Secure File Transfer Protocol is the full form of SFTP. It is a file transfer protocol that is used for sending large files via the Internet. SFTP is like a younger and more advanced version of FTP that comes with secure shell (SSH) components to provide more security to the data transfer. SFTP has been immensely important in keeping the content of the file transfer secure as online attacks and cybercrime have been at an all-time high recently.
This is going to further increase with more people getting access to the Internet. As a result, to be able to send large files over the Internet, you need to have secure communication between the receiver and the sender. That’s where SFTP shines the best. In this article, we are going to discuss in detail how SFTP works, what are the benefits of SFTP, and how it is different from FTP. Along with this, we are also going to show you the application where SFTP is used. So let’s get started.
Working of SFTP
SFTP is one of those protocols that can come in handy in situations where a user has to deal with the protection of sensitive data. For example, if you are sending patented work to one of your clients, you want to make sure that it is transferred in the safest way possible. If this patented file gets into the wrong hands, your competitors can make good use of it to get themselves ahead of you.
As a result, when it comes to sending files inside the company or to a client, most companies take no risk and go with SFTP protocol to send their trade secret and other vital information. On the other hand, private users also like to keep their data safe from eavesdroppers on the Internet using SFTP.
SFTP is a client-server protocol, and you can launch it from a command line of your computer. Or you can take the help of Graphical User Interface (GUI) if you don’t know much about the use of the command line. GUI is a much easier option. The user first needs to type in the specific command in the command line to initiate the setup. This is done in a Linux environment most of the time.
SFTP Port Selection Makes Firewall Less Vulnerable
The SFTP protocol is run using the SSH protocol via regular SSH port 22. In addition to this, the SFTP supports multiple concurrent operations. Each operation is given a unique number which is identified by the client. These numbers need to match with the numbers sent by the server response. Keep in mind that a request from the client can be processed asynchronously. The FTP protocol only works when the client uses SSH to log into the server. This keeps the server from leaving additional ports exposed or, in other ways, maintaining additional authentications for the file transfer.
When a network is using SFTP, it will require both the client and the server to authenticate themselves. This can be done by providing the user ID and password. Or it could be done by validating an SSH key. When the information present in the files is too delicate, users can take both authentication factors to make sure the transfer is secure.
One-half of the SSH key is stored on the computer present on both sides of the transfer. The other half of the SSH key is present in the server. The latter half, which is loaded in the server, is also associated with their account, which works as a public key. The authentication is possible only when the SSH key pair matches.
Differences Between SFTP and FTP
If you are new to networking, you probably might be thinking about whether SFTP and FTP do have any differences or not? Well, both of them allow us to use the FTP client. One of the common examples is FileZilla, which lets you connect with your website’s servers. But when it comes to the user end of things, both the FTP and SFTP work in the same way. Meaning there is no difference to be found between these two. With the use of both protocols, the user will be able to do the following things.
- Connect to your server.
- Browse all the files that are present on your server. Even the hidden files can be viewed and extracted using FTP and SFTP.
- You get to upload the files from your computer to your server with ease.
- The vice versa of the above operation can be done as well. That is, files can be downloaded from the server to the computer as well.
On top, everything looks similar, but the fundamental changes are present on the inside; that’s why you need to understand the working and the difference between FTP and SFTP.
The Difference of Encryption
The most crucial aspect of SFTP that makes it superior to FTP is that SFTP comes with a secure channel that provides a safe way to transfer the files. FTP does the same, but it does not provide a secure channel for the transfer. When you are using SFTP, your connection is always secured, and the data gets moved in between the FTP clients and your browser, which uses encryption in the first place. As a result, any person with evil intentions won’t be able to sit in the middle to intercept the data.
On the other hand, with the FTP, you need to first have the authentication via username and password when you initially make the connection with the user. But here, the data which is being passed between the web server and the FTP client isn’t encrypted when it is being transferred. That’s why if someone does sit in the middle, they can clearly see what the contents of the file transfer are and can copy them as well with the proper set of tools.
This can actually be a lot dangerous if you are sending a confidential file that holds sensitive information. For example, you are a lawyer, and you are sending valuable information to your client to go through it. But someone between the transfer of files can get their hands on the information that includes all the case history and other things included. In short, this whole scenario could be catastrophic.
On the other hand, if you are a website owner and one of the developers is sending you the credentials to access the admin page of the website using FTP. The username and password used with it are in clear sight as they are present in the form of plain text. That way, if an evil-minded person can get inside the network, he can see what these credentials are, and they can take over your website as well if they want.
Any vulnerability of FTP can be used against it and turn into a data leaking threat. On the other hand, when it comes to inheriting vulnerabilities in the file transfer process, FTP is the one with more numbers than SFTP.
The very first thing you need to take care of is the issues that are created by human error in FTP. Sending a file to the wrong recipient or sending something entirely inappropriate for a receiver could land you in serious trouble. The SFTP provides a greater level of security that results in the decrease of human error by checking in with both the sender and the receiver to have the same public key or not.
The host keys are responsible for identifying the user to see if they are trustworthy to send the data or not. With this, you are ensured that all the encryption compliances are taken care of, and the inherited vulnerabilities of FTP have been eradicated.
Should You Be Using FTP or SFTP?
Well, the plain answer is that you should be using SFTP all the time. There is no excuse for using FTP when the transferring of files is not secure in the first place. SFTP provides you with a much better way to send the information to the server via encrypting your files before the transmission ever begins.
Encryption Used in SFTP
Sending the data from one computer to the other has become quite important in our day-to-day tasks. At the same time, some of the data transfer does not need any protection. Some, if compromised, can shut down your whole business in a week’s time. That’s why using encryption to hide your data in plain sight has become so relevant these days. Encryption hides the data by scrambling it, making it hard to decipher.
The only way the sender and the receiver can get around the encryption is by using the decipher that they have shared. As a result, if due, for some reason, the file during its transfer gets in the hands of an attacker, they still won’t be able to decrypt it. SFTP uses fingerprint technology first to verify host keys before any data transfer ever takes place between the sender and the receiver of the files. SFTP includes encryption as the main component for sending files.
Benefits of Using SFTP as a Service
When you are using a fully hosted SFT solution, you get tons of benefits in your bag in addition to the cost reduction, usability, security, and file access. Given below, we have mentioned them in brief for your better understanding of SFTP.
No Need for Hardware
SFTP works as a service. All you have to do is signup, and once you’re logged in, all the features of the SFTP suite will be available to you with no restriction whatsoever. On the other hand, it doesn’t require you to use your own specific server. A simple utility-based or data center infrastructure is good enough when it comes to using the SFTP for file transfer.
Moreover, you will be able to set up the additional users, change any preferences you like, start uploading the files to the server the minute you are logged in, organize the folders, and more. One more thing, as soon as you are done with the initial setup, you can review the online support documentation and go through it.
Reduction in Business costs
There are a number of upfront and ongoing costs that you have to handle when you start using an SFTP server on your own. This cost can hinder your growth when your business is in the growing stage, and you need to invest money in other things as well. You will be required to have an IT staff that handles the setup and the managing of hardware, operating system, and all the necessary patches to keep the thing running at your location.
But SFTP can be used as a service, and you are getting all the advantages that come with it. When you go for the SFTP as a service, you will take care of all the hardware, software, maintenance, and support for you. The only thing you need to do is set up the account with the client.
SFTP gives you one location to store all your files; however, you still get the complete flexibility that you are looking for over the transfer of your files and their storage. With the hosting of SFTP, you will be getting on-demand access to your documents whenever you want, and from any device you want. Besides, you will get an SFTP server that is managed by professionals. So you don’t have to worry about it all.
Security is always the primary concern when it comes to working on the Internet. Security is not a trivial undertaking. That’s why you have to be vigilant to keep your data safe. There are constantly new threats, and patches have to be deployed as earliest as possible. With the SFTP service, all of this is handled by the client.
They make sure that each of the SFTP servers is working to its full potential and using all sorts of data security and integrity patches. To stand guard your data against malicious actors.
You can increase the number of SFTP servers whenever you want. As we know, SFTP is the most reliable way to send a massive amount of data from point A to point B over the Internet. If you are using your own SFTP server, the scalability could become an issue if you haven’t thought about it earlier during the initial setup.
Off-site disaster recovery is one of the most critical aspects of why more and more companies are inclined to use SFTP as a service. With this feature, your data is always present on some other site. As a result, when something goes wrong, you get to access the backup, and work can continue with no breaks.
If we look at the other side, which is the small business trying to manage their own SFTP server. Compliance becomes a significant issue to take on. Also, you need to take the certification as well to maintain it. This is all taken care of by the provider or the client you will be using for the SFTP.
SFTP is more than just using a client to make the transfer of your data secure. With SFTP, you are getting peace of mind in terms of keeping your data safe. Still, learning about it before investing is a plan you should always go with. We hope this article has helped you in understanding what the SFTP stands for and its uses. If you believe there is something we should be adding up, please feel free to mention it in the comments section down below for us. Happy learning!