Transferring files is a necessary part of business for many companies, which has made File Transfer Protocol (FTP) a popular tool. But while FTP is useful, it’s not very secure and doesn’t support HIPAA compliance or other regulatory requirements. To address this gap, it’s best to use other protocols, such as SFTP or SCP.
Both SFTP servers and SCP servers use a Secure Shell, or SSH connection. SFTP stands for SSH File Transfer Protocol and supports secure data transfers with good performance and reliability. SCP stands for Secure Copy Protocol, and it operates at faster speeds than SFTP but without some of the functionality. SFTP and SCP often work together, and using at least one of them is important to keep your files secure during transfer.
To get the most out of these protocols, you need to have the right solution. This guide reviews the top SFTP and SCP servers for 2020. Topping the list are three tools from SolarWinds: the free SolarWinds® SFTP/SCP Server, and SolarWinds Engineer’s Toolset™ and SolarWinds Network Configuration Manager, premium solutions including SFTP/SCP Server alongside numerous other features.
Top 9 SFTP and SCP Servers
Below are the best SFTP servers and SCP servers currently available, including both paid and free solutions from a variety of vendors.
One of the best SFTP servers, which is also an SCP server, is SolarWinds SFTP/SCP Server. This free solution runs as a Windows service, making it available at all times, even when the user is logged out.
This software supports large SFTP and SCP file transfers, up to 4GB, and allows you to perform transfers across multiple devices concurrently. In addition to choosing between versions of SSH (SSH1 or SSH2), you can specify an IP address or range of addresses when transferring files.
Configuring user authentication is an important aspect of security. You can do this with SFTP/SCP Server through a simple process, and for added security, you can specify which operations are allowed on the server. This includes options to:
- Upload File
- Delete File
- Rename File
- Download File
- Create Directory
- List Directory Contents
SolarWinds SFTP/SCP Server doesn’t only work internally—you can also use it to transfer files across the internet. By default, the port for file transfers is 22, but this can be changed through the configuration settings.
In addition to robust functionality, SolarWinds SFTP/SCP Server includes an easy-to-use interface. For a free solution, it has a lot to offer.
SolarWinds Engineer’s Toolset (ETS) is a paid tool that includes SolarWinds SFTP/SCP Server, which runs as a service. If you’re looking for more than file transfer functionality, ETS provides a robust suite of more than 60 tools to keep your network running smoothly.
SFTP/SCP Server runs as an easy-to-use service, although you can configure the server to ensure it performs optimally within your environment. You can select which protocols you’d like the server to support, enable file transfers, specify port numbers, and set up user authentication.
Engineer’s Toolset offers tools to support admin capabilities. For example, with automated network discovery, you have access to tools to discover network devices and generate a network topology map.
Security tools support several measures to protect your network. These include the ability to recover lost passwords and attack simulation, so you can pinpoint any vulnerable spots in your network.
You can also monitor your network performance and receive alerts in real time. When anything goes wrong, other tools provide troubleshooting functionality, so you can quickly identify and resolve issues.
All this and more is available through a unified console, making it easy to manage all the information about your network. What’s more, ETS integrates with SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor, making it an all-around great option for both safe file transfer and network management. It’s available for a 14-day free trial, after which the price is based on the number of licenses.
SolarWinds has a third offering, Network Configuration Manager (NCM), with SFTP and SCP server functionality while offering a range of functions for streamlined configuration. The NCM installation automatically includes SolarWinds SFTP/SCP Server. You can use that server with NCM to transfer files using SCP, or you can use a third-party SCP server.
While SolarWinds SFTP/SCP Server has considerable functionality for safe file transfer, it’s limited in other ways. NCM gives you file transfer options and other network tools, including the ability to:
- Assess vulnerability through integration with the National Vulnerability Database
- Audit the network for compliance and reduce downtime
- Automate functionality to maintain standards and manage rapid changes
NCM has automated configuration tools to identify out-of-process changes, use standard configurations, and fix items in violation of the standards. You can also recover from any problems by reverting to a configuration backup.
Another security feature of NCM is the ability to prevent unauthorized access to locked-down devices. The integrated console also supports identifying who can make configuration changes and determining when changes should be applied to the network.
Like ETS, NCM integrates with SolarWinds NPM. NCM offers a 30-day free trial; after that, pricing is based on the number of devices you manage.
Syncplify.me Server is an SFTP server that also supports FTP and FTPS (FTP with Secure Sockets Layer). It comes with many capabilities to provide security for file transfers, including HIPAA compliance and auditing features, all with a good user interface.
With this solution, you can have up to 5,000 concurrent clients with multiple files transferring at the same time. You can also rely on the platform thanks to the ability to deploy two SFTP server nodes. This way, if one node goes down, the other node will still be available, and you can avoid disruption.
One of the reasons security is so important is to guard against cyberattacks. Syncplify comes preconfigured to prevent password harvesting, denial of service (DoS) attacks, distributed DoS (DDoS) attacks, and other types of attacks.
Additionally, Syncplify.me Server comes with Syncplify.me Protector. This provides extra security by using AI to identify cyberattacks. Once identified, the attackers are added to a blacklist, which prevents them from connecting to the server. This intrusion detection system makes Syncplify one of the most secure platforms available.
The solution can also create custom scripts. This gives you the option to add new functions and have full control over how you manage files and integrate with other operations.
Syncplify.me Server offers a free trial and then has different levels based on functionality and the number of users.
FileZilla is a free, open-source solution supporting file transfer for several protocols, including SFTP, FTP, and FTPS. It has a straightforward interface and can operate on multiple operating systems, including Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X.
When transferring files, FileZilla allows you to work with files up to 4GB. Initiating a file transfer is easily accomplished with drag-and-drop functionality. To view the files being transferred, you can go to the “Queued Files” section of the screen.
You can gain additional visibility into the status of transfers by reviewing directories. You can compare the local files and directories in one column, with another column showing the directories and files on the server.
If performance is slow, you can pause transfers as needed and then resume later. The solution also has configuration options for transfer speed limits, allowing you to cap the number of files that can be transferred at once.
FileZilla additionally supports remote file search and remote file editing, making it easy to perform file maintenance while keeping security intact.
Since FileZilla is an open-source tool, it has an active community forum, and issues are addressed quickly. This makes it a good choice for a free solution.
When it comes to SFTP servers, Bitvise SSH Server has a lot to offer: it provides SCP, FTP, and SFTP servers and an SSH server. It supports server and desktop versions of Windows, and you can get remote-based access using a tool like WinVNC.
To support regulatory needs, Bitvise uses encryption to secure file content and stay compliant with HIPAA, PCI, and FIPS 140-2. Additional security comes with two-factor authentication, and another level is added for connections to the server. Those require a third password, which can be managed with a third-party authenticator application such as FreeOTP or WinAuth.
Bitvise is easy to install, configure, and use. For configuration, any setting can be updated through a script, from the command prompt, or from a text file, providing flexibility to meet individual business needs.
File transfer is fast and secure. Bitvise accommodates the transfer of any size file and supports an unlimited number of connections. The software keeps a record of all transactions and can provide you with updated statistics any time. It also supports the creation of virtual accounts and the setup of instances for multiple users on a single computer.
This is a powerful application with good functionality to keep your files secure. It has a free trial version; once you start paying, pricing comes in several levels to meet the needs of different organizations.
If you’re looking for smaller SFTP servers, Rebex Tiny SFTP Server is a good option. This solution takes a minimalist approach and requires little configuration. You can deploy it through a zip file and skip the lengthy installation requirements of larger SFTP servers.
Originally designed for testing SFTP clients, Rebex Tiny SFTP Server is a good choice for those looking for quick file transfer or for a way to run tests.
It supports an unlimited number of users, and it can be run on any Windows platform with .NET. It also supports both DSA and RSA keys for authorization, and you can review an activity log for details of the files.
One important security note is passwords are stored in clear text, which makes them visible on the main server form. Given that, Rebex should only be used for transferring files that don’t need full security.
As a short-term solution, though, Rebex has a lot to offer. The minimal setup makes it convenient for testing or transfers that don’t need full security, and it’s free for both personal and commercial use.
Another option for an SCP server is OpenSSH. This open-source SSH server supports SSH and SCP, using the SSH2 protocol; an SFTP server add-on allows you to use it as an SFTP server. OpenSSH is compatible with several operating systems, including Windows, Linux, and Mac OS.
Unlike many other SCP and SFTP servers, OpenSSH doesn’t have a graphical user interface. Instead, all the tools can be accessed through the command line. If you’re not familiar with command lines, you can find plenty of support through online tutorials and in a large documentation library.
Additional security is available with the option to encrypt protocols. OpenSSH also has robust cryptography algorithms, including AES, RSA, and ECDSA. Public keys and one-time passwords provide strong authentication, and the agent’s authentication key is held by an authentication agent.
From a performance perspective, if you have a slower network, you can compress files for faster transfer. You can also easily access network resources remotely for monitoring and management.
As a free tool, with good functionality and online support, OpenSSH has a lot to offer for those who don’t mind the command-line approach.
CrushFTP supports SCP, SFTP, FTP, and HTTPS. It’s available for several operating systems, including Windows, Linux, Unix, and Mac OS.
Files are managed through a web interface. You can preview images, videos, documents, and PDFs on the server, which allows you to easily identify the content.
Support for multiple protocols means incoming files can be transferred, or they can trigger events to then alert services. These events could include:
- Querying a database
- Copying a file
- Emailing results to a user
- Posting to a RESTful web application
CrushFTP also provides security measures, including the ability to manage user access by creating custom user forms when users visit your site. Additionally, users can keep control of their files or give temporary access to others. Even if users retain access, though, administrators can still control the type of shared content.
Another security measure is automated banning. When CrushFTP monitors connections, it can identify patterns of IPs hammering password settings, commands, or connections, and then automatically block them. This reduces the chance of bad actors getting to your server.
CrushFTP is a good solution for those wanting secure file transfer, and you can test it with a 30-day free trial. After that, pricing is based on the number of connections and level of support.
Finding the Right SFTP or SCP Server
Transferring files is an important part of business, but it’s essential to keep those transfers secure. SFTP servers and SCP servers both use SSH protocols to keep your information safe.
You have many options for these types of servers, including several choices from SolarWinds. These include the free SolarWinds SFTP/SCP Server, which provides concurrent file transfers and support for files up to 4GB. If you’re looking for additional network management options, both SolarWinds Engineer’s Toolset and SolarWinds Network Configuration Manager include the SFTP/SCP Server functionality plus myriad other features.