Difference between File Transfer Protocol (FTP) and Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP)

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Both FTP and SFTP are file transfer protocols and they are used to transfer files from one system to another. FTP does not use any secure channel to transfer files, whereas SFTP uses SSH protocol to establish a control connection. SFTP is highly secure than FTP.

Read through this article to find out more about FTP and SFTP and how they are different from each other.

What is File Transfer Protocol (FTP)?

FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol; it is a client/server protocol for sending files to and from a host computer. User names and passwords can be used to authenticate FTP.

Some websites enable users to use "anonymous" or "guest" as their user ID and an email address as their password. Publicly available files are frequently found in a particular directory and easily transferred to a user's PC.

FTP is an Internet standard for moving or transferring data over TCP or IP networks from one computer to another. Abhay Bhushan wrote the first FTP specification, published as RFC 114 on April 16, 1971. RFC 765 was eventually introduced to replace it (June 1980).

The initial FTP client software relied on the DOS command prompt, which had standardized commands and syntax. Since then, various graphical user interface (GUI) clients for operating systems have been developed, making it easier for users to upload and download files.

What is Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP)?

The Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) is a file transfer protocol that allows you to send huge files over the Internet. It is based on the File Transfer Protocol (FTP) and contains Secure Shell (SSH) security components.

Secure Shell is an Internet security cryptography component. The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) created SSH and SFTP to improve web security. To avoid password sniffing and revealing critical information in plaintext, SFTP transfers the files securely via SSH and encrypted FTP instructions. The server must authorize SFTP safeguards against man-in-the-middle attacks. In any case, where sensitive data needs to be protected, SFTP can be helpful.

Secure Shell (SSH) File Transfer Protocol is another name for this protocol. SFTP is a protocol that can be started using a command line or a graphical user interface (GUI). The user must write particular command lines to generate the SFTP protocol in the first type of setup, commonly done in a Linux environment. The latter solution employs an application that visually abstracts the operation of SFTP for end users.

Multiple concurrent operations are supported by the SFTP protocol, which runs over the SSH protocol using the standard SSH port 22. Each function is assigned a unique number by the client, which must match the server response. Asynchronous processing of requests is possible.

The SFTP protocol is only utilized when the user logs into the server using SSH to avoid leaving other ports open or maintaining additional authentications. Both communication participants must identify themselves to an SFTP server by providing a user ID and password or confirming an SSH key. The two clients' computers keep one half of the SSH key while the server loads the other half and associates it with their accounts (public key). Authentication is only possible when the SSH key pair matches.

Difference between FTP and SFTP

The following table highlights the major differences between FTP and SFTP.

Stands for
FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol.
SFTP stands for Secure File Transfer Protocol.
Secure Channel Type
FTP does not use any secure channel to transfer files between hosts.
SFTP uses a secure channel to transfer files between hosts.
Part of
FTP is a part of TCP/IP protocol.
SFTP is a part of SSH Protocol.
The default port of FTP is 21.
The default port of SFTP is 22.
FTP does not use encryption before transmitting the data.
SFTP encrypts data before transmitting the data.


From the above discussion, we can conclude that SFTP is a highly secure file transfer protocol (than FTP), as it uses a secure channel and also encrypts the data before transmission.

Updated on 22-Aug-2022 13:52:16