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What is SFTP Hosting?
Martin Horan

By: Martin Horan on July 24th, 2018

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What is SFTP Hosting?

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 FTP, SFTP, SSL, SSH. With so many acronyms, it’s hard to keep these protocols straight and differentiate between all the different options. SFTP is a wise choice for companies that need to keep data secure, but many people don’t know what SFTP means.

While SFTP really stands for SSH (secure shell) File Transfer Protocol, many people use the acronym synonymously with “secure file transfer protocol.” And, in reality, that’s a pretty accurate and straightforward description for it.

In this article, we will explain what SFTP hosting is, when it would be necessary to use, and how you can find a solution for your needs.

 

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Defining SFTP

The best way to define SFTP is by outlining the goal of SFTP and how that goal is accomplished. SFTP was designed to keep passwords and other sensitive information secure as that data was transferred over a network, which is the biggest difference between FTP and SFTP solutions. While FTP protocol can facilitate the transfer, the data is not protected from outside interference, one of the major drawbacks of using this protocol. So, SFTP, or Secure File Transfer Protocol, adds the needed layer of security to protect data.

How is data protected? Basically, SFTP combines the FTP protocol with SSH (secure shell) protocol. SFTP requires that the party receiving data is authenticated by the server before the data is transferred over the SSH secure channel. Once the user is authenticated, the data transfer is completed. User authentication can be handled via a submitted password (as secure as the username and password) or by exchanging a public key matching a private key that only the user possesses (even more secure than a password).

Here’s where the SFTP host comes in. SFTP hosting is the process of using a solution hosted by a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) provider. Files are accessed and shared using a server built, maintained, and provided by the host. Many companies choose this option because it provides all the benefits of using a SFTP solution, without requiring you to build, maintain and secure the server yourself in-house.

When You Need SFTP

After learning a little more about SFTP hosting, you’re probably wondering if this is a file sharing route your business should take. SFTP was designed for companies that need added security when it comes to file transfers. In short, if that’s your company, the answer is yes – you should be taking advantage of SFTP hosting.

When it comes to data security, there are a number of reasons your company could benefit from choosing a SFTP hosted solution. Data encryption in transit is probably the greatest benefit of an SFTP solution. But, whether your data is in transit or at rest, you want to know it’s secure. If not, your business could be at risk.

Encryption scrambles data so that only the sender and the recipient can unlock the information. So, if an unwanted party somehow gained access to the data – like an employee accesses the SFTP server on an public Wi-Fi network and a hacker gets in – the unwanted party still wouldn’t be able to decipher the data.

At-rest encryption is another aspect of security that comes with SFTP hosting. This protects data that’s stored on the SFTP server’s hard drive, in addition to data in transit. So if a physical piece of equipment is lost or stolen, the stored data is still encrypted and protected.

If you’re concerned that your employees are not following data security best practices, SFTP hosting could be the right option for your business. This ensures that data is encrypted and protected at all times. It can prevent an employee from making a mistake like using FTP instead of SFTP so you don’t have to worry about data being compromised. You’re not leaving the choice of following security best practices up to the user, limiting the risk for your company.

The Right SFTP Solution for You

It’s true that SFTP and FTP solutions perform the same basic function – transferring data. But, now that you have a full understanding of the security benefits that come with an SFTP solution, it’s easy to see that SFTP hosting is the better option.

When you’re choosing the right SFTP hosting option for your business, there are a few additional factors to consider and features you should look for. Every business has different needs, so it’s crucial that you evaluate your own data security requirements before partnering with an SFTP host.

In addition to security, there are other elements to consider when choosing an SFTP solution:

Unlimited Bandwidth and File Transfers

Two features you’ll find with a top SFTP provider are unlimited bandwidth and unlimited file transfers, features that not all SFTP providers offer. But they can have a big impact on your productivity. Let’s look at unlimited bandwidth first.

Bandwidth is how quickly a file is transferred, and is measured in units of data per second. With almost instant data transfers, you’re able to work quickly and efficiently with your team. When you work with a SFTP provider that gives you unlimited bandwidth, you eliminate the impediment of slow transfers.

Unlimited file transfers refers to the number of files you send, upload, and download in a month, i.e. the total bandwidth consumed. If your company shares a large numbers of files each day, you don’t want to receive a message that you’ve reached your transfer limit for the month or receive an unexpected bill for “overage”.

Think of bandwidth and file transfer amount like a car. Bandwidth is the car’s top speed and file transfer amount is the number of passengers the car can hold. They work in tandem to ensure you’re productive, with predictable costs.

Compliance

Enhanced data security is the greatest benefit of choosing SFTP hosting as your file sharing option. And, this holds a lot of value when it comes to compliance, too. Whether you’re in the healthcare industry and need to maintain HIPAA compliance , or you’re in the financial industry and PCI-DSS compliance applies, or you’re a government contractor who needs to align with ITAR standards, compliance is a huge consideration for many businesses.

SFTP hosts should provide the physical and technical safeguards needed to align with compliance standards. As you evaluate SFTP hosting options, talk to potential partners about your compliance concerns, and ensure they offer a solution that meets the compliance requirements of your industry.

Disaster Recovery

It’s impossible to know when disaster might strike. With the wrong SFTP hosting option, a fire, a flood, or even something as simple and common as a power outage could bring your entire operation to a screeching halt. Without disaster recovery, you could lose massive amounts of data and valuable operational time. A top SFTP host will include disaster recovery, ensuring your files are frequently backed up at a separate location, so you never have to worry about lost data.

SFTP hosting is the best choice for simple and secure data transfer. You’ll never worry about data breaches or noncompliance when you choose a SFTP hosting option that meets your needs.

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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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