Published in

An overview of Secure File Transfer & Automation

File transfer between people, departments and organizations has become an increasingly intricate element of business. This complexity stems not from the sheer size and numbers of files moving from end to end, but from the fact that each of these files needs to be secured at all points throughout the transfer.

You’d be surprised that even though there are many great solutions for secure file transfer, most businesses still use obsolete options. These options don’t cut it when it comes to keeping your data confidential, not to mention their subpar efficiency.

The privacy, speed, accuracy and security of data means everything in today’s data-driven society. Due to this, businesses ought to adopt top of the line file transfer systems to achieve these goals. Today, we’ll take you through secure file transfer & automation and why it matters.

Secure file transfer refers to the sharing of data between the sender and receiver using a protected and dependable delivery method. SFT is primarily used to ‘insure’ proprietary and confidential data in transit as well as data at rest. Secure file transfer methods employ various protocols such as:

  • SSH File Transfer Protocol: — Abbreviated as SFTP, this is an encrypted network protocol that allows remote log-in to run in a network that has no security. This protocol affords encryption of commands/data and also preclude passwords and sensitive credentials from open transmission over the network.
  • File Transfer Protocol — Secure: — FTPS uses Secure Sockets Layer to facilitate secure communications in a network.
  • Hypertext Transfer Protocol –Secure: — HTTPS is a standard protocol that is used to secure sites when visitors give out confidential information such as credit card numbers for subscriptions. It is worth noting that HTTPS consists of several layers of protection, including encryption and authentication.
  • Applicability Statement 2 Protocol: — This protocol is usually employed when transferring EDI messages in real-time over HTTPS.

Among these, SFTP is the more secure option, and it is the commonly used protocol by businesses as it provides as it’s platform-independent and firewall friendly.

SSH File Transfer Protocol is a platform-independent transfer protocol used as a secure method of communication. Simply put, it is a network protocol that aids the access, transfer and management of data on remote systems. It is regarded as an integral component of security measures and compliance mandates for businesses.

Organizations can employ this protocol to transfer billing data, funds as well as data recovery files without worrying about losses or interceptions.

SFTP builds upon FTP and compliments it with a cryptographic component known as Secure Shell (SSH-2) to transfer the data. In this protocol, the client has to be authenticated by the server. The encryption of commands/data offered by this protocol is vital as it prevents log-in credentials from being exposed in plain text.

Being an improved adaptation of the standard File Transfer Protocol, SFTP has wide applications in fields where file security is paramount.

Possibly the biggest application example of SFTP is in the healthcare system. Here, the protocol is used to comply with legislation and standards such as the HIPAA act. The HIPAA act, among other objectives, ensures that health information is kept secure and private at all times.

Organizations that work in conjunction with hospitals and health care providers have to keep the patient’s protected health information secure. This applies even when the data is being transferred through a network(s) hence the adoption of SFTP.

Besides, SFTP is employed in data protection to attain the governing standards. Case in point, GDPR that oversees and manages the data of European users.

The protocol has also been adopted in securing sensitive information, especially the type that is not under any specific data privacy rule. Such information e.g. trade secrets needs to be securely transferred lest it ends up into the wrong hands, in which case effects can be disastrous.

These are just but a few of the common areas where SFTP is used. Note that even private users can opt to use SFTP to encrypt their communications in a network.

Having the ability and capacity to transfer files from one end to another doesn’t cut the mustard in today’s world. With security threats on the rise, it is crucial that organizations ensure that the file transfer is secure.

Your organization should ensure that business-critical information is passed fast, accurately and safely regardless of its complexity and volume. SFTP offers precisely that and other additional merits.

To date, a majority of organizations still strive to meet and cope up with industry- & government-standardized compliances/laws such as HITECH, SOX, HIPAA, GLBA, EU Data Protection, PCI-DSS, and Australian Privacy Principles. SFTP makes it easier to achieve and meet these compliances by introducing monitoring, auditing and reporting features.

You won’t have to worry about data breach since SFTP is a foolproof security transfer protocol. This is the greatest boon of using SFTP. Apart from the standard password authentication, users can choose to include a public key for dual-factor authentication. What’s more, you have an option to create key pairs, manage and specify allowed keys.

With file transfer automation, firms and business can save time while maintaining a high degree of accuracy in the movement of files.

  • Centralized, remote administration
  • End-to-end tracking and reporting
  • Integrated encryption — no key management
  • File directory monitoring & email job triggering
  • Advanced scripting and event-handling

Servers are mostly computers that allow people to connect to the internet. The SFTP server, otherwise known as the SSH file transfer protocol server, is an endpoint associated with a receiver(s) during file transfer.

Note that a single SFTP server can be associated with multiple receivers, whereas a receiver can only be associated with a single server. SFTP servers use SFTP transport protocols and require SSH client for communication. These servers not only allow different actions on file but also provide security features like encryption.

Secure File Transfer Protocol servers have several functions in a network. Here are some of the common ones:

  1. They enhance data integrity. SFTP servers can identify the specific data files that are subjected to unwarranted alterations. They are also able to detect sensitive data like credit card information automatically.
  2. SFTP servers prevent fraudsters seeking to gain access to sensitive information from impersonating genuine users that actually have access to the information.
  3. Keep the data within the files secure when in transit.
  4. Help in maintaining high access control such that only the allowed users in a network can get access to secured files.
  5. SFTP servers may also keep the data within files secure during storage using data-at-rest encryption.
  6. They also keep records of file transfers which are crucial in auditing processes and troubleshooting.

SFTP servers offer file transfer services enabling the users to transfer or store data securely. SFTP clients such as WinSCP and Filezilla allow you to connect to SFTP servers. Backstage, your connection will be secured with the SSH file transfer protocol.

Benefits of SFTP servers in a file transfer network

SFTP servers can be designed to handle large & bulk file transfers, thus saving the business a lot of time. You can also implement triggers to ‘automate’ SFTP transfer, which boosts the speed and accuracy by eliminating human errors.

What sets SFTP apart from FTP is the reduced vulnerability during file transfer. Although FTP is just as good as SFTP in file transfer, it is susceptible to data breaches and intercepts such as man-in-the-middle attack.

SFTP comes with data security features like host authentication, public key authentication, integrity & authenticity checks, and encryption. These security features and mechanisms make it a safer choice than FTP.

Using SFTP servers, therefore, eliminates any vulnerability in the network. Consequently, this nullifies any possibility of data breaches during file transfer.

SFTP servers support files transfer to both client applications and SFTP servers as well. This essentially means that they can cater to user-to-server and server-to-server needs, thereby improving data accessibility. All you need is an SFTP client for the former and server-to-server file transfer configuration for the latter.

Sharing information today isn’t as tedious as it once was, and all you need is a secure SFTP server. This is becoming even more crucial as businesses continue to get decentralized, with lots of companies today offering remote working opportunities. It’s therefore crucial to ensure that your file transfer set up can guarantee the security of your data in transit as well as at rest.



Our goal is to provide information on how to achieve the most secure file transfer and storage strategies, but without giving up on simplicity and good user experience.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store

Here at Syncplify we simplify all file transfer and synchronization processes with our suite of skillfully designed software.