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Difference Between SFTP and SCP

computerSFTP vs. SCP

SSH File Transfer Protocol (also simply known as Secure File Transfer Protocol or SFTP) is a network protocol. It provides file access, file transfer, and file management functions over a trusted data stream. It was specifically designed as an extension of the Secure Shell Protocol (or SSH), version 2.0. As an extension, it is primarily used to provide secure file transfer capability; however, it is also intended to be usable with other protocols. The Internet Engineering Task Force (or IETF) has defined –through the Internet Draft– that SFTP is described within the context of the SSH-2 protocol; however, SFTP is general and independent of the rest of the SSH-2 protocol suite. It has the ability to be used in a variety of applications, including a secure file transfer over Transport Layer Security (or TLS) and the transfer of management information in VPN applications. It assumes that it will be run over a secure channel (like SSH) that has a previously authenticated client –the identity of whom is available to the protocol.

Secure Channel Protocol (or SCP) is a network protocol. It provides a means of transferring data that can withstand or is completely impermeable to interception and tampering. Though it is meant to be a way to keep information transfer completely safe, there is no completely secure channel in the real world, just ways in which insecure networks can become less insecure and transfer information more safely –that is, someone may be able to see or hear the message but has no means of altering the information that is exchanged over the server.

SFTP protocol allows for a plethora of operations on remote files. It has more in common with the remote file system protocol than its predecessor, the SCP protocol. As a part of the extended features of the SFTP protocol, a client is able to resume interrupted transfers, directory listings, and remote file removal. As a result, it is relatively easy to implement GUI SFTP client in comparison to a GUI SCP client. SFTP attempts to be a more platform independent protocol than its predecessor –SFTP avoids having wildcard expansion specified by the client be up to the server. Also, SFTP servers are available on most all platforms. It is a completely new protocol not related to the SSH –which is run over FTP. SFTP does not provide authentication or security; rather it expects the underlying protocol to secure both. As it is, SFTP is used mostly as a subsystem of SSH protocol, version 2 implementations (as it was designed in the same work group). It is possible, however, to run SFTP over SSH-1 or other data streams.


1. SFTP is a network protocol that provides file access, transfer, and management functions over a trusted data stream; SCP is a network protocol providing data transfer that is impermeable to interception and tampering.

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1 Comment

  1. In this context, SCP usually refers to the application–secure copy (a remote file copy program).

    Like SFTP, SCP transfers files via SSH, but SFTP uses interactive sessions (like traditional FTP).

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