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How to Setup a Secure FTP
Brendon Ainsworth

By: Brendon Ainsworth on March 15th, 2022

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How to Setup a Secure FTP

Compliance Cyber and Data Security FTP Cloud FTP Solutions File Sharing Best Practices Secure File Sharing The Cloud

File transfer protocol has been around for decades. But FTP as originally conceived was not necessarily a secure way to transfer files between two parties. Things are different today. Organizations that need a secure protocol for transferring files have access to plenty of FTP alternatives that can get the job done.

In this post, we will walk through your secure FTP alternatives, and we will also provide guidance on how to set up a secure FTP system for your business. If you have any questions about secure FTP, you can always reach out to us to learn more.

What are the Differences Between FTP, FTPS and SFTP?

FTP dates all the way back to the 1970s. But, when first created, FTP was highly vulnerable to brute-force attacks, username enumeration, port stealing and other cybersecurity risks.

Over time, new protocols emerged that built atop the FTP base to provide organizations with the secure file sharing capabilities they so desperately needed. Today, you've likely heard of FTP, FTPS and SFTP. While these acronyms sound incredibly similar, there are important nuances that you need to be aware of when considering how to set up a secure FTP.

FTPS adds a transport security layer (TLS) to protect your files. There are 2 types of FTPS: implicit and explicit. Most secure file transfer providers today are using explicit FTPS. When you transfer files via explicit FTPS, an unencrypted connection is created using port 21, but then the client or server requires converting port 21 to a TLS connection as well as the other ports to encrypt and secure the file transfers. Port 21 is only used to issue commands, while other ports open for the files to transmit; both will be encrypted when using explicit FTPS.

SFTP is like FTPS in that it builds atop the base created by FTP. Rather than using TLS, SFTP uses a secure shell (SSH) data stream to keep the connection safe while files transmit. One of the key differences between FTPS and SFTP is that FTPS uses multiple ports while SFTP uses only Port 22 for both commands and files.

Which is the better secure protocol for transferring files? The answer to that question depends on your organization's needed security controls as well as compatibility with your existing systems. Businesses often select SFTP because of the simplicity of needing only a single port for both commands and files.

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How to Get Started with FTPS or SFTP

You have 2 options when getting started with FTPS or SFTP. First, you can build out and use your own secure file-sharing system. This approach will require a series of upfront investments, including:

  • Dedicated hardware
  • Operating systems
  • An FTP or SFTP server license
  • A business-class firewall
  • A business-class internet package
  • A battery backup
  • A storage backup

After you've made these initial Investments, you'll need to hire someone to manage the system and pay for ongoing maintenance and upgrades to your equipment. Many organizations find that building and managing their own secure file-sharing system is far too resource-intensive. Learn more about comparing the cost of in-house file-sharing versus finding a service.

Your second option is to find an FTPS and/or SFTP provider that offers easy setup and implementation for a low monthly fee. At FTP Today, for example, we offer both FTPS and SFTP as part of all our service plans.

Keeping Your Servers Secure

Choosing FTPS or SFTP are great ways to create a secure system for transferring files. You should also put into place policies and procedures to further ensure that your organization is keeping its sensitive information as secure as possible. Use these tactics to create the most secure environment possible:

  • Use Strong Encryption: Follow data encryption best practices to keep your most sensitive files as secure as possible.
  • Require Strong Passwords: Strong passwords and related policies are important to data security best practices.
  • Configure Access Controls: Who can access your files? Most FTPS and SFTP providers let you configure access controls that block users from certain countries (or limit access to only users in certain countries). You can even block IP addresses or ranges.
  • Restrict Administrative Capabilities: You need administrators to keep your servers secure. Administrators should have strong credentials and use multi-factor authentication. Administrators can configure alerts and automate tasks to help them better manage secure file-sharing for your organization.

You can use the bullet points above as an FTPS or SFTP security checklist. But be sure to work in tandem with your IT department to add to this list any best practices that will further secure your data, files and information.

Is Your SFTP Provider Protecting Your External Files?

Your current SFTP provider could be putting your business at serious risk. Take this short quiz and find out if you are practicing secure procedures in order to protect your company’s critical information.

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Who Needs Secure FTP?

If you're wondering how to setup a secure FTP server or site, your organization is likely one of many that needs a system for sharing sensitive details and information. The industries in which secure file-sharing is important include:

  • Legal: Law firms often need to share case-related files with other firms and with the courts.
  • Defense: The defense industry is full of regulations that third parties working with the government must follow in order to maintain their contracts and limit liability.
  • Healthcare: Healthcare organizations must be aware of HIPAA regulations and protect files in a way that complies with those regulations.
  • Manufacturing: Manufacturing companies are often sharing files that contain patented or otherwise proprietary information that demands security.
  • Finance: Financial organizations must store and manage sensitive files and information that are likely to be targeted by hackers.

Of course, there are many other industries that require secure file-sharing. In fact, any organization that needs to store and/or share proprietary information or personal information related to employees or customers should have a system for keeping sensitive details as secure as possible.

Start Using Secure FTP Today

Your organization’s sensitive files and information deserve protection from hackers and other cybersecurity threats. You may work in one of the industries mentioned above, or you may have other reasons for seeking a secure FTP solution. No matter why you need secure file-sharing, you enjoy access to many options.

If you want to know how to setup a secure FTP site or server, know that the process is fast and easy with the right partner. Contact us to learn more about FTPS and SFTP solutions that meet your organization’s needs.

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About Brendon Ainsworth

Learner, Researcher, Customer-focused, and the Chief Revenue Officer & VP of Sales for FTP Today. Brendon has successfully navigated multiple industries and has infrastructure certifications in GCP and AWS. He started his career in Oil & Gas business development and successfully transitioned to Rackspace as a Mid to Large enterprise technology consultant and then as a leader.

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