FTP Server Definition – What is an FTP Server?

Categories: SFTP

An FTP Server, in the simplest of definitions, is a software application that enables the transfer of files from one computer to another. FTP (which stands for “File Transfer Protocol”) is a way to transfer files to any computer in the world that is connected to the Internet. But what does all of this really mean? Why would someone want to use an FTP Server?

FTP Explained
FTP is a standard network protocol used for the transfer of files between a client and server on a computer network. FTP is a very well-established protocol, developed in the 1970s to allow two computers to transfer data over the internet. One computer acts as the server to store information and the other acts as the client to send or request files from the server. The FTP protocol typically uses port 21 as its main means of communication. An FTP server will listen for client connections on port 21.

What Do FTP Servers Do?
FTP servers, and the more secure SFTP Server software, perform 2 basic tasks: “Put” and “Get.” You can put files on the FTP Server or get files from the FTP Server. If security is not a concern, FTP Server software is an easy and inexpensive way to accomplish this.

If you have remote employees who need to upload non-confidential information (such as timesheets, for example), or if you want to allow your customers to download white papers and documentation, an FTP Server works well for this purpose. If you are exchanging non-sensitive data with business partners, and the partner requires FTP or SFTP, you can quickly set up a server that will accept their data transfer. Some people even use FTP Servers for offsite backup so they can access their data should something physically happen to their files.

Further, backup applications will often write to an FTP or SFTP Server; for example, if you’re backing up your Cisco Unified Call Manager (CUCM), the data must be backed up to an SFTP Server like Titan SFTP Server.

But Are FTP Servers Inherently Secure?
Traditional FTP Servers do lack security- the only security feature that they really have is a login feature (username and password), which provides some degree of authentication and is a way to keep out unwanted users. However, secure FTP protocols do exist now to combat this issue. There are two main implementations of secure FTP: SFTP and FTP/S. These two secure file transfer protocols were designed to address the main weaknesses of FTP. For instance, both FTP/S and SFTP support encryption, which can keep a hacker from accessing data being transferred.

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