FTP vs SFTP: What is the Difference Between FTP and SFTP

What is FTP?

FTP stands for “File Transfer Protocol.” It is an internet service which is designed to establish a connection to the specific server or computer. Therefore, users can transfer file (download) or transfer data/files to their computer or the FTP server.

The FTP protocol also includes commands which you can use to execute operations on any remote computer. For example, to change directories, show folder contents, create folders or delete files. It is built on a client-server architecture. FTP allows you to utilize separate control and data connections between the client and server applications. It helps to solve the issue of different end host configurations.

In this SFTP and FTP difference tutorial, you will learn

What is SFTP?

SFTP (full form SSH File Transfer Protocol) is a part of the SSH protocol suite. It provides secure file transfers over SSH to provide access to all the shell accounts on a remote SFTP server.

SSH is a protocol for secure remote access to a machine over untrusted networks. SSH is a replacement for telnet, rsh, rlogin. SFTP verifies the identity of the client and once a secured connection is established information is exchanged.


  • FTP doesn’t provide a secure channel to transfer files between hosts whereas SFTP offers a secure channel for transferring files between the hosts.
  • FTP stands for is “File Transfer Protocol” whereas SFTP stands for is “SSH File Transfer Protocol”.
  • FTP uses 2 channels to transfer data while SFTP usage 1 channel to transfer data.
  • FTP allows inbound connection on port 21 whereas SFTP allows incoming connections on port 22.
  • FTP doesn’t provide encryption whereas SFTP provides encryption for sending the data.
  • FTP uses Client-server architecture whereas SFTP uses SSH architecture.
  • FTP has a direct transfer method whereas SFTP has a tunneling transfer method.

Features of FTP

Features of FTP
FTP vs SFTP Stack Overflow trends
  • Auto re-get or Resuming
  • A user interface that shows both local and remote files
  • Allows monitoring of file transfers
  • Helps you to set up and save multiple FTP sessions
  • Allows for uploading multiple files at one time Support for numerous flavors of FTP and SFTP
  • FTP operates in a client/server environment, meaning that the remote machine is configured as a server. So, it waits for the other machine to request a service from it
  • The FTP protocol can also perform actions like creating and deleting directories, listing files, deleting and renaming files, etc.

Features of SFTP

Features of SFTP

Google Trends SFTP vs FTP

  • Transmission is secure and can be compressed
  • Support for TMUX, Screen sessions
  • Implements the SSH3 protocol
  • Allows you to execute commands over SSH channel
  • Provide support for IPV6 HTTP protocols
  • Supports both password and public-key authentication
  • Offers interactive keyboard authentication
  • Helps you to handle server key re-exchanges transparently
  • Supports custom channels
  • Automatic conversion of text output from the remote system’s charset to Unicode-based strings

FTP vs. SFTP: The Key Differences

Below is the main difference between SFTP and FTP:

Difference between FTP and SFTP

Difference between FTP and SFTP

Parameter FTP SFTP
Founder By Abhay Bhushan in 1971 Tatu Ylönen with assistance from Sami Lehtinen in 1997
Full Form File Transfer Protocol. Secure FTP Protocol.
Basic FTP does not offer a secure channel to transfer files between hosts. SFTP offers a secure channel for transferring the files between the host.
Encryption FTP is accessible anonymously, and in most cases, it is not encrypted. SFTP encrypts the data before sends it to another host.
Architecture used Client-server SSH
Protocol FTP is TCP/IP protocol. SFTP protocol is a part of the SSH protocol which is a remote login application program.
Number of channels used 2 1
Commonly used Yes NO
Transfer method Direct transfer Tunneling
Inbound Port Allow inbound connection on port 21 Allow incoming connections on port 22
Outbound Port Allows outbound connection to port 21. Allow outbound connections to port 22.

Advantages of using FTP

  • The directory listing is uniform and machine-readable
  • Transfers can be resumed and can be scheduled
  • No size limitation on single transfers
  • FTP allows files to take ownership and access restrictions
  • It helps you to hide the information on individual computer systems
  • Many FTP clients offer scripting capabilities
  • Most FTP clients have a synchronizing utility
  • FTP client allows you to transfer multiple file & directories

Advantages of using SFTP

  • The connection is always secured
  • Uninformed TCP/IP ports can be redirected through the encrypted channel in both directions
  • The SFTP protocol runs on a secure channel, so no clear text passwords or file data are transferred.
  • You can install the software and used with restricted functionality even without root privileges

Disadvantages of using FTP

  • Filtering active FTP connections is a tough job on your local machine
  • Servers can be spoofed to send data to a random unknown port on any unauthorized computer
  • Hard to script jobs using FTP protocol
  • FTP is not a non-secure way to transfer data
  • Compliance can be an issue when using FTP to send files
  • Does not allow server-to-server copy and recursive directory removal operations

Disadvantages of using SFTP

  • The communication is binary and can’t be logged
  • SSH keys are not easy to manage and validate
  • The standards define specific things as optional or recommended. It may lead to compatibility problems between different software developed by different vendors.