SFTP vs SMB – What’s the Difference? (Performance/Speed/Security)

SFTP vs SMB – What’s the Difference ? (Performance/Speed/Security. Choosing the best file transfer method can be a difficult task because there are several options to choose from. However, two methods that talked about are include SFTP and SMB

So, if you’re wondering which method is the best between the two, that is why this article comes handy.  I will compare SFTP and SMB tools with emphasis on performance, security and speed. 

Let’s start the article SFTP vs SMB – What’s the Difference ? (Performance/Speed/Security).

What is SFTP?

The Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) is a well protected way of transferring files between two computers. It is similar to FTP but has greater security. Network protocol that users employ to transfer, access and manage files between systems via an encrypted connection. Employs Secure Shell (SSH) encryption to establish a secure connection. In addition you safeguard your login credentials and transfer data.

The SFTP server mainly functions to transfer files between a remote system and a local one. The remote system could be in a different location entirely. To use SFTP for file transfers there has to be a client and a server. Client in SFTP is the required software that enables you to link to the server. 

Additionally, it gives you opportunity to retrieve already existing files from the server as well as post new files to be kept there. So SFTP server is where you keep and save files and where you can connect to and recover the files. Server provides its services so that users can safely store and transfer data.

Functions of SFTP

  • Principally used for file transfer between a remote system and a local one.
  • Highly secure option for organisations, businesses, trading partners and enterprise servers that require a higher level of file transfer protection for server to server file transfers between trading partners, businesses and enterprise servers.
  • Allows you the user to view, list, create, rename and delete files and directories using an SFTP client.
  • Because it is a packet based protocol, it is much faster than a traditional file transfer protocol.

So what is SMB? Continue reading SFTP vs SMB – What’s the Difference? 

What is SMB?

Firstly SMB refers to Server Message Block. It is a protocol for communication where users can share files, directories, devices and other materials. Most used communication techniques among networks is SMB Protocol.

Secondly SMB (Server Message Block) protocol applications and users can connect to resources like printers, mail slots and named pipes as well as files on remote servers. Additionally SMB gives client applications a safe and secure way to access, move, create and update files on remote servers.

It is worth mentioning that SMB is a network communication protocol that Microsoft operating systems use. Enables systems using the same network to share files among themselves. Users access files on other local systems through systems connected to the same network directly as if they were on their local drive.

This protocol is known as a response request protocol used to transfer hardware and software between computers. The server receives an SMB request from the client system, which starts the connection. The SMB response establishes the two way communication channel required for a two way conversation. 

This enables multiple computers and devices (the clients) to share networked resources stored on the server, such as printers and filing systems. Users also create, read and upgrade files stored on the remote server. When the server receives the request sent by the client, it responds by sending an SMB reply back to the client.

Functions of SMB

  • Operates by granting you access to files on a remote server to either an application or its user.
  • Provides users with an authentic intercommunication channel platform for sharing server resources or files, such as printers, folders, files and others.
  • Gives users the ability to browse the system, share a large number of files, print services, and so on. Also users alter and delete files with SMB.
  • Users immediately see that the same file had any modifications made by one user. There is only one file that multiple users share.

Differences of SFTP vs SMB? Read on…

Differences between SFTP and SMB

Both SMB and SFTP allow you to share data between various machines over a network, but there are differences between the two. Here are the most standout differences between SFTP and SMB.



Performance of SFTP enables you to transfer of data on a computer network between a client and a server without requiring the user to log in to the system. Operates on a client server principle. For transfer, it simply uses the TCP protocol. Hashes the data using an SSH2 message authentication code, which encrypts the data stream.


Alternatively SMB allows for data transfers to occur in both directions. This file server protocol permits several users to read, write and alter one file stored in the file server. Depends on TCP and IP protocols for transfer. This combination potentially enables file sharing via complex, interconnected networks, including the public internet.



Speed of sending large file transfers is supported by SFTP servers very effectively and easily. Although several files can be transferred simultaneously from one server to another, the pace of the transmission is slowed down by the security incorporated into the protocol.


Faster for downloading large files and uploading lots of small files.



Security of  data is encrypted during storage and transit. Enhanced security that necessitates authentication by the server. If that data was stolen during the SFTP transfer, reading it would require cracking the encryption. There is a clear text sign in protocol which SFTP users need to authenticate the file and it is in the form of a username and password.


Here with SMB the feature enhancements like pre login authentication, data integrity and encryption is to improve encryption. This helps to prevent man-in-the-middle (mitm) attacks and cluster dialect fencing.

Use cases


Use cases of SFTP is mostly used by organizations to transmit files between two local or remote computers.


Whereas SMB is primarily used for computer to computer sharing of files, printers, serial ports and communication abstractions like pipes and mail slots.

Client Friendliness


Since SFTP is global, you can find servers and clients for almost all platforms and it is more compatible with client side firewalls of today.


Thus SMB is not client side friendly to firewalls. Additionally, it primarily supports the Windows, Unix, and macOS operating systems.

Data File


There are two separate variants of the same file. The original one that is on the server and the copy on the client. Two files are therefore independent of one another, any changes made to one copy of the file does not affect the other copy. Enables users to make several unique copies of a file.


Users of the same file will immediately see any modifications made by one user to the file. There is only one file that multiple users share. Then SMB enables many users to access and modify the same shared file simultaneously.

Server Connection


Simply requires only port number (22) to connect to the server and be available for delivering commands and receiving data files.


Specifically SMB connects to servers using either port 139 or port 445.

Thank you for your time with reading until the end. Let’s summarize article SFTP vs SMB – What’s the Difference ? 

SFTP vs SMB - What's the Difference? (Performance/Speed/Security) Conclusion

Finally Secure File Transfer Protocol or SFTP for short is a network protocol that offers the user access to file transfer, file access and file management over reliable data streams. The designer is the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and is an upgrade of the Secure Shell Protocol(SSH) 2.0 with enhanced security transfer systems.

Communication that SMB offers is a protocol that accesses printers, serial ports, files and other resources on a network through the nodes in a network system. Primary use is for connecting Windows computers although other systems like macOS and Linux also possess client parts that can connect with SMB resources.

The differences between SFTP and SMB are quite clear. Primarily SFTP is more efficient and faster than SMB when it comes to transferring large files, however, it has lesser functions. The short message feature of SMB makes it slow as it is sensitive to network latency.

Additionally SMB is vulnerable to cyber attacks especially when it is connected to the web or internet and this is problematic. On the other hand, SFTP encrypts the data and provide you a secure file transfer environment and is accessible only through a user and password.

To sum up, SFTP is a file transfer protocol that allows the copying of one file from one computer system to another. Nonetheless SMP is a file server protocol that grants multiple users access to a file.

Please take a look at more SFTP content here

Avatar for Kamso Oguejiofor
Kamso Oguejiofor

Kamso is a mechanical engineer and writer with a strong interest in anything related to technology. He has over 2 years of experience writing on topics like cyber security, network security, and information security. When he’s not studying or writing, he likes to play basketball, work out, and binge watch anime and drama series.

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