At first glance, the letter 'S' might be the only difference between SFTP and FTP, but there are many distinctions you need to know about when choosing one of these file transfer protocols for Extract, Transform, and Load (ETL). Which one will keep your files safe when transferring data to your warehouse? Here's everything you need to know about SFTP vs. FTP for ETL.

5 Key Differences Between SFTP Vs. FTP

  1. FTP is the traditional way to transfer files between computers. It moves data between an FTP client and a web server. SFTP does the same thing but uses a secure channel for data transfer.
  2. FTP transfers files on a Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) network while SFTP transfers files via the SSH File Transfer Protocol (SSH or Secure Shell).
  3. SFTP encrypts data that moves between the FTP client and the webserver. This method prevents hackers from intercepting sensitive data, making it a safer option for ETL. 
  4. FTP uses two channels to transfer files. SFTP uses a single channel.
  5. With SFTP, you authenticate the FTP client with SSH keys or a username and/or password.

Table of Contents lets you move data to your warehouse via SFTP and other protocols. The entire process requires no code or complicated data engineering. Just fast data integration that powers your business. Reach out now to a member of the team for a demo or pilot. 

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What is FTP?

FTP stands for file transfer protocolInvented in 1971, FTP transfers files from one computer to another computer via TCP/IP, the communication protocols that connect network devices on the internet. The process is relatively straightforward: One computer user grants another computer user access to receive files from the FTP server (or "host"). The recipient receives the shared files pretty quickly.

Note: Don't confuse FTP for FTPS (Secure FTP or FTP/SSL), an extension to the FTP protocol that performs more secure file transfers. FTPS (File Transfer Protocol Secure) uses an SSL/TLS layer underneath traditional FTP and encrypts its data channels. (Regular FTP does none of these things.)

Recommended reading: FTPS ETL to Your Warehouse

What is SFTP?

SFTP stands for secure file transfer protocol. Introduced in the late '90s, it provides an alternative to the conventional FTP protocol. SFTP doesn't use TCP/IP, like FTP, but transfers files from one computer to another computer via SSH, a client-server-based network protocol.

SSH lets a computer user that sends files to another computer user control the recipient's device like a local computer. The recipient's device (called the "client") must connect to an SSH server. The SSH process is like Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) but uses commands to execute data connections.

Recommended reading: SFTP ETL to Your Warehouse

Features of FTP

  • FTP handles three different data representations: 8-binary data, ASCII (7-Bit), and EBCDIC (8-Bit).
  • FTP transfers files via one of three transmission modes: Block, stream, and compressed.
  • You can upload/download files to/from the FTP server.

Features of SFTP

  • Data encryption via a secure SFTP server. 
  • Command execution.
  • Secure data transmission.
  • Compressed data transmission.
  • IPV6 HTTP support. 
  • TMUX support.
  • Username/password authentication.
  • Public key authentication.
  • Interactive keyboard authentication.
  • Enhanced functionality for uploading and downloading files. 

Pros of FTP

  • A quick and simple way to transfer files via the FTP client. 
  • Transfer multiple directories at the same time. 

Pros of SFTP

  • SFTP uses just one channel for file transfers, reducing the risk of malicious actors infiltrating valuable data.
  • SFTP encrypts data during the file transfer process.
  • With SFTP, you authenticate the FTP client via SSH keys (cryptographic keys) or a username and/or password. 
  • It's Firewall-friendly. 
  • It uses SSH.
  • You can use it on Windows or Mac. 

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Cons of FTP

  • FTP is less secure than SFTP for transferring data between computers, making it difficult to comply with frameworks like GDPR and CCPA. If data transfer is not secure, you risk penalties for data governance non-compliance. 
  • FTP uses two channels for transferring files, increasing the risk of hackers accessing sensitive data.,

Cons of SFTP

  • Few. Some computer users find it difficult to manage SSH keys and the SFTP client at the start. 


When comparing FTP vs. SFTP for data transfer, consider security and compliance. SFTP is, hands down, the much more secure way to transfer files via ETL because it uses Secure Shell. Similar to SSL, SFTP keeps data safe and adheres to data governance frameworks. The result? You can move data to your warehouse without worrying about hackers or expensive penalties from the government. 

The benefits of SFTP are endless. As a completely different protocol than FTP, SFTP encrypts data between the FTP client and the webserver, which prevents unauthorized users from accessing information. It uses a single channel to transfer files (FTP uses two channels), and you can authenticate the client with a private key or username and/or password. SFTP always provides a secure connection so is a much better choice.

How Can Help


Once you decide to transfer files via the SFTP protocol, an ETL solution like proves useful. This all-in-one platform executes the ETL process with SFTP for more secure data transfer from one location to another. includes full SFTP support for ETL workflows so you can send and receive files to and from data warehouses, algorithm tools, analytics platforms, and more. 

Learn more about how benefits ETL with SFTP. is the fast and flexible ETL solution for SFTP to your warehouse. It requires no code or complex programming. Learn more about a pilot or demo when you talk to

The New Data Warehouse Stack for Tomorrow’s Leaders

Low-code data warehouse tools & hundreds of connectors to unify your data & reporting

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