SFTP File Transfer Protocol

In the world of cyberattacks, organizations should have a trustable source to make secured file transfers. For this IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) developed a protocol named the Secured File Transfer Protocol along with the secure shell to have the strongest protection against hackers. Using this protocol, we can avoid the Man-in-the-attack which is the most vulnerable attack faced during file transfer on the internet. The transferred file is authenticated and a secured shell is provided so the hacker cannot see the password, thus reducing the threats.

Secure File Transfer Protocol

SFTP comes under the network layer of the OSI model and the services provided by there are securing file access, management of files, and protecting during the file transfer. SSH server has to open port number 22 for secure file transfer protocol.

Working of SFTP

It provides a simple relationship between the client and the server in terms of file sharing. The protocol or rules set by SFTP can be −

  • Simple command line − When the user wants to include this protocol, they can use the specific command lines.

  • Graphical User Interfaces (GUI) like icons or pictures − In the current trend, people prefer visually adding the protocol.

The Secure Shell Protocol (SSH) is used in the SFTP server to secure files or data. For using the SFTP, one should have both the client and the server software. Based on the request from the SFTP client, the data in the SFTP server is analyzed and the specific data is retrieved. The server software has to be safeguarded using the login credentials of the respective vendors. Some of the commonly used SFTP clients are PuTTY, Cyberduck, and Filezilla.

Firstly, the data packets are encrypted using the SSH Message Authentication Code. Then security is applied by the protocol and the data transfer takes place. The end user is also authenticated using SSH and if any unauthorized user tries to open the message or data, it will not be visible.

Configuration of SFTP Client

The primary information needed to perform the configurations is −

  • Host − In this, the SFTP server hostname or the IP address is provided.

  • Port name − The Port number depends on the respective clients and port 22 can be used.

  • Security Protocol − To have a secure way of data transmission, any one or more protocols can be chosen like SFTP, FTP, and FTPS.

  • Username − The username can be set by the client that needs to be shown to the server side like the username or login name.

  • Password − The password which is set by the client to the username.

Uses of SFTP

  • Healthcare − In hospitals, the management has to handle a wide range of data from patient details, their reports, the doctor’s schedule, and the discharge details. All these need to be maintained very confidentially and where the SFTP is used.

  • VPN (Virtual Private Network) − The SFTP protocol secures the files and VPN provides a tunnel for protecting the data. So using the SFTP protocol through the VPN, a secured data transfer can be established.

  • File Transfer Protocol Secure (FTPS) − SFTP is the advanced version of the FTPS, as the configurations are very difficult to implement. Two ports 989 and 990 have to be opened which will lead to the corruption of files.

  • Sensitive data − This protocol is mainly used to transfer files with sensitive data between the client and server like the audits.

Advantages of SFTP

Some of the popular advantages of the file transfer protocol are −

  • Protection − The main goal of the protocol is to protect the files by encrypting the files on the client side and assigning a public key authentication. This preserves the data from threats and keeps them confidential.

  • Speed − This File transfer protocol can transfer large-size files and also multiple files at a time from the client to the server at a faster rate without any corruption and damage.

  • Integration − Along with the inbuilt protection called firewall and the SFTP makes the best pair which is used to send the files through the unique number of Port 22 that indicates the Secure Shell Protocol (SSH).

  • Manageability − Using this server software, we can easily manage from small to vast data.

  • Accessible − It helps the user to quickly view the file, edit it, create, import, or delete when they want.

  • Cost Reduction − It helps companies to reduce money spent on file corruption or theft reduced by 40%.

Disadvantages of SFTP

  • Even if it provides security, it cannot be done completely.

  • There are many features available in this protocol, so it’s difficult to understand and manage them properly.


SFTP Protocol has advantages, uses, and some disadvantages also, but depending on the need and level of security it may vary. The security can be maintained only by the regular management of the Secure Shell Protocol (SSH). The public authentication keys used should be stronger and must follow all the guidelines so that the files are not prone to attack.

Updated on: 03-May-2023


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