Difference Between FTP and HTTP

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By Vijay Singh Khatri

HTTP and FTP are file transfer protocols that help to transfer data between the client and the server. HTTP functions are similar to FTP and SMTP.

The main difference between HTTP and FTP(HTTP vs. FTP) is that when a user requests a web page, HTTP fetches the page from the web server and transfers it to the browser. On the other hand, FTP is used to upload and download files between the client and the server. Let’s discuss both protocols thoroughly in this article.

What is HTTP?

HTTP or HyperText Transfer Protocol is the data communication base for the World Wide Web (WWW). It is the backbone of the web and defines the format of the messages with which the browsers like Chrome and Firefox communicate with web servers. In simple words, it defines how a web browser should respond to a web request.

HTTP uses Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and runs on port 80. Since each command is executed independently without knowing the previous or upcoming commands, HTTP is considered a tasteless protocol.

Advantages of HTTP

  • Addressing

HTTP uses advanced schemes of addressing. It provides an IP address with some recognizable names to identify easily on the World Wide Web. Using the standard procedure of IP addresses with a unique number helps users easily engage with the World Wide Web.

  • Flexible

Whenever there is an additional request by an application, HTTP allows you to download different extensions or plugins and displays all the required data. With HTTP, you can install extensions like Flash player and Acrobat reader.

  • Security

In HTTP, each file is downloaded from an independent connection and ends once the transfer is over. So, there is not more than one web page element getting transferred. Also, there is no chance of interception during the transfer of data.

  • Latency

You need to know that a connection is established in the HTTP server when a request is raised. There is no chance of establishing a connection before a request is raised, which reduces latency.

  • Accessibility

With HTTP, you can store the pages on the internet cache called the page cache. Once the page is revisited, the content gets loaded quickly, making it easily accessible to users.

Disadvantages of HTTP

  • Data Integrity

Since there is no encryption method used in HTTP, there are chances that data can be easily hacked and accessed during transmission.

  • Data privacy

Privacy is another problem faced in the HTTP connection. If anyone manipulates the search request, they can view all the contents of the web page. Hackers can also access confidential information like usernames and passwords.

  • Administrative Overhead

Since HTTP needs to create multiple connections for transmitting a webpage, this can lead to administrative overhead in the connection.

  • IoT Device Support

HTTP uses many system resources, which leads to more power usage. Also, since IoT devices come with wireless sensors, it is not suitable to use HTTP with them.

HTTP Transaction

The image above shows the HTTP transaction between a client and the server. The client starts a transaction by sending a request to the server. Then the server replies to the request by sending a response message.

What is FTP?

File Transfer Protocol or FTP helps transfer sensitive data files between a client and a server from one computer network to another. The FTP server’s main role is to exchange and manipulate data files over a TCP/IP network. Since you need a valid username and password to access the FTP files, FTP offers added security.

FTP is built on a client-server structure and follows two different TCP connections:

  • Control Connection helps to authorize the user.
  • Data Connection helps to transfer the data files.

Advantages of FTP

  • Speed

FTP offers the fastest and most secure way to transfer files from one system to another.

  • Efficient

Since you do not have to complete all the operations to access a file, FTP becomes highly efficient.

  • Security

Since you need a valid user id and password to access a file transferred using FTP, better data security is guaranteed.

Disadvantages of FTP

  • It does not offer encryption

The main requirement while choosing an FTP provider is that your transmissions need to be encrypted. However, there are not many FTP providers that offer encryption.

  • Cannot run data transfer simultaneously

The FTP server has two main operations, i.e., to send and receive large files on the network. The maximum file size is limited to only 2GB. Additionally, it does not allow you to run simultaneous transfers to different receivers.

  • Prone to hacking

Passwords and other data are sent in clear text, resulting in unwanted eavesdropping, making it easy for hackers to guess the FTP password.

  • Not OS-friendly

FTP is not compatible with every OS.

FTTP Mechanism

The FTP client has three components: user interface, control process, and data transfer process. On the other hand, the FTP server has two components: server control and data transfer processes.

There are two different types of connections in FTP:

  • Control Connection: The control connection uses very subtle rules for communication. With a control connection, you can transfer a line of command or line of response one at a time. The control connection is made between the different control processes. The control connection stays active during the entire FTP session.
  • Data Connection: The data connection uses complex rules as the data types may vary. There is a data connection between the data transfer processes. The data connection opens when there is a command for transferring the files and closes when the file transfer is completed.

Key Differences Between HTTP and FTP

Now that you know everything about HTTP and FTP in detail, here in this section, we have highlighted the key differences between the two protocols:

BasicHTTP is used to access the web pages on the website.FTP helps to transfer files from one web host to another.
ConnectionHTTP builds data connections regularly.FTP establishes two connections, one for the data connection and the other for the control connection.
TCP PortHTTP uses TCP port 80.FTP uses TCP ports 20 and 21.
SuitabilityRecommended for transferring small files like web pagesIdeal for transferring large files.
AuthenticationAccessing HTTP does not require authentication.FTP is password protected.
DataThe content transferred using the HTTP is not saved in the device memoryThe content transferred using HTTP is saved in the host device’s memory.

Which One is the Best – HTTP VS FTP?

As you know, FTP helps to keep data safe with its password authentication. On the other hand, HTTP is not secure, and the data transferred using HTTP is at risk of being hacked. If you are looking for a protected and more secure file or data transfer, you can rely on FTP. FTP is also secured with SSL/Transport Layer Security (TLS) or FTPS.

Although HTTP is not protected, Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) is there to cover you. HTTPS is a more secure version of HTTP in which the communication between the browser and the websites is protected with SSL or TLS.

FTP is more efficient and helps to transfer large files very easily, whereas HTTP is used to transfer small files like web pages.


FTP has been the oldest in the market and is being replaced with new protocols, and HTTP is the future. Here in this post, we have mentioned the difference between HTTP and FTP. Let us recap:

  • HTTP is used to access web pages on the website, while FTP transfers files from one server to another.
  • HTTP builds data connections regularly. On the other hand, FTP establishes two connections, one for the data connection and the other for the control connection.
  • HTTP uses TCP port number 80, and FTP uses TCP ports 20 and 21.
  • Accessing HTTP does not require any password or authentication. FTP offers added security because it is password protected.

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