To secure file transfers, there are several file transfer protocols to choose between. The most common are FTPS, HTTPS and SFTP. This blog post will compare the HTTPS and SFTP protocols on speed, security and ease of use.

What Is HTTPS?

HTTPS stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure. It’s the secure version of HTTP because it uses Transport Layer Security (TLS), previously known as Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), to encrypt login information and data.

HTTPS uses Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) port 443. Using TCP is important because it ensures data arrives in order and none is lost as it’s being transferred.

It’s typically used by website browsers to access website servers, but it can also be used for file transfers with a managed file transfer (MFT) agent.

What Is SFTP?

SFTP stands for SSH File Transfer Protocol or Secure File Transfer Protocol. It uses Secure Shell (SSH) to encrypt files.

SFTP uses TCP port 22 and is typically used for file transfers. By using TCP, SFTP makes sure the data arrives in order and in one piece.

HTTPS vs SFTP File Transfer Speed

SFTP is better for transferring large files and providing more protection, while HTTPS gives users faster downloads and is best for small file uploads.

HTTPS vs SFTP Security

HTTPS and SFTP are equal in security because they both encrypt:

  • Usernames
  • Passwords
  • Contents of data

HTTPS uses the TLS protocol for encryption, which authenticates the server and can authenticate the client (but it’s not required).

TLS creates 4 session keys for each session. Because unique keys are used each time, someone who figures out one set of session keys can only access the data from that session — not any past or future sessions.

SFTP uses the SSH protocol for encryption, which authenticates the client and server. The client verifies the server with the server’s public key. The client is authenticated with an SSH key pair — one private key and one public key.

SSH also uses a unique session key for each session.

HTTPS vs SFTP Ease of Use

With HTTPS, port 443 is already open. HTTPS can be used to send API calls because APIs use HTTPS.

SFTP’s major difference is that it uses certificates that need to be updated frequently. Its port needs to be opened by an IT administrator. SFTP clients and servers can be controlled by APIs, but the SFTP protocol can’t be used to send API calls.

Achieve End-to-End File Transfer Security

Using secure file transfer protocols like HTTPS and SFTP is a great step to protect confidential data, but it’s not enough. To keep file transfers secure, you also need encryption at rest, protection from unauthorized users with multi-factor authentication and much more.

Thru, our cloud managed file transfer (MFT) platform, makes it easy for IT teams to create file transfer workflows, add partners and track delivery information in minutes per day. For more information about how Thru secures file transfers, please visit our Security page.


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