Data breaches exposed 18.8 billion records in the first half of 2021. The ability to transfer information between systems is fundamental to data integration. Given these numbers, transferring that information securely is even more essential. Whether transferring information internally or externally, using a secure method to share information is important to prevent the information from being compromised. Here, we’ll discuss Secure File Transfer Protocol or SFTP, how do I access SFTP server, and what you need to make it all work.

Table of Contents

  1. SFTP vs. FTP What’s the Difference?
  2. How Does Secure File Transfer Protocol Work?
  3. Connecting to a Secure File Transfer Protocol Server
  4. Moving Beyond SFTP With APIs

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SFTP vs. FTP What’s the Difference?

You may often hear these two terms used interchangeably, however, they are different. They each accomplish the same purpose. The difference lies in how each accomplishes that purpose.

FTP

File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is a method of transferring files between computers on a network. It is commonly used to send batches of files at once.

SFTP

SFTP is an alternative to FTP. The difference between the two is that SFTP adds a layer of security. This method encrypts the data before sharing the files, which offers a higher level of protection than standard FTP. The process also uses authentication between the computers by requiring a user ID and a password. A systems administrator can also require an SSH key for even more security.

Why Is It Important?

Sharing files securely is important to prevent the theft of important information. This is especially important if your organization must comply with strict security standards such as:

  • HIPAA
  • CCPA
  • GDPR
  • SOC2
  • SOX

Remaining compliant with these standards and avoiding steep penalties can be challenging. Xplenty's ETL tool integrated with SFTP helps keep private information secure.

How Does Secure File Transfer Protocol Work?

Transferring files between computers is an in-depth process that involves several steps:

1) Request to Establish Connection

  1. The requesting computer (client) contacts the server to request to establish a connection. The request uses port 22 on the firewall at the server’s site. 
  2. A listener on the server monitors for incoming connection requests.

2) Negotiate Security Parameters

  1. Both parties must negotiate pre-defined security parameters to establish a connection.
  2. The negotiation involves both parties choosing a specific encryption method to be used for the connection. 
  3. Once the connection encryption method is determined, both parties negotiate what protocol will be used to transfer data. 

3) Authentication

  1. The client sends login credentials to the server.
  2. The client may also be required to authenticate using a key/value pair.
  3. If a key is required, a set of public and private keys are generated. The public key resides at the server while the private key resides with the client. 
  4. The client will provide the public key during the authentication process.
  5. If the keys on the client and server match, the server grants access.

Xplenty provides full support for connecting to an SFTP server using industry-standard encryption methods which ensures your data remains private during transfer.

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Connecting to a Secure File Transfer Protocol Server

Before using this method, you will need a client and an SFTP server.

1) Determine the Authentication Method

The first step in the process is to determine the authentication method. During this process, you establish a password required for authentication. You can configure public and private keys to use for authentication as well if required. To take security measures even further, you can optionally set a passphrase that would be required to establish a connection.

2) Configure the Server

The sender stores files for client requests. The server uses the SSH protocol for transmission. You will also set up the directory where files are stored, and create the necessary groups and user logins to establish a connection.

3) Configure the Firewall

After configuring the server, you need to configure the firewall to allow connections. This step involves setting a one-port SSH tunnel on port 22.

4) Configure Client

The last step is to configure a client at the requesting computer. The administrator on the client-side of the connection completes these steps. The client’s administrator installs an SFTP client and configures the following:

  • Host name of the SFTP server
  • The security protocol in use
  • User name to be used for the connection
  • Password to use for the connection
  • The private key for the user

Xplenty allows you to transfer files securely between vendors, or other third parties using SFTP. The tool can access any port configured for SFTP to facilitate the transmission.

Moving Beyond SFTP With APIs

Transferring files over SFTP is usually a batch process. This method works well in many cases, however, the batch process may not suit the need for real-time data. Many companies choose to graduate to APIs to share information between systems. Using an API gives each system the ability to make on-demand requests to get the most up-to-date information. Xplenty has hundreds of pre-built connections to APIs such as Salesforce. These pre-built APIs make it easy for you to integrate data securely and safely between systems.

Connecting to an SFTP Server using Xplenty

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Sharing information between computers gives companies a holistic view of real-time data for informed decision-making. The value in that data can only be realized if the information is accurate. Sharing files over SFTP ensures a private connection for transmitting the information. Xplenty features a robust set of integrations that allow you to access data files on any SFTP server. For more details on SFTP, how to access an SFTP server, how to make the switch to APIs, or any other data integration needs, schedule a demo to see how Xplenty can help.