Understanding FTP vs SFTP: Which Should You Use for Secure File Transfers?

Confused by the choice between FTP (File Transfer Protocol) and SFTP (SSH File Transfer Protocol) for transferring files to your website's server? When configuring your FTP client, you might notice support for both protocols. But understanding the difference between FTP and SFTP is crucial for ensuring the security of your data. Let’s delve into the details to help you make an informed decision.

FTP vs SFTP: The Basics

Both FTP (File Transfer Protocol) and SFTP (SSH File Transfer Protocol) enable you to connect to your website's server using an FTP client like FileZilla. At the user level, the experience is similar, allowing you to perform tasks such as uploading, downloading, and managing files.

What is FTP?

FTP operates on a client/server model, facilitating direct file transfers between your FTP client and the server. It utilizes two channels—a command channel and a data channel—for communication. However, FTP transfers data in an unencrypted format by default, posing a security risk as malicious actors could intercept sensitive information.

What is SFTP?

SFTP, also known as Secure File Transfer Protocol or SSH File Transfer Protocol, provides the same functionality as FTP but with enhanced security. Unlike FTP, SFTP leverages SSH (Secure Shell) for secure access to the server over unsecured networks. It employs tunneling and transfers files securely, encrypting the data exchanged between the client and the server.

So, what is SSH?

SSH, short for Secure Shell, is a cryptographic protocol that offers secure access to a machine (your server, in this case) over unsecured networks.

SFTP only uses a single channel and lets you authenticate your client using either a username/password or SSH cryptographic keys.

What’s the Difference Between FTP vs SFTP, Then?

The key difference between FTP vs SFTP is that SFTP uses a secure channel to transfer files while FTP doesn’t.

With SFTP, your connection is always secured and the data that moves between your FTP client and your web server is encrypted. This means that malicious actors can’t sit in the middle and intercept your data – everything you transfer is always encrypted.

With FTP, you need to authenticate with a username and password when you initially connect. However, the data that passes between your web server and FTP client isn’t encrypted, which means that a malicious actor could theoretically eavesdrop on that information.

This would be especially dangerous if you were transferring files with sensitive information. For example, with a WordPress site, you could be transferring the wp-config.php file, which includes your database credentials, along with other critical settings.

If a malicious actor got their hands on this file, they would have everything they need to take over your WordPress site.

That’s the big takeaway:

While both protocols let you transfer files between your client and server, SFTP is much more secure than FTP.

Key Differences: FTP vs SFTP

The primary disparity between FTP and SFTP lies in their security mechanisms. While FTP transmits data in plaintext, leaving it vulnerable to interception, SFTP ensures that all communication is encrypted, safeguarding your files from prying eyes. With SFTP, authentication can be done using either a username/password or SSH cryptographic keys, adding an extra layer of security.

Why Choose SFTP Over FTP?

Given the security risks associated with FTP, opting for SFTP is advisable, especially when dealing with sensitive data. SFTP's encryption ensures that your files remain protected during transit, mitigating the risk of unauthorized access. At WeWP, we prioritize security, which is why we exclusively support SFTP connections for our clients.

Should You Use FTP or SFTP?

As is probably clear by now, you should always use SFTP over FTP because SFTP offers a more secure way to connect to your server and transfer information.

Because SFTP is a more secure method, WeWP only supports SFTP connections.


In the FTP vs SFTP debate, the choice is clear: prioritize security by opting for SFTP. By encrypting your file transfers and implementing robust authentication mechanisms, SFTP offers a safer alternative to FTP. At WeWP, we are committed to providing a secure environment for your website hosting needs, and our support for SFTP reflects that commitment.


When it comes to transferring files to your website's server, always prioritize security. With SFTP, you can rest assured that your data is encrypted and protected from potential threats. Make the switch to SFTP for a safer, more secure file transfer experience.

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