In today's fast-paced and data-driven business landscape, ensuring the secure transfer of sensitive information is paramount. The rise in cyber threats and data breaches underscores the need for robust file transfer solutions that can protect your organization's valuable data. Amidst various methods, an SFTP (SSH File Transfer Protocol) connection emerges as the undisputed champion for secure and efficient file transfers between local and remote systems.

Here are the 5 key takeaways from the article: 

  • SFTP ensures secure file transfers between systems by using SSH encryption, protecting data during transmission.
  • SFTP employs SSH keys for secure authentication, preventing unauthorized access.
  • SFTP's encryption and checksums maintain data integrity and confidentiality, guarding against cyber threats.
  • Establishing an SFTP connection involves client software, SFTP server, firewall configuration, and SSH key generation.
  • SFTP plays a vital role in Reverse ETL, securely transmitting data from warehouses to operational systems, empowering data-driven decisions.

In this article, we delve into the exceptional advantages of SFTP connections and explore the essential components needed to establish a secure and reliable connection. Whether you're an enterprise dealing with large datasets or a small business prioritizing data privacy, understanding the power of SFTP is essential in today's increasingly interconnected world.

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Recent data breach incidents serve as stark reminders of the risks associated with insecure file transfer methods. One such incident involved a leading financial institution that fell victim to a cyber attack due to its reliance on vulnerable FTP protocols. Hackers intercepted confidential customer data during transit, causing severe reputational damage and financial losses. This incident exemplifies the devastating consequences of overlooking the importance of secure file transfer methods in a business setting.

With the growing demand for seamless data integration across multiple platforms, an SFTP connection stands as the ultimate safeguard for your critical information. Not only does it ensure data remains untampered during transit, but it also facilitates efficient transfers, making it an indispensable tool for modern businesses.

What Is an SFTP Connection?  

The acronym SFTP stands for SSH File Transfer Protocol or Secure File Transfer Protocol. An SFTP connection is a highly secure method for transferring files between two local or remote systems. It builds upon the foundation of its predecessor, FTP (File Transfer Protocol), which was widely used in the early days of technology for file transfers. However, FTP lacked encryption, making it susceptible to security vulnerabilities.

SFTP, introduced in 1997, addressed these concerns by integrating Secure Shell (SSH) encryption. This encryption process ensures that all data transmitted between the client and the server remains confidential and protected from unauthorized access. When files are transferred using SFTP, they are encrypted, making it virtually impossible for malicious actors to intercept or tamper with the data during transit.

One of the core components of SFTP's security is the use of SSH keys. These keys serve as a form of authentication, preventing unauthorized access to the SFTP server. The SSH keys create a secure communication channel between the client and the server, ensuring that only trusted users with the appropriate keys can establish a connection.

Here's how the SFTP connection process works:

  • Authentication: Upon connecting to the server, the client is required to provide valid SSH keys or, alternatively, a user ID and password, depending on the server's configuration. This step ensures that only authorized users can proceed.
  • Encryption: Once authenticated, the data transferred between the client and the server is encrypted using sophisticated cryptographic algorithms. This encryption prevents any potential eavesdropping or data interception during the transfer.
  • Data Integrity: SFTP also ensures data integrity by employing checksums and hash functions. These mechanisms allow the receiving end to verify that the data has not been altered or corrupted during transit, providing an extra layer of protection.
  • Secure File Management: In addition to secure file transfers, SFTP offers robust file management capabilities. Users can create, delete, rename, and organize files and directories securely on the remote server, all while maintaining the confidentiality and integrity of the data.

SFTP's security features make it the preferred choice for organizations that prioritize data protection and need to comply with stringent security standards. By adopting SFTP for file transfers, businesses can ensure the confidentiality of sensitive information, reduce the risk of data breaches, and maintain the trust of their customers and partners.

To learn more about the benefits and practical applications of SFTP connections, you can explore our comprehensive guide, "The What's, How's, and Why's of SFTP," which delves deeper into the advantages and use cases of this secure file transfer protocol.

What Are the Benefits of an SFTP Connection? 

An SFTP (SSH File Transfer Protocol) connection offers numerous advantages for businesses seeking secure and efficient file transfers between local and remote systems. Let's delve into the top three benefits of using an SFTP connection and explore real-world examples of how it elevates file transfer processes:

Increases Speed and Efficiency of File Sharing

SFTP excels in handling large file types and bulk transfers, making it an ideal solution for businesses dealing with extensive datasets. Unlike email or cloud-based methods, which often face limitations in file size and speed, SFTP ensures swift and seamless transfers, enhancing productivity and collaboration across teams and partners.

Example Scenario: A multinational corporation regularly exchanges large multimedia files with its global offices. Using traditional email services proved cumbersome and slow, leading to delays in critical projects. By implementing an SFTP connection, the corporation streamlined its file transfer process, ensuring smooth and timely data exchanges, resulting in improved project timelines and increased efficiency.

Lowers Risk of Corruption During Data Transfers

Security is paramount when transferring sensitive business data. Traditional FTP protocols are vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks, jeopardizing data integrity and confidentiality. SFTP's encryption provides a robust shield against such threats, ensuring that data remains secure during transit and reducing the risk of corruption or unauthorized access.

Example Scenario: A financial institution regularly transmits confidential client information to its partners. Any breach of this data would severely impact its reputation and result in regulatory consequences. By adopting SFTP connections for these transfers, the institution fortified its data with encryption, protecting it from potential breaches and ensuring compliance with industry regulations.

Increases Overall Security

The bedrock of SFTP's superiority lies in its comprehensive security measures. These include encryption, public key authentication, data integrity checks, authenticity verification, and host authentication. Together, these mechanisms create a formidable defense against data breaches, making SFTP the preferred option for businesses to transfer files safely and efficiently.

Example Scenario: A healthcare organization must share patient data securely with research partners and medical professionals. Any compromise of this sensitive data would violate privacy regulations and harm patients' well-being. By employing SFTP connections, the organization fortified its data transfers with encryption and robust authentication methods, ensuring that patient information remained confidential and protected from unauthorized access.

What Is Needed for an SFTP Connection? 

To establish a secure SFTP connection, several key components and steps are required. Let's dive into the process of setting up an SFTP connection step by step:

1. Appropriate SFTP Client Software: The first step is to select and install suitable SFTP client software on the client-side machine. The client software facilitates secure file transfers and interactions with the remote SFTP server. Two popular options for SFTP clients are WinSCP and SFTP Client.

2. SFTP Server Utility: On the server-side machine, you need to have an SFTP server utility installed. This utility allows the server to communicate with the client and handle incoming SFTP connections securely.

3. Configure the Firewall: The system's firewall needs to be configured to allow incoming connections on the default SFTP port, which is port 22. This step is essential to enable successful communication between the client and the server.

4. Generate SSH Keys: To enhance security and enable secure authentication, SSH keys must be generated. The process typically involves generating a public-private key pair. The public key is then shared with the SFTP server, while the private key remains on the client-side machine. This way, only those clients with the corresponding private key can establish a secure connection to the server.



ssh-keygen -t rsa -b 4096 -C ""

This command generates an RSA key pair with a 4096-bit key length. The email provided is an identifier for the key.

5. Transfer SSH Keys to the Server: Once the SSH keys are generated, the public key must be transferred to the SFTP server. This can be achieved through various methods, such as Secure Copy Protocol (SCP) or manual copy-paste.

Example (using SCP):


scp ~/.ssh/ user@your_server_ip:/path/to/authorized_keys

This command copies the public key to the server's authorized_keys file, allowing the client to authenticate securely.

6. Test SSH Access: Before attempting an SFTP connection, it's crucial to verify that SSH access to the server works correctly using the generated SSH keys. This ensures that the authentication process is functioning as expected.

7. Establish the SFTP Connection: With the SSH keys in place and SSH access verified, you can now establish the SFTP connection. Use your chosen SFTP client software (e.g., WinSCP) to initiate the connection to the server.

8. Verify Successful Connection: After connecting to the SFTP server, the command prompt should change to an SFTP prompt, indicating a successful connection.

9. Open an SFTP Session: Within the SFTP prompt, open an SFTP session to communicate securely with the remote server.



sftp user@your_server_ip

10. Initiate the File Transfer: With the SFTP session established, you can now securely transfer files between the client and the server using commands like put, get, and ls.



put localfile.txt remotefile.txt

If all these steps are completed, congratulations, the SFTP connection has been a success! You have now established a secure and reliable SFTP connection that enables encrypted file transfers between your client and the server. With SFTP, you can confidently transfer sensitive information without worrying about data breaches or unauthorized access.

SFTP and Reverse ETL 

Utilizing an SFTP connection is especially beneficial for ETL, the most commonly used data integration. ETL stands for Extract, Transform, and Load. With ETL, data is extracted from one or more source systems, then transformed as necessary, and loaded into a target warehouse or data lake. 

Along with the traditional ETL system, there is also a system known as Reverse ETL. As its name suggests, Reverse ETL flips the order of operations within the traditional ETL system. Essentially, traditional ETL targets are treated as sources, and traditional ETL sources are treated as targets. 

The Significance of Reverse ETL

Reverse ETL addresses the growing need to sync data from the data warehouse or data lake back to operational systems. It enables organizations to take valuable insights and analyses derived from their centralized data and use them to power real-time actions and decision-making across various applications. This approach fosters data-driven operations and enhances customer experiences through personalized interactions and instant updates.

SFTP's Crucial Role in Reverse ETL

Secure data transfer is the backbone of Reverse ETL, as it involves moving valuable insights and analyses back to operational systems. This is where SFTP proves to be an essential component. By leveraging SFTP connections, organizations can securely transmit data between the centralized data warehouse and the operational systems.

Using SFTP in Reverse ETL ensures:

  • Data Integrity: SFTP's encryption and secure authentication mechanisms safeguard data integrity during transfer, preventing unauthorized access and data tampering.
  • Reliable File Transfers: As Reverse ETL involves transferring files from one machine to another, SFTP provides a robust and efficient method to move large datasets and maintain file organization.
  • Protected Against Potential Hackers: SFTP's security features, including SSH keys and encrypted connections, keep sensitive data protected against potential cyber threats.

By integrating SFTP into the Reverse ETL process, businesses can confidently bridge the gap between analytics and action. They can seamlessly apply valuable insights to enhance their operations, deliver superior customer experiences, and respond promptly to changing market demands.

SFTP plays a critical role in enabling secure data integration within the context of Reverse ETL. Organizations looking to maximize the value of their data and make data-driven decisions in real-time can rely on SFTP to ensure the safe and efficient transfer of information between their central data repositories and operational systems.

To learn more about the potential of Reverse ETL and its partnership with SFTP, explore our comprehensive guide, "Reverse ETL: What You Need to Know."

How Can Help includes full support for the SFTP protocol in ETL and ETL Reverse workflows. By using and SFTP, you can send and receive files from dozens of cloud data warehouses without the risk of being exposed to potential hackers.

Want to learn more about how the platform can help you build powerful data integration pipelines to the cloud, including with the SFTP connection protocol? Contact our team today to schedule a 14-day trial. We look forward to working with you and helping you reach your goals.