File Transfer Protocols

File Transfer is the process of sharing and moving computer files across a network, typically the Internet. Data files can be structured or unstructured, including documents, images, multimedia and text. File transfer is often governed by a communications protocol, a set of rules that defines how information is transmitted between devices within a network. Examples of popular protocols include FTP, TCP and HTTP.

Whether you’re a business transferring bulk data to your outsourced payroll provider or an individual uploading digital videos for a marketing campaign, the need for efficient and secure file transfer is paramount in today’s connected world. Fortunately, the market for technology that delivers high-speed file transfer is rich with options.

Here are some of the most common and essential methods to accomplish this task, along with their benefits and drawbacks:


File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is one of the most widely used ways to transfer files between network systems. It was designed specifically to move data files over transmission control protocol/Internet protocol (TCP/IP) networks, most often the internet. In laymen’s terms, it enables users to send and receive data over computers that are not connected in the same physical location.

FTP transfers work via two connections between hosts: a command channel and a data connection. The server initiates the command channel and the client responds by initiating a data connection to transfer files. The command channel can also transmit other data, such as user names and passwords, remote directory change commands, file retrieval instructions and storage commands. It is typically accessed over port 21.


SFTS, the Secure File Transfer System, is an online file-sharing tool for government agencies that lets users securely exchange large files with colleagues, clients and partners—without creating or managing an account. It is particularly useful for departments with a large number of contractors, consultants or employees who need to share files and require access control on the level of individuals and groups.

Unlike traditional file-sharing platforms such as Dropbox, Google Drive and WeTransfer—which are free to use but limited in functionality, security and speed—SFTS provides both an easy-to-use web application and mobile app for a variety of operating systems that can be configured with custom branding and colors. It also provides full visibility of all file movement in real time. This helps organizations understand what’s being transferred, by whom and how it’s being moved. It also makes it possible to automatically update files in a shared folder on each of a user’s networked devices—or in an online syncing service such as Tresorit or WeTransfer—for quick and easy access on multiple devices.

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