When it comes to transferring files across an enterprise scale network, SFTP has become one of the most popular protocols to use. SFTP or SSH File Transfer Protocol, is a protocol that allows the user to conduct encrypted file transfers. Many network administrators have been using SFTP as sending files through simpler protocols like FTP and TFTP leaves data open to unauthorized access. Within an enterprise environment, it is a good idea to make sure that data stays encrypted so that it can’t be accessed for nefarious ends.
What is SFTP?
SFTP is a file transfer protocol that runs through the SSH (secure shell) protocol. SFTP uses encryption and cryptography to authenticate the data it transfers. It has grown in popularity as a replacement for FTP and TFTP because it offers more security. SFTPs use of authentication has been a key reason for its growth in popularity. Most organizations simple aren’t comfortable leaving their data unprotected.
SFTP is most commonly compared to FTPS. FTPS (known as FTP secure) also uses AES encryption to mask any data transferred. While they both use SSH, they aren’t the same thing. SFTP is a file transfer protocol conducted over the SSH protocol that operates through an SFTP server. FTPS goes over SSL (secure socket layer) and is authenticated with a name and password. SFTP only uses one port where as FTPS can use multiple ones.
Now that we’ve looked at what SFTP is, it is time to look at the best SFTP servers on the market:
- SolarWinds SFTP/SCP Server (FREE TOOL)
- Sysax Multi Server
- Syncplify.me Server
- Xlight FTP Server
- Syncplify.me MicroServer
- GoAnywhere MFT
First up on our list we have SolarWinds SFTP/SCP Server. This server runs as a Windows service and has the bandwidth to transfer files up to 4gb in size. This provides a healthy bandwidth for larger organizations to work with. SFTP/SCP Server has also been designed for the specific purpose of pushing firmware straight to your network devices. This means that you can update the firmware of your network infrastructure without having to go from system to system manually.
SolarWinds SFTP/SCP Server works by getting you to choose an IP address, or address range to conduct transfers. Specifying your IP address(es) in this manner allows you to conduct transfers more efficiently, without having to move in and out of different systems. The process is simple enough that you can start conducting transfers right out the gate without worrying about unnecessary configurations.
Overall this SFTP server offers a robust user experience with enough file transfer bandwidth to keep up with most organizations’ needs. The great thing about SolarWinds SFTP/SCP Server is that it is completely free. However, if you want to gain additional features it is worth considering purchasing SolarWind’s Network Configuration Manager (30-day free trial here). This includes all the features of SFTP/SCP server alongside multi-user administration and configuration change management. This comes with a price tag of $2,915 dollars (£2,195). If you’d like to download SFTP/SCP Server for free, you can do so from this link here.
Next up on our list we have FileZilla. FileZilla is an open source application and one of the most widely-used SFTP servers on this list. The core software supports SFTP, FTPS, and FTP (it also has support for IPv6 as well). Bandwidth wise, FileZilla can support up to 4GB worth of transfers. This platform runs on Windows, Mac OS, Linux, and BSD.
FileZilla offers a simple user experience that makes it delightful to use. It is easy to move through the navigation tabs to find what you need. In the event that you need to make things easier you can even bookmark specific pages. There is also a network configuration wizard, that takes you through the process of setting FileZilla’s transfer parameters. If you’re searching for a file you can also perform a remote file search.
Given this product’s usability it is no surprise that it has become one of the favourite tools of modern network administrators. For a free tool, the power and versatility of this platform is very impressive. It is worth mentioning that there is also a substantial body of additional documentation to help you understand all of FileZilla’s SFTP potential. FileZilla can be downloaded for free from this link here.
Bitvise is a tool that doesn’t quite get the recognition that FileZilla does, which is unfortunate given that it is one of the best SFTP servers available on the market. Bitvise is available for Windows and allows the user to conduct SFTP file transfers and can be used without any configuration at all. With Bitvise all you need to start transferring data is load up the program.
This software also has a number of features that support multiple users. Firstly, it enables unlimited connections, so that there are no limits on the number of users who can connect to the server. This means that it can upscale inline with your technical infrastructure. The second is that SSH server supports Windows group settings so that you don’t need to create new accounts for users. This reduces unnecessary configuration time.
Security is another aspect that Bitvise does very well. Bitvise has FIPS 140-2 validation and deploys encryption inline with HIPAA compliance. HIPAA compliance can be very useful for keeping you in line with current regulatory compliance standards. The Bitvise website also provides additional information on making your product more secure with resources such as “Hardening your SSH Server Configuration”.
Bitvise is free for non-commercial use. If you want Bitvise for enterprise use, then you need to purchase it. Bitvise has a number of different pricing options. The cost of an SSH Server license is $99.95 (£75). You can then upgrade your access period if you desire, from a price of $19.95 (£15) per installation per two years and $79.80 (£60) per five years. The free version of Bitvise can be downloaded from this link here.
As the name suggests, FreeFTPd server is a free FTP, FTPS, and SFTP server that allows users to transfer files on an encrypted basis. While FreeFTPd doesn’t have as many features as other SFTP servers on this list, it is a good choice if you’re looking for a barebones SFTP server.
Overall, we recommend FreeFTPd server for companies looking for a solution that takes a minimalist approach. Otherwise we recommend opting for a more user-friendly program like SolarWinds SFTP Server. This program is available on Windows from NT version 4.0 onwards. FreeFTPd can be downloaded from this link here.
CompleteFTP provides users with one of the most modern user interfaces on this list. Most SFTP Servers have an outdated design but not CompleteFTP. This server for Windows offers an impressive range of protocols with SFTP, FTPS, SSH, SCP, and HTTP/HTTPS. It also has a customisable user interface.
In terms of security, CompleteFTP has a compelling range of features. All protocols are transmitted through the use of cryptography, which keeps them out of reach of unauthorized users. This is bolstered by the ability to allow or deny clients based on their IP address. Rejecting clients acts as a safety barrier that allows you to determine who can access your server.
CompleteFTP also offers the option to audit user activity. This is useful for those occasions where you need to evaluate the legitimacy of user behaviour to make sure that there isn’t any problematic behaviour taking place. The auditing feature helps to monitor usage of CompleteFTP to make sure that no security threats emerge.
There are a number of different versions available of CompleteFTP. The first is the free version which supports FTP and FTPS. If you want to use SFTP, then you need to buy the Standard license for $299 (£225). The Professional version offers SCP and HTTP/HTTPS for $499 (£375). There is also an Enterprise license that supports multiple sites and custom authentication. To view a full list of pricing options then click on this link here.
6. Sysax Multi Server
Next up on our list we have Sysax Multi Server, an FTP server that supports file transfers with the use of SFTP, FTP, FTPS, Telnet , SSH, HTTP, and HTTPS. Its support for multiple protocols has made it one of the most popular products on the market.
Sysax has been designed specifically with Windows in mind, so that authentication can be conducted for existing Windows users. This eliminates the need to create new Windows accounts which saves time. Fast-track authentication is particularly useful for larger workplace environments with lots of different users.
Overall, we recommend Sysax Multi Server to larger organizations looking for a free SFTP server. While free platforms like FreeFTPd have a lot to offer, Sysax Multi Server simply blows most of the cost-free competition out of the water. The diversity of protocols available means this product can support a wide range of needs. Sysax Multi Server is available to be downloaded from this link here.
7. Syncplify.me Server
Syncplify.me is a secure FTP and SFTP server for Windows that has been designed with reliability firmly in mind. It supports SSH, FTP, FTPS, FTPES, and HTTPS. This program made this list because of its excellent regulatory standing. Everything on the Syncplify.me server is PCI and HIPAA-compliant. This makes it ideal for larger organizations looking for a solution to ensure compliance with existing industry regulations.
What sets Syncplify.me’s security apart from the competition is the Syncplify.me Protector. The Protector can identify incoming attacks through the use of AI. The AI recognises the patterns of established attacks and can tell when a new attack is being launched. This ensures that your service doesn’t get compromised by a malicious user.
There are a number of editions available for Syncplify.me server, the first is the Basic which is available for $199 (£149). This price includes unlimited users and a maximum of one virtual server. The most popular version is the Professional package which costs $399 (£300) and supports up to three virtual servers. If that is not enough there is the Ultimate version which supports unlimited servers for $749 (£564). There is also a free version that enables a single client connection which can be downloaded from this link here.
8. Xlight FTP Server
Xlight FTP Server is available for Windows that offers a mix SFTP and IPv6. One of the best elements of this product is its user authentication. You can login to the SFTP server through the use of a public key rather than a password. Likewise you can have your user information stored in an external database to make sure it can only be retrieved by authorized users.
With regards to security you can use to allow or block IPs, as well as being able to automatically block certain IPs. This helps to reduce the amount of manual administration that you need to do to keep your network secure. Xlight FTP server is available for Windows 200, XP, Vista, 7, 10 and 2003 Server, 2008 Server, 2012 Server, and 2016 Server. You can download this program from this link here.
9. Syncplify.Me MicroServer
Syncplify.Me MicroServer is a tool that has been designed to support SMEs with conducting SFTP transfers. Syncplify.Me MicroServer offers a much leaner file transfer server than the larger Syncplify SFTP Server mentioned earlier on this list. This server is around 3MB in size and is free to use for personal and enterprise users.
This program is aimed towards less intensive users as it only offers one user profile, root folder and incoming connection at a time. This means it is unsuitable for larger organizations that need to conduct a large volume of transfers on a daily basis. Syncplify.Me MicroServer is available for Windows and can be downloaded for free from this link here.
10. GoAnywhere MFT
GoAnywhere MFT is an FTP server that can manage high volumes of file transfers. This platform supports SFTP, FTPS, and SCP. With Go Anywhere MFT you can run-multi step workflows and schedule FTP transfers for the future. This means that you can automate part of the file transfer process.
One of the reasons why this product made our list is because it offers excellent scalability. GoAnywhere MFT uses clustering activity to sustain high volumes of transfers. Clustering works by distributing transfers across multiple systems in order to balance loads. You can add more systems as needed. In the event that something fails, there is an auto-failover system to keep the system up and running. This provides you with a welcome backup plan.
This software also has a range of audit reporting features as well. All secure FTP file transfers are monitored through a central database which can be accessed via the dashboard. The user has the ability to filter results based on users and dates, and to schedule reports for the future. This allows you not just to conduct file transfers but to monitor them as well.
Unfortunately, in order to see a price you need to request a quote. Overall this is a very high-quality product that has everything needed to manage large-scale file transfers reliably. You can download a free trial of GoAnywhere MFT from this link here.
SFTP: Transfer Files Securely
Any organization that wants to conduct secure file transfers over an enterprise network is in need of an SFTP server. SFTP is one of the most reliable ways to send files with encryption to keep unwanted users away. All of the tools mentioned on this list have the potential to hold their own against the competition but there are a number of standout products. Our top picks on this list are SolarWinds SFTP/SCP Server and Cerberus FTP Server.
SolarWinds FTP/SCP Server is the best free SFTP server on this list because it is easy to use and can support enough file transfers to keep up with most organizations’ needs. Cerberus FTP is our choice for organizations that have a large budget to work with. The quality of the overall design and its native scalability make it suitable for mid-to-large organizations.
These products have everything you need to get started with executing secure file transfers. If you’re currently using FTP and TFTP transfers and are hesitant to make the switch, don’t be. All of the SFTP servers on this list are easy to use and deploy. If you want to try out an SFTP server, we recommend downloading a free trial from one of the many providers on this list to get to grips with what is available.