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This article will teach you about two widely used protocols for file transfers, i.e., SFTP and FTPS.

We will learn about their fundamental differences. The main aim is to know which protocol should be used under different circumstances.

These two protocols (a set of rules or procedures for transmitting data between electronic devices, such as computers) have similar names. The location of the S in each acronym influences how these protocols work. Both protocols successfully send your data, but they are significantly different.

SFTP vs. FTPS: Which Protocol to Use?

FTP, FTPS, and SFTP are three widely used protocols that are still used for file transfers today. Even with similar initials, these protocols differ significantly, including how data is transferred, the level of security provided, and firewall concerns.

Secure file transfer protocol (FTPS) and shell file transfer protocol (SFTP) allows fast file transmission via various communication channels.

Secure Shell File Transfer Protocol (SFTP)

A network protocol called Safe Shell File Transfer Protocol, often known as SFTP, allows for secure file transfer via two communication channels.

SFTP is a part of SSH protocol and overlays FTP-like commands onto what amounts to SCP to make life easier for FTP users.

It enables administration and access to reliable data with a high level of security for sending and receiving file data transfers. Data is easily accessible, as SFTP provides both- users to the server and server-to-server facilities. You can use SFTP to log onto a server, download and upload files, and more.

SFTP allows machines to connect with the help of public and private keys. Once the connection is verified, both devices can communicate securely. SFTP uses only one connection, which means only one port must be activated on the server, and it only has to be publicly reachable on the selected port for the server, making it easier to secure.

File Transfer Protocol Secure (FTPS)

File transfer protocol secure, or FTPS, enhances security by adding extra functionality to Transport Layer Security (TLS) and allows businesses to connect securely with their trading partners, users, and customers.

FTPS is just FTP-over-TLS – the control and data connections are identical to regular FTP but are encrypted with TLS (and need certificates, just like HTTPS) – this is entirely unrelated to SFTP. Sent files are exchanged through FTPS and authenticated by FTPS-supported applications.

Basically, it has a control channel and data channel to transfer files over a computer network. It adds a security and encryption layer, and most FTP clients provide the capability to synchronize files so that all the files will be up to date regardless of their location.

Many tools are available to send and receive files via FTPS, making it a logical choice for many file transfer situations.

Understanding the Key Differences

SFTP enhances security during file transfers, but FTPS adds the encryption layer and makes data more secure.

SFTP was designed for secure network communication. It mainly wants to connect securely to transfer billing data, funds, and data recovery files.

FTPS, on the other hand, was created to support file transfers between networked computers using the file transfer protocol. It was also designed to add support for encryption by implementing algorithms. Unlike SFTP, FTPS allows a human to comprehend and read the communication.

SFTP is preferred for firewall support over FTPS

With SFTP, just one connection is made between the client and the server. It features a specific port for connecting to a computer in another location; thus, one does not need to open numerous ports. By the way, fewer ports mean that particular types of malware have fewer chances to exploit security.

The client and server are connected to the server through a single network. The firewall acts as an interface between the connection and checks for various abnormalities that may happen or suspicious signs and threat indicators.

However, as compared to SFTP, FTPS needs a backup data connection. It creates a new port for each data transmission, and numerous ports can be opened simultaneously.

The issue is that FTPS is not naturally encrypted. Due to external encryption, firewall software cannot determine which port is being utilized and for what purpose. If one tries to use FTPS and a firewall simultaneously, the connection will fail immediately.

SFTP typically transfers files more slowly than FTPS.

SFTP connections are nearly always noticeably slower than FTPS connections. The protocol, which runs SFTP, generates a high additional cost due to packet delivery and encryption.

SFTP uses the transmission control protocol (TCP) architecture at its core. To maintain dependability, TCP employs several error-checking techniques, including analyzing data, acknowledging, and synchronizing message delivery.

FTPS was created primarily for rapid file transfers and is a lean, uncomplicated protocol compared to other protocols. 

While FTPS also supports ASCII, SFTP only supports the transmission of binary data.

There isn’t an ASCII(American Standard Code for Information Interchange) mode in SFTP. All information is transmitted in a binary manner, ensuring that the server receives the identical data that the client sent (or vice versa).

There is no ASCII mode to translate strings from the sender’s operating system to that of the receiver. Because of this, SFTP logging is quite tricky. Using the default SFTP setups makes it nearly hard to create and maintain logs, so businesses often utilize a managed file transfer (MFT) technology to get around this problem.

Since FTPS is a newer version of FTP, ASCII transfers are also supported. This is quite useful for logging since it makes it simple for IT administrators to understand the network protocol activities occurring and spot bottlenecks.

While SFTP is incompatible with .NET frameworks, FTPS is.

Microsoft’s proprietary.NET software framework enables programmers to create applications that can operate on the Windows operating system. It is renowned for being user-friendly and cross-platform compatible.

.NET, by default, doesn’t support SFTP protocols. The protocol cannot be used for file transfer or administration by developers who rely on it. In contrast, .NET supports FTPS, which allows us to run several commands.

SFTP uses out-of-band authentication, whereas FTPS depends on a signed certificate for permission.

The SFTP protocol does not provide any signed certificates for verification. First, no data is available in plaintext, and all information is pre-encrypted. It also depends on the out-of-band authentication( type of two-factor authentication).

The ID and password are transmitted over the same channel in this situation. However, a separate secondary channel is used to authenticate user identity further.

FTPS, in contrast, uses an FTP server, and the server is required to offer a public-key authentication(encryption and decryption are done using separate keys). To use the FTPS gateway seamlessly, businesses can buy servers that support the public-key mechanism and come with a digital certificate installed. 

Compared to FTPS commands, SFTP commands provide more control.

Most popular operating systems come pre-installed with CLI(command line interface) software, and SFTP and FTPS can be utilized using a CLI interface. As a result, both communication protocols are open and accessible from a wide range of platforms.

FTPS commands, in comparison, are significantly more straightforward and have less functionality. Users cannot edit the files or directories hosted over a remote connection; they can only access and retrieve them. For example, utilizing FTPS commands does not allow you to modify or alter file ownership permissions, as SFTP and FTPS use different core protocol systems (i.e., SSH for SFTP and FTP for FTPS).

SFTP enjoys more excellent compatibility and adoption

FTPS usage is declining. When the data is public and non-sensitive, some businesses, Managed file transfer (MFT)solutions, and independent web developers still employ FTPS as a straightforward file transfer method.

Compared to FTPS, SFTP is more recent; the most recent version (version 6, draught 13) was created in 2006. All popular browsers support SFTP, and numerous enterprise-grade SFTP solutions are available from reputable providers.

For instance, SFTP file transfer protocols can be set up to work with IBM servers and Microsoft Azure cloud buckets. 

Which protocol is out of SFTP and FTPS to choose under what condition?

SFTP and FTPS are widely used protocols for transferring data over public and private networks. Both have advantages and disadvantages. Before choosing a protocol to meet their needs, organizations should bear the following in mind:

  • SFTP is entirely secure by default, whereas FTPS adds a layer of encryption using SSL or TLS.
  • SFTP is compatible with firewalls, but the binary data it transmits makes it unsuitable for logging.
  • FTPS file transmissions move along much more quickly than SFTP. Although SFTP does not function with.NET frameworks, it is more widely used and compatible.
  • The authentication procedures and command set differ for the two protocols.

As a result, most firms combine the two to take advantage of the benefits while addressing the drawbacks

When to Use SFTP

Though SFTP is slower, it gets terminated quickly without the entire session being terminated. It is easy to use by sharing your public SSH key; they can quickly fill in the information on their server and link it to your account.

When the connection is established, the client software sends your public key to the server for verification. If these public key matches and the user enters the user of the password needed, then the authentication is completed.

SFTP uses a separate port to transfer data (by default, this is port 22). Due to fewer ports, SFTP limits the number of points in danger of eavesdropping(unauthorized real-time interception of private communication) and prevents man-in-the-middle attacks.

It can transfer large and bulky files in one go. Data will be transmitted quickly as well as efficiently.

When to Use FTPS

Your best option for transferring files safely is FTPS. If a trading partner requires it or you wish to employ certificates to authenticate connections.

FTPS uses TLS and SSL to encrypt server connections. They include identifying details, including the issuer’s name, the subject’s name, the subject’s public critical information, and a signature.

When employing certificates, they are trusted if they are either self-signed by a trading partner or signed by a recognized certificate authority (CA). You need a copy of the trade partner’s public certificate in your trusted vital store to validate self-signed credentials.

Your best option for transferring files securely is FTPS. A new port will open since FTPS employs numerous port numbers for implicit and explicit connection types.


While SFTP is an improved version of SSH that provides simple file transfer features to the default secure SSH, FTPS was developed as an enhanced version of FTP to add a security framework. FTPS uses two channels, whereas SFTP only uses one to enable control communications and data transfer.

SFTP sends data in binary format; FTPS sends data in a human-readable format. If you choose FTPS for your organization, keep in mind that it can be difficult to connect through high-security firewalls.

Because FTPS uses multiple port numbers for implicit and explicit connection types, another port is opened whenever a request for a file transfer or directory listing is made. Not being cautious and alert can put your network at risk and expose you to vulnerabilities.

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  • Naman Yash
    Naman Yash is a Software Engineering Professional with 2+ years of Cloud Engineering experience in JP Morgan Chase. Currently, Naman is working as a freelance software engineer and content writer. He holds multiple AWS and Terraform certifications…

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