Hosting Tutorial & Guide

The Difference Between FTP, Anonymous FTP, SFTP and FTPS

updated on Feb 16, 2017
The Difference Between FTP, Anonymous FTP, SFTP and FTPS This is a simple tutorial prepared for beginners that explains the definition and usage of FTP, Anonymous FTP, SFTP and FTPS in detail, and offers quick guides on the issue of how to use them to complete the process of file uploading. If you are completely new to the web hosting field struggling on transferring files between your server and the local computer or between different websites, this is the way out.


FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol, a standard network protocol that is used to transfer files between computers over the Internet. It is a common feature offered by most web hosting providers in the market to enable their customers to add, update, rename, remove, copy, or do some other managements to files on their servers. FTP is commonly used to get files accessible for others to visit and download.

Use FTP to Upload Files When you log onto the FTP server with the required username and password, you can upload web pages to build a website, upload script installation files to use a web application, add photos and videos to richen your website, and many more. Sometimes you can also connect with a server anonymously in the case that the server is configured by the provider to allow the feature called anonymous FTP.

After the uploading is done, the contents are available for all people on the Internet. If you want to move files between websites or hosts, you may need to use FTP to download the required files first, and then re-upload them to the destination.


Generally, FTP is not a secure protocol as it does not encrypt data in the transmission. The username, password, commands and other things are easily readable to people with skills in network packet capture. If you want your data to be secured, you may need a secure protocol that encrypts the username and password, and safeguards the transfers. One of the main options is FTPS, and another one is SFTP.

What Is SFTP?

SFTP, which is also called SSH File Transfer Protocol or Secure File Transfer Protocol, is a network protocol that offers secure file transmission and management by utilizing the power of SSH. As an extension to SSH v2.0, SFTP encrypts data and commands in the transmission to prevent username, password and all other sensitive information from being available to the public on the insecure network.

As for functionality, SFTP allows many operations which mainly include accessing, transferring and managing (editing, removing and more) files remotely. SFTP clients function in a similar way as FTP clients, but they are totally 2 kinds of things with different protocols. Therefore, a standard FTP client cannot be used for SFTP, and a SFTP-only client is unable to connect to a standard FTP server. Fortunately, there are many clients that support both features nowadays. Note that SFTP has nothing to do with FTP (File Transfer Protocol) except for the similar commands and the function of file transfer.

As SFTP takes time to encrypt and decrypt data, it is less efficient to use the protocol to transfer files compared to utilizing standard FTP. When increased Internet security is in demand, this way is more recommended.

What Is FTPS?

What Is FTPS FTPS refers to FTP over SSL, an extension to FTP which adds the support for TLS (Transport Layer Security) and SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) on a FTP server to do encryption thus to improve the security of transferring data on an insecure network. Using FTPS requires SSL certificates signed by trusted CA.

When uploading files with FTPS, you should pay attention to the configuration of firewall as it is likely that there is a situation of incompatibility because the firewall cannot get the control messages in the encrypted content to determine which TCP port should be used. To avoid this problem, you need to configure the firewall to open the required ports.

What Are the Differences?

Both of SFTP and FTPS come with a large number of cryptographic algorithms including DES, Triple DES, AES, RSA and DSA, and a key-exchange algorithm. However, there are many factors that set them apart and prevent them from being confused with each other. Some of the important factors are as listed in below.
  • Cryptographic protocols. SFTP uses SSH for encryption, while FTPS uses TLS/SSL.
  • Need for certificate. The former one does not need signed certificate as it presents public keys. However, the latter requires SSL certificate.
  • Data connection. SFTP has only one connection that is always secured, while FTPS requires secondary data connections which may cause incompatibility with the firewall.
  • Support for platform. Both of them are supported on the Linux and Unix platform, but as .NET framework does not give support to SSH, SFTP cannot be utilized in the environment.

For Anonymous FTP

It is known that the File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is a necessary and helpful network protocol which is used to transfer computer files over the Internet. It needs to point out that FTP users usually obtain their authorized resources by entering their unique FTP username and password so as to stay away from the invasion of other strangers. Comparatively, anonymous FTP users have access to any public files without identifying themselves by the server and they just enter "anonymous" as the user ID with an arbitrary password together to go into a server.

What Is Anonymous FTP To be specific, most web hosts allow FTP and anonymous FTP access for users with the purpose to assist software updates. And anonymous FTP enables users to log into the system through the defaulted "anonymous" FTP account and individual password which is usually an email address. It means that there is no verification on the uploaded data and the public files have more or less potential safety hazard.

What's more, the anonymous FTP service is not offered by all of hosts and it mostly just allows users to download files rather than uploading files in the public directory. Although some particular ones offer uploading choice for users, their system administers would check those uploaded files and then put them to another public download directory for other users to scan and manage. By this way, malicious uploading and files' virus can be greatly wiped out.

Easy-to-Access System & Large Capacity

Anonymous FTP is widely used by many people and it does not have any specified requirements so that everyone can use the public file on the anonymous host. Besides, the feature provides an access to a maximum information base which is continuously growing and users can use the supplied equipment and disk space as well as a great deal of resources for free in it.

Open-to-Use Programs

On the Internet, as main way of software's distribution, an anonymous FTP saves all supplied program which has already acquired the standard protocol. In this way, users are capable of making use of those distributed programs on the anonymous FTP server.

How to Use Them

After knowing the definition of FTP, Anonymous FTP, SFTP and FTPS, now we'd like to introduce how to use them. Let's start from using FTP to upload files.

Use an FTP client

This is the easiest way to get files uploaded to a server, which is also the most appropriate way for beginners with little knowledge about command-line things. With a graphical user interface, most FTP clients are quite easy-to-use, not requiring users to know or use commands. If you are troubled by selecting a good one, simply check this list of reliable FTP choices.

When you have got a client well prepared, taking FileZilla as an example, just fill in the information for host, username, password and port, then you can select a directory where you want the new files to be stored. Find the files or folders on the local computer and click to upload, and then everything is done. When the uploading process is completed, you have got your files existing on server.

Upload files in a web browser

This way is also quite simple to handle, and uploading or downloading files on an FTP website is good for browsing large and complicated directories. To finish this, you need to type the address of the FTP website like in the address bar of your browser to visit the site. Now you are allowed to transfer files following the on-screen steps. Note that this way is less reliable and rich-featured compared to using a professional client.

As for the configuration and management of Anonymous FTP, you need to carry out two steps.

Step 1-Configuring Anonymous FTP

How to Manage Anonymous FTP Although we prefer to recommend webmasters to create standard FTP accounts, we have also presented the detailed steps for people to set up anonymous FTP access as follows.
  1. Firstly, log into your control Panel.
  2. Secondly, click the Anonymous FTP icon in the files section.
  3. Thirdly, select a check box for actions you want to allow via anonymous FTP.
  4. Lastly, click the save settings button.

Step 2- Logging Into Anonymous FTP

For logging into anonymous FTP, there are two different ways available.
  1. Truly Anonymous-it requires the "anonymous" user name and any password which is made up of at least one character and it renders permission for users to access to public_ftp folder. Attention should be paid that this type of anonymous FTP comes with different permissions for people with different access to the server. For example, providing anonymous FTP, HostGator allows Shared or Reseller hosting users to download or view files and it allows VPS or Dedicated hosting users to edit, view, upload or download files.
  2. Anonymous User-it was created by default and it is in the form of or It enables users to access to the public_ftp folder and upload files.

Web Hosting Allows FTP

The offering of FTP is a great focus when you are considering to purchase a web hosting. To make your like easy, we have listed the top three options that the award-winning FTP hosting providers in the market, promising a quality and reliable hosting service at an affordable price.