Top SFTP Servers for Secure File Transfers 
We’ve collected some of the best SFTP server options out there and highlighted essential features that you should know about when making your decision.
What is SFTP? SFTP, also called SSH File Transfer Protocol or Secure File Transfer Protocol, is a secure way to transfer files over different systems. This secure connection is created by encrypting the data and sending it using SSH.
File Sharing for Businesses: What’s the Difference Between FTP, SFTP, and FTPS?
SFTP servers are modeled on traditional file transfer servers that have been around almost as long as the internet itself. However, SFTP fits a specific and critical function in providing secure file transfer for peer-to-peer communications.
File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is one of the earliest and most established forms of file transfer around. SFT uses the traditional client-server model by which a client computer requests an FTP connection with a server computer for file transfer. The client downloads the file from the server over the FTP connection.
The simplicity of FTP has made it a popular choice for many file transfer applications, even today. It’s simple, fast, and supports bulk file transfers. On the other hand, FTP isn’t secured at all. Information sent over an FTP connection is sent unencrypted, which can easily be stolen or intercepted during transmission.
This vulnerability is undesirable, but because FTP is so valuable, engineers moved to create a secured version of FTP to bring additional security to file sharing. There were two different approaches to this effort:
- FTP over SSL, or FTPS, integrates FTP into a Secure Sockets Layer connection (now replaced by TLS). The primary approach here is to take vanilla FTP and build it into an encrypted SSL/TLS connection to make it secure.
- Secure FTP, or SFTP, is a distinct file transfer protocol modeled from FTP but built entirely in a Secure Shell (SSH) connection.
While FTPS works for many organizations in specific circumstances, most modern secure file transfer solutions will leverage SFTP due to its security and ease of use.
What is an SFTP Server, and What Should I Look for in One?
While SFTP is a distinct protocol, it models FTP in how it operates, specifically the client/server model. That means that to use SFTP, a client that supports SFTP must connect with a server to download files through a specific port number (typically port 22).
What does this mean for most organizations? It means that, when using a server or more extensive file management or MFT solution that includes SFTP, you must ensure that both the server and the client have the suitable security in place:
- The server side must include AES encryption, the level of which will be determined by business needs and compliance demands. Most servers can be configured with AES-128 or AES-256 encryption.
- Both the server and client sides must have proper in-transit encryption through TLS 1.2 or higher for most compliance requirements.
That being said, you must ensure that any solution you use, either as a standalone server or a more comprehensive platform with included SFTP, meets the challenges of your business and industry. It benefits you to understand what you need to look for in a server in either case.
Features to look for in an SFTP server include the following:
- Proper Encryption: As mentioned above, you want a server that can provide a high level of at-rest and in-transit data encryption through AES and TLS algorithms.
- Backup Functionality: Modern servers (or SFTP incorporated into an MFT) should be able to support file backups to prevent data loss.
- Cloud (hosted) vs. Server-Based SFTP: As more services move to the cloud, it’s possible to use hosted services on cloud servers through a third-party provider. Your organization may benefit immensely from the flexibility of a cloud solution, or it may need the stability and speed of a hybrid or on-premise solution.
- Support for Automation: Another feature common for SFTP integrated into an MFT, automation can alleviate micromanaging job workflows by managing repeatable tasks across all transmission.
- Configurability for Compliance Needs: A properly configured server can support compliance, but many implementations don’t do this out of the box. Work with a provider that either offers compliant services out of the box or can configure it to fit your compliance needs.
Best SFTP Servers in 2021
|Accellion||Cloud-Based, FedRAMP, On-premises, self-hosted on IaaS, hybrid||FedRAMP, FIPS 14-2, HIPAA, GDPR, PCI DSS, SOC 2||Hosted SFTP, Secure MFT + Automation, Logging and Audit w/ SIEM, Compliant with most major compliance regulations|
|Cerberus SFTP Server||On-Premises (Windows)||FIPS 140-2, HIPAA, GDPR, PCI DSS||Supports LDAP, Active Directory, HTTPS|
|Globalscape||Cloud-Based (SaaS) [check if on-prem]||HIPAA, GDPR, SOX, HITECH, FIPS 140-2||HTTPS module, AS2 protocol for EDI messages|
|Files.com||Cloud-Based (SaaS)||HIPAA, GDPR (Paid Tier)||Free to Use|
Cerberus SFTP boasts several layers of security, including AD security groups, IP auto-blocking, and more, alongside its extensive compliance and regulatory support. More advanced features like automation, policy-making, and MFT with HTTPS are available for a steep price at the enterprise level.
Globalscape offers SFTP and MFT services with several levels of compliant security in various industries, including finance, retail, and healthcare. Globalscape’s Enhanced File Transfer (EFT) offers several tiers of MFT service, including a cloud-based MFT option. It does require some more advanced setup initially, and Globalscape does not provide 24/7 support—a must for enterprise businesses.
Files.com is a comprehensive file transfer solution that includes an option alongside regular FTP and FTPS. While not as robust as some other enterprise solutions, it has configurations for HIPAA and GDPR compliance in their higher, paid tiers.
Compliant and Secure SFTP with The Kiteworks® Platform
Having secure file sharing in place is non-negotiable for most businesses. With the explosion of cloud service providers in the enterprise space, finding a solution isn’t too tricky. However, when selecting a provider, you always know that you never have to compromise productivity or accessibility for security (or vice versa).
With Accellion SFTP, you not only get compliant file transfer for a variety of high-profile regulations like FedRAMP, HIPAA, GDPR, and others, but also you get MFT functionality on dedicated cloud servers for extra security. Accellion offers the following:
- Security: Our platform is compliant with many regulations out of the box or with configuration changes on our end [granular policy controls or granular setting to implement policy controls]. You can use our SFTP servers, trusting that the technology and security controls adhere to rules. Our hardened servers protect your data from existing and emerging cyber threats so you can trust your security and focus on your business.
- A CISO Dashboard provides comprehensive visibilityof data access, user access, data trends and movement, and controls over data transfers.
- Access controls over flows and connections to protect sensitive data from illicit access.
- Data Visibility: Our CISO Dashboard gives you complete visibility over your SFTP data, including SIEM capabilities and advanced analytics and audits. Additionally, SIEM audit logging will help you manage SFTP security by detecting threats earlier and mitigating issues sooner.
- Single-Tenant Cloud: Your SFTP instance will be on its own single-tenant cloud server, meaning it will not share resources and it includes all the additional security needed.
- Robust Back-End Automation: Standard SFTP can have several back-end bottlenecks, requiring manual work to process complex data workflows. With the Kiteworks Platform, you get powerful automation that supports streamlined and customizable transfers with batch processing, scheduling and cause-and-effect triggers.
Learn more about Accellion SFTP with our eBook, Modernizing Enterprise SFTP. Make sure to sign up for our newsletter to keep up with Accellion news and products.