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5 Features to Look for When Searching for an FTP Server
Martin Horan

By: Martin Horan on November 29th, 2016

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5 Features to Look for When Searching for an FTP Server

FTP Solutions

You’re on the hunt for an FTP service provider that will serve your organization well. But the available options are numerous and varied, and you want to be sure that you’re using the most valuable criteria to make the best possible choice.

Not every FTP Server is going to meet the needs of your organization, so this decision is an important one. Where should you start? By understanding the features that are most critical to your operations. Equipped with this knowledge, you can weed out the options that fail to fulfill the necessary requirements.

Use this detailed breakdown of essential features to look for in your search for a high-quality FTP Server that delivers the service and functionality your organization needs to thrive, and download A Comparison Guide of the Top 7 File Sharing Softwares to whittle down your list of providers.

Feature #1: Top-Notch Security and Compliance

This feature is listed first because out of all them, it is the most indispensable. Regardless of what industry you’re in, ensuring the security of your organization’s data should be the highest priority. The current digital climate is one of ever-increasing cyber hacks and ransomware attacks. If you’re not protecting your assets from these threats, your organization is at risk of falling victim to costly and damaging consequences.

That’s why it’s absolutely necessary to seek an FTP Server with advanced features like at-rest and in-transit encryption, strict password enforcement and visibility into data storage location and details.

It should also enable you to achieve full compliance with regulations like ITAR, HIPAA and PCI-DSS. Otherwise, you’re rendering the organization highly vulnerable to devastating data breaches and compliance violations that could wind up costing your business immensely.

To meet essential security and compliance needs, your FTP Server should be able to provide you controls to:

  • Enable/disable each protocol

  • Restrict access by country

  • Enforce user-level IP address restrictions

  • Enforce user-level protocol restrictions

  • Provide at-rest and in-transit encryption

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Feature #2: User Access Control

Many consumer-grade and substandard FTP providers do not come with the granular user access controls that your organization needs to ensure data privacy and security. You should never have to wonder who made changes to a particular file or when a document was last accessed and from which location.

Your solution should enable each user or automation system to authenticate with an individual password or their private SSH key. This level of access control allows you create private and shared folders so as to keep a watchful eye over visibility. It also affords you the opportunity to set up granular permissions for specific directories in order to govern access between multiple departments.

To ensure adequate user access control, your FTP Server should be able to:

  • Accommodate multiple site administrators
  • Accommodate sub-site administrators to manage teams
  • Accommodate standard users
  • Enforce upload/download permissions per folder, per user
  • Enforce delete permissions per folder, per user
  • Enforce list directory permissions per folder, per user


Feature #3: Multiple Access Methods

If your FTP Server features multiple access methods, your organization benefits from users’ ability to be productive from anywhere. With Web browser access that offers a full-featured Web UI, you get the most from desktop computers without having to install FTP client software. And with the capacity to choose between multiple standard TCP/IP protocols, you have a wider range of options in terms of who is connecting to your site, how they're connecting and where they're connecting from.

To ensure the advantage of multiple access methods, make sure your FTP Server accommodates the following protocols:

  • Web Browser (HTTPS)
  • File Sharing Links (HTTPS)
  • FTP
  • FTPeS (Explicit FTPS)
  • FTPS (Implicit)
  • SFTP (Multi-user, not just admins)
  • SFTP with Key Authentication


Feature #4: Branding Options

Whatever FTP Server you choose, it shouldn’t feel like you’re on another business’s site. It should be branded to match the look and feel of your own organization. It’s best to opt for a provider that allows you to customize the site with your own prominent logo, colors, domain name and SSL certificates. This is how you make your FTP site feel less like a service and more like an extension of your organization.

To ensure proper branding functionality, your FTP Server should include the following benefits:

  • Customizable Web UI
  • Dedicated IP Address
  • Custom DNS Hostname (A-record)
  • Custom Domain SSL Certificate
  • Email Notification Branding


Feature #5: Scalability Features

As your organization and technology evolve, so must your FTP solution. Therefore, it’s critical to choose a provider that facilitates scalability. This will enable the business to both save money in the long run and maintain necessary levels of productivity.

Keep in mind that scalability can translate to different offerings from different FTP Servers. It would be wise to choose one that provides the following features:

Unlimited Bandwidth
If your FTP Server puts a cap on bandwidth (per month or per second), it also puts a cap on productivity. Users are limited in terms of their ability to share files, which could result in inefficiency. There are providers that offer unlimited usage over high bandwidth, and this should be part of your scalability criteria. That way, you can upload as many files as you need, as large as you need them to be, without running into bandwidth roadblocks.

Unlimited Simultaneous Connections
Just like restricted bandwidth, restricted numbers of simultaneous connections can affect your productivity and collaboration efforts. Don’t settle for an FTP Server that puts a ceiling on the amount of users that can use it at the same time, or you’ll severely hinder scalability.

Unlimited File Sizes
Some file sharing solutions place a maximum size on the files you can upload -- which may not be sufficient for the type of file transfer your organization depends on. That means users would have to go through the headache of seeking alternate services to handle the bigger files or break down the files into smaller increments that can be reassembled after the transfer is complete -- which is not a quick or simple task. It’s better to go with a provider that offers unlimited file sizes.

Live Scalability and Upgrades
You don’t want to have to take your file sharing server offline to implement scalability deployments or performance upgrades. Choose an FTP Server that executes these changes in real time without a need to bring down the service -- and without you even knowing it.

Equipped with this list of important FTP Server features and A Comparison Guide of the Top 7 File Sharing Softwares, you’re much better prepared to make the right selection for your organization.

About Martin Horan

Founder of FTP Today and an expert in secure file transfer and Internet protocols. A software and IT geek since a young age, Martin has successfully led his companies through the digital age by spotting market niches and filling them with quality IT services.

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