secure FTP we will discuss the two protocols, SFTP vs FTPS, and their features, benefits and drawbacks. Further, we will compare the two popular protocols so you can make a better call for your business data security.

Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP)

Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) is a file protocol with Secure Shell (SSH) security components that help transfer large files over the web securely. It is an advanced version of FTP (file transfer protocol) that uses SSH encryption.

Users can choose the level of authentication when transferring files under SFTP. It can be a combination of user ID and password, pair of SSH keys or users can opt for no authentication.

If you want to transfer files and maintain a high level of security, we recommend opting for the Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP). It is one of the best solutions if you want to share sensitive data with team members without exposing data to unauthorized parties.

The file protocol encrypts both commands and data while in transmission, thus maintaining full security. For encryption, it implements the Triple DES algorithm, AES algorithm, and other algorithms.

In addition, SFTP supports features like file locking, attribute manipulation, command execution, public key authentication, etc.

SFTP Features

  • Secure Transmission.
  • Supports Screen sessions.
  • SSH3 protocol implementation.
  • Command execution over SSH channel.
  • IPV6 HTTP protocol support.
  • Password and public key authentication .

Pros of SFTP

  • Using SFTP behind the firewall is easy as it uses a single port.
  • Offers secure connection.
  • Uniform Directory listing.
  • Requires no data or hardware connection
  • SFTP covers hardware, software, maintenance and support cost. So it reduces Business Costs.
  • Convenient File Management.
  • Offers complete flexibility and control over the files.
  • Stores all business files in a single location.
  • Offers on demand access to files from any location.
  • Authorized users with the right permissions can conveniently upload and download files.
  • Allows use of SSH keys or username and password authentication methods to maintain data security.
  • Backed by a 24/7 team of professionals for monitoring and security.
  • SFTP server can easily scale capacity with the growth in business.
  • Off site disaster recovery and secure backups.
  • Maintains compliance.

Cons of SFTP

  • Communication is binary and difficult to log in for human reading.
  • Validating and managing SSH keys is not easy.
  • SFTP configuration might lead to compatibility issues.
  • .NET and VCL do not support SSH/SFTP.

File Transfer Protocol Secure (FTPS)

File Transfer Protocol Secure (FTPS) is a file protocol with Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) that encrypts data to protect information during transmission. It makes use of two connections, the command channel and the data channel. Users can encrypt both channels or the data channel only.

Unlike SFTP, the FTPS authenticates a connection only using the Username and password or the certificate. When a user makes an attempt to connect FTPS server, the client primarily checks if the user has a trusted server’s certificate.

Username and password authentication methods can also be used to verify and connect with the server.

FTPS is a layer around the original FTP protocol that encrypts all your communication and delivers data securely to the server without any negotiation. It supports TLS (Transport Layer Security) and SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) protocol while keeping the original one unchanged.

FTPS Features

  • Supports algorithms (AES, Triple DES, etc.).
  • Supports hashing functions (SHA, MD5, MD4, and MD2)..
  • Complies with security requirements such as HIPAA, HITECH, PCI DSS, etc.
  • Requires TLS/SSL certificate.
  • Supports command channel and data channel for encryption.

Pros of FTPS

  • Allows implementation of strong algorithms (AES, Triple DES, RC4, and RC2) for encryption
  • Uses user IDs, passwords, and/or certificates for verifying authenticity.
  • Supports TLS (Transport Layer Security) and SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) protocol.
  • High data transfer speed.
  • Humans can read and understand the communication.
  • Easy to implement and encrypted file protocol.
  • In built support in the .NET framework.
  • Allows execution of server to server file transfer.
  • Uses channels to exchange FTP commands.
  • Supports file resumes and mobile devices.
  • Allows transferring of multiple files at the same time.

Cons Of FTPS

  • Does not support a consistent directory listing format.
  • All FTP servers do not support TLS and SSL.
  • File system operations are difficult to perform.
  • Demands for a secondary data channel.
  • Firewall configuration is a bit complicated as it uses multiple ports.
  • Supports no standard way to change file or directory attributes

SFTP vs FTPS - Key Differences

Both SFTP and FTPS offer a secure mode to transfer files, but when it comes to choosing between one, go through features and select as per the requirement. Both protocols manage and authenticate connections in different ways. Here are a few more differences that will make it easier to figure one which one is better.

Point of Difference SFTP FTPS
Stands for
Secure File Transfer Protocol
File Transfer Protocol Secure
Definition
A file protocol with Secure Shell (SSH) security components
A file protocol with Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)
Mode for Authentication
A combination of user ID and password or a pair of SSH keys
Username and password or the certificate
Implementation
Firewall friendly and easy to implement protocol that requires a single port number (default of 22).
It uses multiple port numbers and has a tightly-secured firewall. 21 is the initial default port number for authentication and execution of commands.
Key Based Authentication
It uses SSH keys to authenticate connections
FTPS does not support Key Based Authentication
Speed
SFTP is slightly slower than FTPS when it comes to speed.
It has the ability to achieve a high data transfer speed.
Certificates
SFTP does not support Certificates
FTPS supports Certificates
Ports
It requires a single port to perform communications. (Default port number is 22)
Support multiple port numbers. (Default port number is 21)
Authentication
Performed via SSH keys
Performed via x.509 certificates.
Connection for command and file data
No separate connection
Separate connection
Data Exchange
Does not support distinct data and command channels for transferring data
Uses two separate channels, data and command channels for transferring data

Today we have learned SFTP vs FTPS – What’s the Difference for Secure FTP (Pros and Cons). Good effort!

SFTP vs FTPS – What’s the Difference for Secure FTP (Pros and Cons)Conclusion

In today’s world knowing your options for a secure file transfer is vital. As businesses are growing digitally, the chances of hacking and stealing are rising. Thus, having a secure mode of transmission is essential for all businesses.

FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol, was designed to create a connection with specific servers and systems. Thus, making it easier for users and clients to transfer, upload or download files to the systems and servers. It also includes commands that help in executing operations on all remote computers.

SFTP and FTPS are two types of file protocols that offer secure file transfers using different modes of authentication. SFTP stands for Secure File Transfer Protocol, which uses SSH keys to create a secure channel for transferring files between the hosts.

FTTPS, on the other hand, stands for File Transfer Protocol Secure, which includes FTP features with Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). It authenticates a connection using the Username and password or the certificate.

Both protocols aim to create a secure connection between hosts, servers, or systems. Each comprises unique features that make it highly beneficial for file transfers.

For instance, FTPS has the ability to achieve a high data transfer speed, whereas, SFTP is slightly slower in speed than FTPS. SFTP offers screen sessions, IPV6 HTTP protocol support, password and public key authentication support, and more features. Similarly, FTPS demands TLS/SSL certificate for verification, complies with security requirements such as HIPAA, HITECH, PCI DSS, etc., supports command channel and data channel for encryption, hashing functions like SHA, MD5, MD4, and MD2, and more.

Follow the above listed other parameters to conclude which one is better, SFTP or FTPS? Also, make sure to go through their pros and cons before selecting one.

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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