In the early 1970’s, people began exchanging information over these new and edgy machines, known as computers. They utilized a protocol, known as FTP (file transfer protocol). The original FTP specifications were written by Abhay Bhushan and were published in 1971 as RFC 114. It was initially created with the intent to facilitate file transfer between hosts over the ARPANET Network Control Program (NCP) - the internet’s granddaddy. Of course, those were the good old, early days of transferring data over network systems, long before anyone thought of combining “data” and “security.”

But as we know all too well, all good things must come to an end, and so did the security-threat-free days. Nowadays, there is a common awareness surrounding the importance and necessity of the role cybersecurity plays in our lives when we exchange information over the web. Nowadays, FTP just doesn’t cut it anymore with zero encryption and anonymous access. Tatu Ylönen, a researcher at Helsinki University of Technology, Finland, designed the SSH protocol (Secure Shell Protocol) in 1995 in response, which then lead the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) to design SFTP, based on the SSH protocol.

What is SFTP and how does it work?

As a successor to FTP, the original file transfer protocol, SFTP, is a secure file transfer protocol that allows individuals to access, transfer, and manage files over the web. SFTP works using a client-server architecture, meaning that a client connects to a server and downloads files from it or uploads files to it. SFTP is also packaged with the SSH (Secure Shell) daemon, which provides a secure communication channel between the client and the server and is leveraged to support the management and transferring of files.

The benefits of using SFTP

  • Everything is encrypted - SFTP encrypts all communication between the client and the server.
  • Your data is safe - You can choose between two options: either username and password authentication or private/public key authentication or you can combine both, your call.
  • Easy to automate - uploading and downloading files from any SFTP server can be easily automated when using the sftp command line interface. In addition, libraries are available for any programming language to help developers connect and interact with SFTP servers.
  • Simple to use - other than using a different port and encrypting communications, SFTP is similar to FTP. Its commands are identical to FTP’s. Therefore, if you are familiar with FTP, you’ll have no problem adjusting. Another accessibility bonus is that GUI FTP clients, such as the popular FileZilla or Cyberduck, support SFTP as well.
  • It’s extremely common - if you need to exchange data with a 3rd party (whether it be a customer, vendor, or partner) on a regular basis, and there aren’t any programmers available to develop and maintain APIs, SFTP is an awesome solution for you.Both client and server apps are readily available, security is taken care of and the options to automate the processes of moving data in and out of the server are limitless.

The benefits of using SFTP on the cloud

You can set up your own SFTP server, but there are quite a few advantages to using a managed cloud service, including:

  • Immediate access - no setup, no configuration; simply sign up and start using it.
  • Security - when you set up your own, it’s easy to just proceed with the default options and forget about security best practices. Cloud SFTP solutions excel at what they do, which is to provide you with enhanced security features such as encryption at rest and on the wire, inbound network rules, strong password policies, public key authentication, auditing, and more.
  • Automation - Some solutions provide you with means to automate the management of your cloud storage in addition to those that allow you to automate data processing as soon as files are uploaded to your cloud storage.
  • Durability and business continuity - You should expect much better scale and durability from your cloud vendor when it comes to storage. This is advantageous so you do not have to worry about losing data in case of disasters or human errors.
  • Scalability - a cloud storage solution should be able to help you scale as you grow in a transparent manner, without changing hosts or adding disk capacity.

Meet SFTP To Go, our fully managed SFTP service. It boasts all the features listed in this post and even more. If you’re considering using an SFTP service, make sure to give it a try or schedule a demo call with us to discuss any details.

Post photo by Lars Kienle on Unsplash