2023 updates: We double checked and we're not in the wrong!

First things first - what is FTP?

FTP stands for: File Transfer Protocol. It is a standard protocol used to transfer files between computers across the internet in a client-server model architecture, in a similar way to how you browse websites, but used merely to upload and download files.

FTP has been around for 50 years or so, way before the internet! Although it's quite old, there are still many FTP sites these days and many clients you can use to connect to these sites.

So, why not just keep on using FTP?

The main problem with FTP is that it's not secure. At all!

  • It allows anonymous access to files - this means you can connect to an FTP server and use it without entering a username and password. There have been quite a few embarrassing security breaches where corporations stored sensitive data on FTP servers that allowed anonymous access.
  • Nothing is encrypted - Even if you do use username/password authentication, a hacker can easily access information associated with the file transfer, including your username and password and the files themselves.
  • What about other basic security features?
    Handling file access permissions, access auditing and alerting are not easy tasks.
  • Modern web browsers are actually dropping support for FTP because of its security flaws.

What should I use instead?

There are other, safer and more up-to-date, options out there.

SFTP is an excellent alternative, it is a completely revamped file transfer protocol and it has been around for over 20 years. Here are some of the reasons you should be using SFTP to share files instead of FTP:

  • It has security built-in to it.
  • Everything is encrypted. As a matter of fact it relies on SSH to establish secure communication channels.
  • It’s considered a tested and proven, low risk technology.
  • Large corporations rely on it as a drop site for files with 3rd parties.  
  • It’s easy to set up and automate. You won't need a developer to set it up secure processes to share files with 3rd parties.
  • Any respectable FTP client also supports SFTP.

If security is a high priority for you (it should be!) and you’re still using FTP, we recommend that you switch to SFTP as soon as possible. You can read about other differences between FTP and SFTP here.

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(Cat on Mac photo by Александар Цветановић from Pexels)