Secure data transfer is the yarn that constitutes modern business networks. SFTP and SCP are two key protocols in this domain, both built atop the secure foundations of SSH (Secure Shell).
This shared foundation in their architecture means that they’re often up against each other when it comes time for businesses to decide on their protocol of choice.
This post weighs in on the technical attributes, operational mechanics, and security measures of each protocol, to furnish decision-makers with the insight they need to ensure secure file transfer strategies.
SFTP and SCP: feature-by-feature comparison
- SFTP: Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) operates as a subsystem of SSH, ensuring a secure channel for a variety of file interactions including transfer, access, and management. It encapsulates a broad spectrum of functionalities, making it a comprehensive tool for dealing with remote file systems securely.
- SCP: On the other hand, Secure Copy Protocol (SCP) employs SSH to provide a secure connection and means for copying files between hosts. Its focus is on the upload/download functionality, initiating an SSH connection to securely transfer files, making it a straightforward tool for secure file copying tasks.
Encryption and security
- SFTP: SFTP gains robust encryption from SSH. It also employs additional strong encryption algorithms like AES and 3DES, safeguarding data integrity and confidentiality during transit. On top of that, SFTP ensures the secure execution of various file-related commands to maintain security throughout the session.
- SCP: SCP also rests on the encryption mechanisms of SSH, ensuring that files are securely copied over SSH connections. The encryption applies to both the file data and the names of the files being transferred, enhancing overall security.
For an in-depth look at how SCP works, along with one of its longstanding vulnerabilities, watch the Computerphile video below.
- SFTP: SFTP’s wide range of supported commands and operations testifies to its operational versatility. It facilitates detailed interactions with remote file systems, such as file uploads, downloads, renaming, deletion, and permission modifications among others. This operational flexibility makes SFTP a suitable choice for complex file transfer and management tasks, catering to diverse operational needs.
- SCP: In contrast, SCP is more specialized, focusing on the secure copying of files between hosts. It’s streamlined in its operations, making it a go-to solution for straightforward file copying tasks.
Integration and implementation
- SFTP: SFTP’s flexibility and range of features mean it integrates into various systems, workflows, and applications, including Netsuite, Salesforce, Talend, Mulesoft, Good Sign, and Singular (to name a few). It can be implemented in diverse operational scenarios, accommodating a wide range of secure file transfer and management needs.
- SCP: SCP’s simpler operation does make it easier to integrate and implement for direct file copying tasks. However, its narrower focus actually limits its applicability in more complex operations and integration scenarios.
Automation and streamlining
- SFTP: SFTP allows for the execution of automated batch scripts, facilitating easy scheduling and automation of file transfers and related operations. This is handy for businesses needing regular, scheduled file transfers or synchronization between systems. SFTP’s support for varied file operations, like renaming, deleting, and changing file permissions, adds to its capacity to streamline workflows.
- SCP: SCP is efficient for straightforward, repetitive file copy tasks that can be automated, but less versatile in handling complex, multi-step workflows. So, while it can automate via script the same way SFTP can, certain serious limitations—such as no support for wildcards in copy operation from remote server (i.e. “copy all text files in a folder”), and the lack of diverse file management functionality (like delete, rename, list, etc.)— make it less adept at anything other than basic workflow automation.
Performance and speed
- SFTP: Traditionally, SFTP has been perceived as slower due to its robust error-checking mechanisms. However, in our independent test, SFTP and SCP showed comparable upload times with an almost negligible 2,17% difference in favor of SCP. Notably, SFTP excelled in download times, significantly outpacing SCP by a full 50% and challenging the conventional (but unfounded) view of SFTP's speed. While we’ve conducted quick tests of our own, we intend to bust this myth more extensively in future, proving definitively that SFTP is faster than SCP overall.
- SCP: SCP, streamlined for speed due to its simpler protocol, matched SFTP's upload speed but fell behind significantly in download speeds, likely because you have to specify files by name and path (which is not the case with SFTP). The test indicates that the simpler architecture of SCP didn't translate to faster download speeds in the given (stable) network conditions. In our test, SFTP came out faster than SCP overall.
- SFTP: SFTP operates via an interactive session, allowing users to engage in a variety of file management tasks within a session. This mode, while slightly more complex, enables continuous interaction with the remote file system, facilitating an array of file operations beyond just transfer.
- SCP: In contrast, SCP is used via a single-line command to copy files between hosts. It’s quick, simple, and only useful for the most basic transfer tasks.
- SFTP: SFTP continues to be actively used and developed, reflecting a vibrant and ongoing lifecycle. Its protocol specifications are well-maintained, ensuring its relevance and functionality in contemporary operational environments
- SCP: SCP is officially deprecated. Although it was designed for secure file copying, its lack of development and updates over the years has led to its being overshadowed by more hardy and actively maintained protocols like SFTP, signaling a less active lifecycle.
When comparing protocols in the context of dynamic business comms, SFTP wins on the basis of superior functionality, performance, and the fact that it isn’t deprecated.
Its enhanced operational capabilities, coupled with strong encryption and authentication mechanisms, make it a formidable tool for advancing workflow efficiencies and fortifying data transfers.
SCP, while also highly secure and efficient for specific use cases, offers less operational flexibility, so it’s better suited to simpler, direct file transfer tasks. Its focused approach ensures efficiency on a limited scope of tasks but simply doesn’t offer the broader benefits of SFTP.
Still, we felt that even SFTP could use a little extra spice.
SFTP To Go: SFTP with spice
SFTP To Go builds on the foundation of SFTP, boosting the flexibility and security of the file transfer process while adding various accessibility and UX enhancements.
Let’s look a little closer...
- Enhanced security features: Security is at the forefront of SFTP To Go’s design. It incorporates advanced measures like IP whitelisting so data is safeguarded against potential threats.
- Flexible authentication options: SFTP To Go supports a variety of authentication methods, including password and SSH key-based mechanisms. This flexibility ensures authenticated access is maintained through any level of risk.
- Diverse protocol support: SFTP To Go supports a range of protocols, including SFTP, FTPS, S3, and HTTPS, ensuring compatibility and smooth migration/integration processes. Its adaptability means it’s well-equipped to meet diverse operational requirements.
- Fully-managed cloud storage: SFTP To Go brings a seamless, fully-managed cloud storage solution so that businesses can focus on business instead of admin and server upkeep. The result? A more efficient use of time and resources.
- Secure and reliable data exchange: SFTP To Go facilitates secure and reliable interactions with partners, vendors, and customers. It employs standard protocols like SFTP, FTPS, and HTTPS, ensuring that data exchanges maintain integrity and confidentiality.
- Scalability and accessibility: Built for high availability and resilience, it’s designed to meet the most dynamic business needs, ensuring consistent performance and accessibility.
- Intuitive user interface and advanced integration capabilities: SFTP To Go is equipped with an intuitive UI that simplifies user and file management. Its advanced API and webhook infrastructure enhance integration capabilities, allowing for a seamless connection with diverse applications and workflows.
Both protocols offer robust security features, employing the time-honored power of SSH to secure data transmissions.
However, SFTP, with its operational versatility and extensive feature set, is a more comprehensive solution, particularly for dynamic businesses with diverse file transfer needs.
SFTP To Go takes things up a notch, with an enhanced SFTP experience that simplifies, fortifies, and streamlines secure file transfer operations even more.
If you’re after a harmonized convergence of functionality, security, and operational efficiency, marking a significant advancement in the landscape of secure file transfer solutions, SFTP To Go’s got that spice.
Frequently Asked Questions
What makes SFTP different from SCP?
SFTP and SCP both operate over SSH for secure file transfers, but they serve slightly different purposes. SFTP is more versatile, allowing for a range of file operations beyond just transferring, such as renaming and deleting files. SCP, on the other hand, is primarily focused on the secure copying of files between hosts, making it more specialized and straightforward.
How does SFTP To Go enhance the SFTP experience?
SFTP To Go takes SFTP up a notch by adding layers of functionality and user experience enhancements. It offers features like IP whitelisting and two-factor authentication, ensuring that your data is always protected. As a fully managed cloud storage solution, it also removes the administrative burden, allowing businesses to focus more on their core operations.
Which protocol offers more operational versatility, SFTP or SCP?
SFTP offers more operational versatility compared to SCP. It supports a broader spectrum of file operations, making it suitable for more complex file transfer and management tasks. SCP is more streamlined, focusing primarily on secure file-copying tasks.
Is SFTP To Go compatible with various protocols?
Yes, SFTP To Go supports a diverse range of protocols, ensuring compatibility and facilitating smooth migration and integration processes. It’s adaptable and well-equipped to meet a variety of operational requirements, making it a flexible choice for secure file transfers.
How does the security of SFTP and SCP compare?
Both SFTP and SCP offer robust security features, leveraging SSH’s secure architecture. They employ strong encryption algorithms to safeguard data integrity and confidentiality during transit. SFTP To Go further enhances security with advanced measures like IP whitelisting and two-factor authentication.