Difference Between FTP and Telnet

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By Sameeksha Medewar

In networking terms, Telnet and FTP are application layer protocols and help establish a connection between the remote users and the host. Additionally, both protocols can be used together to log in to the host server transparently.

In this post, we will talk about FTP and Telnet in detail and draw a detailed comparison between both protocols.

What is FTP?

FTP or File Transfer Protocol is used to upload and download files between the client and the server. The main function of FTP is to copy files from one host and send it to another once a connection is established successfully.

IN general, FTP establishes a connection with the help of TCP. The FTP server allows multiple users/clients to access the data stored on it simultaneously. Also, you need to know that while transferring files to the remote machine, you may encounter some issues like changes in the file name conventions and structure of the directory, etc. that can make the process of file transfer difficult.

Since FTP sets up two connections between the host and the clients, it is very efficient. The first connection allows you to transfer the data, and the other connection controls the information. In the second connection, i.e., the control connection, one line of command is transferred at a time. FTP uses port 20 for data connection and port 21 for the control connection.

Note: During the entire transfer process, the control connection is activated all the time while the data connection opens during the file transfer and closes when the transfer is finished.

Features of FTP

  • Speedy

FTP is known for its speed. It is considered the best and the fastest way to transfer files from one system to another.

  • Efficient

Another advantage of FTP is that you do not have to complete all the operations to access the entire file, which makes FTP highly efficient and time-saving.

  • Secure

FTP allows you to secure files with a username and password. This feature makes the files transferred using FTP more secure.

Advantages of FTP

Here are some of the advantages of an FTP:

  • Allows you to transfer multiple files, including directories.
  • Allows you to resume file transfer if the connection is lost. So, there is no need to start the transfer again.
  • Allows you to schedule or add items to the “queue” for upload or download.
  • FTP does not have any size limit for file transfer.
  • Offers faster file transfer speed when compared to HTTP.
  • FTP is supported on almost all web hosts/servers.

Disadvantages of FTP

Here are some of the disadvantages of FTP:

  • The username and password are sent in clear text, making them easy to interpret by hackers.
  • It is difficult to filter ongoing FTP connections on the local machine.
  • TLS 1.2 is not supported in HTTPS.
  • Users can delete the data unknowingly.
  • It cannot track what has been uploaded on the remote system.

What is Telnet?

Telnet allows a client/user to log in to the remote server and access its resources. It offers a virtual terminal protocol that is approved by ISO. In Telnet, a client-server connection is established and linked with the remote server. There is a remote machine identified by Telnet and is referred to as client software.

Since Telnet runs different operating systems on different machines, it accepts a combination of unique characters known as tokens.

NVT or the Network Virtual Terminal is a universal interface introduced by Telnet. The main purpose of Telnet is to translate NVT form data and convert it into accepted forms.

The three standard services provided by Telnet are:

  • It offers an interface to a remote system defined by the Network Virtual Terminal.
  • Telnet offers a mechanism that enables the client and the server to settle options and set up standard options.
  • Telnet equally treats both the end of the connections.

Features of Telnet

Here are some of the features of the Telnet Protocol:

  • Telnet is used to test web and mail servers for remote access.
  • It offers two-way communication between computers over the LAN and the internet.
  • Telnet runs over secure networks.
  • It offers text-based games.
  • Multiple library catalogs are only reachable through Telnet.

Advantages of Telnet

Here are some of the advantages of using Telnet protocol:

  • Telnet is used to send and receive information.
  • It helps in the administration of the network.
  • It supports user authentication.
  • All the clients and servers use an NVT.
  • Since remote computers use the automation test facilities, the overall cost associated with the test equipment is reduced.

Disadvantages of Telnet

Here are some of the disadvantages of using Telnet protocol:

  • The user id and password are provided without any encryption, leading to security risk in the Telnet protocol.
  • Since it is a character-based communication tool, it does not allow you to run GUI-based tools on the Telnet connection.
  • It is not very efficient.
  • Each keystroke needs several other switches before it reaches the other end of the connection.
  • Since it is slow, it can be very costly.

Difference Between FTP and Telnet

Now that you know what FTP and Telnet are and their features, advantages, and disadvantages, it’s time to check out the key differences between them:

FTP Telnet
Definition FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol. The main aim of FTP is to transfer files from one connection to another. Additionally, it also allows you to create and delete files and directories. A Telnet or telecommunication network is a connection protocol that connects the users to a remote server that listens to all the commands. Once a connection is established, the user can issue commands to the server and analyze the responses.
Port Number FTP uses two ports- 20 and 21. It uses port 20 to establish a connection and port 21 to connect and transfer files. Telnet uses port 23 for command connections.
Number of connections FTP has two connections: the control connection and the data transfer connection. Due to a single port, Telnet offers only one connection.
Remote Login Remote login is not mandatory in FTP. Remote login is mandatory because issue commands run only after login.
Test Cases Since FTP uses acceptance testing, it has more positive test cases. System testing is performed by a group of professional testers resulting in many negative test cases.
Inputs In acceptance testing, all random inputs are used. All the dummy inputs are used in system testing.


Above we have discussed what FTP and Telnet protocols are used for along with their key differences. Let us recap:

  • Telnet allows a client/user to access the resources in the remote server. On the other hand, FTP is used to copy and transfer files from one machine to another.
  • The Telnet uses port number 23 while FTP uses 20 and 21 for data connection and control connection respectively.
  • Telnet does not have any security measures, so it is risky to use. On the other hand, FTP comes with encryption and can be accessed only after entering the password.
  • While you are using Telnet, you need to log in to the remote machine to access the files. On the other hand, there’s no need for such a login when using FTP.

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