When it comes to transferring files across a network, most tech-savvy people have heard of or used FTP (file transfer protocol) at one point or another. FTP is a protocol that allows users to transfer data across a network. However, transferring files is not secure if you can’t control who has access to that file.
As a result, secure FTP transfers came forward in the form of SFTP and FTPS. In this article, we take a look at what these protocols are as well as looking at some of the best free SFTP/FTPS servers on the market.
Here is our list of the best free SFTP and FTPS servers:
- SolarWinds FTP Voyager (FREE DOWNLOAD) A free secure file transfer utility with an attractive and easy-to-use interface. This Windows-based utility allows multiple simultaneous file transfers.
- Files.com (FREE TRIAL) A cloud-based file management system that includes file transfer opportunities by generating a link for secure access rather than sending the actual file.
- ExaVault (FREE TRIAL) A SaaS package that provides a cloud storage area plus mechanisms for secure file transfers using SFTP and FTPS.
- FileZilla FTPS An easy-to-use secure file transfer utility that enables the movement of files up to 3 GB in size. Installs on Windows, Linux, and Mac OS.
- IIS FTPS Server Though difficult to set up, this FTPS system is recommended because it is built into Windows Server.
- FreeFTP A straightforward server for FTP, FTPS, and SFTP transfers. Installs on Windows.
- Syncplify.me FTP This tool offers a multi-threaded architecture and can transfer files of up to 2 GB with FTP, FTPS, and SFTP.
- Rebex Tiny FTP Server This free tool is lightweight and fast but has a clunky interface. Installs on Windows version from XP to Windows 7.
- zFTPServer (ProVide) This free tool with 2FA can transfer files with FTP, FTPS, SFTP, TFTP, and HTTPS. Runs on Windows.
- CrushFTP A widely-used and flexible file transfer utility that has FTP, SFTP, FTPS, HTTP, and SCP. Runs on Windows, Linux, and Mac OS.
- Cornerstone FTP Server This file server offers SFTP, and WebDAV protection and includes file sync and share options. A paid tool but with a 30-day free trial.
- Titan FTP Server This is an online system that uses FTP, SFTP, and FTPS and it can also be downloaded as a utility for Windows, Mac OS, or Linux.
- ALFTP A lightweight FTP server that offers SFTP as well. This utility can transfer files of up to 4 GB runs on Windows versions up to Windows 7.
Security becomes particularly important when transferring files outside a private network over the internet. If you need to pass files to and from servers and network devices on a remote site, you need for security for those transfers.
This issue has become more important in recent years, thanks to the increase in use of cloud resources. When you backup your file server on the Cloud, you need to protect those files from corruption or interception. In these cases, you need to use SFTP or FTPS instead of FTP.
A Guide to FTP, FTPS and SFTP
These three protocols are all very similar in nature, but they do have distinct differences. Below we’ve provided a breakdown of what each protocol does.
- FTP – File Transfer Protocol – This is the default file transfer protocol which allows the user to send files across a network. The main limitation of FTP is that it is unauthenticated meaning that anyone can access the transferred file. The data included within an FTP is simple and stored within plain text.
- FTPS – File Transfer Protocol Secure – This is a secure version of FTP that has been endowed with Transport Layer Security encryption. TLS serves to keep the data protected from unauthorized users.
- SFTP – SSH File Transfer Protocol – This is a version of FTP that runs with Secure Shell (SSH). An SFTP server is an SSH server that can run FTP-based commands.
The difference between the two is that FTPS merely uses SSL as a form of security but SFTP was designed by adding FTP to SSH. They both serve the same purpose but they take a different approach to make it happen. SFTP is the superior protocol of the two because it only uses one port for SFTP communications which makes it easier to secure. In comparison, FTPS leaves open multiple ports which poses a greater security risk. In this article we’re going to look at the best free SFTP and FTPS servers to help you find the one that’s right for your administrative needs.
The best free SFTP and FTPS servers
If you’re looking for an FTPS and SFTP server that is easy to use and suitable for an enterprise-grade network, then you should definitely consider FTP Voyager FTP Client for Windows. SolarWinds FTP Voyager allows the user to transfer files through the use of FTP, FTPS and SFTP. You can connect to multiple servers at once, making it ideal for managing a larger network.
One of the great things about this platform is that you can conduct multiple file transfers at once. This allows you to work through a large volume of file transfers without having to wait for a long period of time. This feature is particularly useful when working within a larger organization. Likewise, you can also automate the transfer process by scheduling file transfers when you need them.
The user interface is incredibly easy to use. If you require a platform that’s lean and fast moving, then FTP Voyager should be at the top of your list. Unfortunately it’s only available for Windows users. FTP Voyager can be downloaded for free from this link here.
Files.com offers a way to move files securely and share them with others. The system is based in the cloud and a subscription to the service includes file storage space. Both the transmission method and the storage are secured with encryption. The user is offered the option of using SSH for SFTP transfers or TLS protection, creating an FTPS service.
Rather than sending a file to its ultimate destination, the user uploads it to the Files.com server. Once there, the file can be accessed by others. In order to share a file, the user sends a link and then the recipient can access the file and edit it, copy it to a different cloud storage system, or download it – all of these actions are secured with encryption and the file access rights (view/edit/copy/download) are dictated by the permission set by the original owner of the file.
Subscribers are not forced to use the files.com storage space. The service is able to attack storage from other cloud providers, including Google Drive, Dropbox, and OneDrive.
Files.com is a flexible solution for file sharing, backup, and distribution. The service offers a number of integrations. These include Microsoft 365, which can be accessed from within the Files.com environment, enabling the creation and editing of documents on the Files.com server, reducing the need to transfer files back and forth between the user’s site and a Files.com account.
Files.com is a paid service but a trial offer makes it free for 7 days.
ExaVault operates as a server for FTPS and SFTP and it can interact with any of the major secure FTP clients. However, the ExaVault platform is much more than a secure FTP server because it includes a large amount of cloud storage space. The file server can be used as part of automated workflows to manger file transfers in reporting processes, such as log management.
The exact volume of storage space that each customer gets depends on the plan. These offer 1 TB, 3, TB, 5 TB, and 10 TB. The system administrator can create user accounts for employees and that enables each worker to create files on the platform and grant access to them.
The owner of a file or a directory can allow others to access it and specify permission levels. These access rights can be revoked by the user or by the system administrator. The permission granting system also enables outsiders to be given access to files, which eradicates the need to send them as attachments.
The ExaVault system logs activities on files, which assists with compliance reporting. This package is suitable for use with GDPR. You can assess the ExaVault service with a 30-day free trial.
4. FileZilla FTPS
In the world of FTPS and SFTP servers, FileZilla is one of the most famous platforms on the planet, and for good reason. This platform is available for Windows, Linux and MacOS, with a simple user interface and considerable strength. FileZilla supports up to 4GB file transfers. The transfer rate is ideal for larger companies as it has the bandwidth to process a substantial body of files.
The platform itself supports FTP, FTPS, and SFTP. While this isn’t an extensive list of protocols, it’s more than enough to conduct secure file transfers. One of the biggest advantages of this program is its usability. The network configuration wizard makes sure that your settings are optimized for file transfers, which is useful for making sure that you don’t make any mistakes.
In terms of navigation, a search function allows you to comb through files with a number of filters such as “contains”, “ends with” or “greater than”. While the user interface isn’t anything special, it’s simple enough that you can conduct file transfers without getting lost in any unnecessary features.
The reason why FileZilla has developed a solid reputation for itself is that it’s a solid product. When choosing an FTPS and SFTP server, you couldn’t go wrong with this platform whether you’re a home user or a network administrator. This program is available for multiple operating systems, so if you’d like to download FileZilla, click this link here.
5. IIS FTPS Server
One of the lesser known FTP servers is IIS FTPS Server. This tool comes as part of Windows Server and can function as a complete FTPS server once it has been configured. Though this is a great tool, it is a little bit more complicated to use than many competitors’ products.
This is mainly because the installation process is trickier than some of the other pre-packaged products on this list. For example the startup process for adding an FTP server is to go the Dashboard and click Manage > Roles and Features. This will raise the Add Roles and Features wizard.
Next, select Role-based installation type and click the Web Server role in the Server roles section. Next check FTP Server and uncheck Web Server role service. Then click Install. Once this process is completed, then IIS will function as a capable FTPS server platform.
While this process isn’t exhausting, its considerably less convenient than a tool like SolarWinds FTP Voyager that’s ready to go from the moment you download it. If you require a tool that’s easy to deploy in an enterprise environment, then you’re better off choosing another tool on this list. But if you don’t mind completing the initial configuration, then you’ll do just fine. If you’d like to install IIS FTPS Server, then follow the installation guide here.
FreeFTPd is an FTP server that supports FTP, SFTP and FTPS. FreeFTPd is a Windows based program and allows the user to transfer files over any TCP/IP network. One of the biggest advantages of FreeFTPd is that it doesn’t consume much CPU. As a result, it functions well for admins looking for a server that doesn’t adversely affect device performance. If you’re looking for a lightweight FTP server, then this product is definitely worth considering.
Another advantage of this platform is that the user creation process is simple. To add a user, go to the Users tab and click the Add button. You can then view a list of all the users you’ve created with a breakdown of what permissions they have on your network. This makes the platform ideal for deployment in an organization where you’re looking to implement hierarchical access arrangements.
If you’re operating on a Windows system, this is a high quality, easy-to-use product that you should consider downloading. Version 1.0.13 of FreeFTPd can be downloaded from the FreeSSHd here.
Syncplify.me is a company that impresses not just because it has worked with well known names like Virgin and Coca-Cola, but because of products like Syncplify.me FTP that deliver an excellent user experience. This multithreaded application provides users with FTP, FTPS and SFTP capabilities and a contemporary user interface. In fact, the simplicity of the user interface is one of this tool’s biggest assets.
This program is refreshing because it delivers a sleek user interface that is uncharacteristic of most FTPS and SFTP servers. Whereas many other programs offer a somewhat outdated design, Syncplify.me looks very modern. It is also quite powerful, able to support file transfers in excess of 2GB. While this isn’t as much as some of the other products on this list, its powerful enough to function well within a large enterprise environment. In addition, local file systems and remote file server browsers are multi-tabbed and can be used simultaneously.
It supports both IPv4 and IPv6. For an FTP server, Syncplify.me delivers an excellent user experience that makes it a great choice for IT administrators looking for a mix of versatility and power. This is a good choice for handling file transfers on an enterprise-grade network. Syncplify.me FTP can be downloaded from the Syncplify.me website here.
8. Rebex Tiny SFTP Server
As the name suggests, Rebex Tiny FTP Server is a small FTP tool that allows IT administrators to run SFTP- and FTPS-based file transfers. Tiny SFTP does a great job of allowing you to start running file transfers almost immediately. In a matter of minutes, you can be up and running with your own file transfers. This is a welcome step away from FTP servers that require the user to configure their settings before they begin.
The simplicity of Rebex is carried over into its file sharing. You don’t need any installations to start a file transfer. You can start a file transfer simply by adding files to the data folder and running it. The result is quick and easy file transfers that don’t require a lot of configuration.
However, it is important to note that Rebex isn’t the most secure FTP server on the market. Passwords are stored in text and can be seen on the main form of the server. This means unauthorized users can view passwords used on Rebex. The website suggests that this is part of the design rather than something that will be addressed in future.
If you need a platform that is more secure, then we suggest you deploy another tool instead. Rebex Tiny FTP Server is available on Windows XP through to Windows 7. Rebex Tiny SFTP server can be downloaded from this link here.
9. zFTPServer (ProVide)
zFTP Server or ProVide, as it’s now known, is an FTP server for Windows that offers a very competitive product. The user can conduct FTP, FTPS, SFTP, TFTP and HTTPS transfers from one interface.
zFTP Server is great because of its in-depth security and two-factor authentication. For example, you can set up two-factor authentication so that a user has to be part of an external database in order to access the server. This a welcome addition as it helps to ensure that unauthorized users don’t have access to any private data.
Another unique feature is virtual users integration. With virtual users integration, you can connect to data sources in order to verify user accounts. You can also define user verification in the form of a username and password. Once a user has been setup, you can choose whether they have any data privilege limitations. This ensures you can keep out unwanted users.
ProVide has a free version and multiple paid versions. The one disadvantage of this server is that you have to pay for the MEDI version of the program in order to use SFTP. That being said zFTPServer remains a great product for Windows, Linux, and Mac. If you’d like to download the free version, you can do so here.
Many companies have started to use CrushFTP to manage their file transfers because it is one of the most versatile FTP servers available. This platform supports FTP, SFTP, SFTP, HTTP, and SCP. The sheer diversity of these protocols is more than enough to support most professional administrators’ needs.
The user interface is very convenient. You can interact with your server through your web browser and the server dashboard. The server dashboard provides a screen showing your server status and your recent file transfers. You can create new users and generate reports, as well as the option to automatically schedule reports if you don’t want to manually generate them. While many companies won’t need this feature, it is good for cutting down manual labor.
With regards to access limitations, administrator’s can dictate which users have access to what. For example, you can anoint a limited admin and give them free reign over a handful of users to monitor. A whole page of checkboxes allow you to configure user access constraints.
CrushFTP is a solid platform all round. It’s available for Windows, Linux, and MacOS from here. The CrushFTP client is available for free, but the CrushFTP server has a 30-day free trial.
11. Cornerstone MFT server
Cornerstone MFT server is a name that doesn’t get enough recognition in the world of SFTP servers. This SFTP server offers a very secure toolset through which to operate. Users can transfer files with SFTP, FTP and WebDAV. An interesting addition to this tool is File Sync and Share. This feature means files can be accessed and sent from any device connected to the internet.
What really makes this platform great is its encryption and security features. Transfers are encrypted with SSL and unsecured connections are automatically rejected. This eliminates the need to configure your settings to reject problematic connections. In addition, you can use two-factor authentication to control who has access to your file. This is all supported by the fact that Cornerstone MFT is FIPS 140-2 compliant.
Cornerstone MFT is a platform designed for organizations with high regulatory standards. It strikes the right balance between being easy to deploy and has formidable security measures in place. Cornerstone MFT server is a solid platform for organizations looking for a product that is easy to deploy. There is a 30-day free trial of Cornerstone MFT server that can be downloaded from here.
12. Titan FTP server
When it comes to multi-platform FTP servers, Titan FTP is one of the most compelling options available on the market today. This FTP server is available on Windows, Mac, and Linux and can be accessed through an online user interface. This platform supports FTP, FTPS and SFTP. Titan FTP’s protocol diversity gives it the foundation needed to function well within a dynamic enterprise environment.
Titan FTP server has been endorsed by Cisco as a “robust SFTP Server that’s easy to configure”, and this is something that can clearly be seen from the speed of the controls. The user interface isn’t anything special but it provides you with all the information you need to manage your server configurations and conduct file transfers. The setup wizard is very straightforward, and you can create a new domain and server in a matter of minutes.
In terms of security options, you can configure your own settings to allow and reject IPS as well as dictate user access. While this doesn’t have the same depth of security features as a server like Cornerstone MFT, it is still a potent combination.
Overall this is a solid platform for SME’s and large organizations alike. The startup wizard is helpful enough to get you launched without spending too much time fretting over the specifics. Titan FTP is available as a 20-day free trial and can be downloaded from this link here.
Finally we have ALFTP. ALFTP has been designed as an entry-level FTP server for smaller organizations. ALFTP supports both FTP and SFTP. Even though this is a platform aimed at FTP beginners, it still has the power to transfer files larger than 4GB. The bandwidth potential of this platform means that it can perform well even if you’re dealing with a large body of files. This is aided further because ALFTP automatically retries failed file transfers.
This software is available for Windows and is compatible with 98, NT, Me, 2000, XP, Vista, and 7 (there is no mention of if this product will run on Windows 10). If you’re running an older version of Windows, then this program will be able to run with little to no hiccups. This makes it a good option if you need to deploy a low maintenance solution. Given that this platform is aimed at beginners, it is not necessarily designed to function in a larger enterprise environment. ALFTP can be downloaded free for 60 days here.
Choosing an SFTP and FTPS Server
Securely transferring files over a network can be done easily through SFTP and FTPS. As you can see, there are many different providers that offer you quality SFTP/FTPS servers. For mid to large enterprises, we recommend the use of SolarWinds FTP Voyager. This program’s capacity to conduct multiple file transfers at once and the ability to schedule file transfers will serve even the most active network environment well.
For users looking for something more basic, FileZilla FTPS is another product that’s well worth considering. FileZilla’s file transfer bandwidth is a selling point for larger organizations. The most important step is to thoroughly assess your goals before deploying a new platform in your organization. This ensures you get the platform that is right for managing your SFTP/FTPS needs.