Along with its security benefits, an SFTP connection is the quickest and most efficient way to transfer files between two local or remote systems. When transferring files or data from one server to another, using an SFTP connection is one of the best options to ensure this data remains untampered. Utilizing an SFTP connection is especially beneficial for commonly used data integration systems like ETL and Reverse ETL.  

So what makes SFTP so great, and what is even needed for an SFTP connection? Read on to discover the answers. 

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Table of Contents 

What Is an SFTP Connection?  

Before there was SFTP, there was FTP. The acronym FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol. In the early days of tech, FTP was a popular unencrypted method of transferring files between two remote systems. Designed in 1971, FTP was once the standard way of transmitting files between computers.  

Fast forward a couple of decades, and a new transfer protocol emerged in 1997. This new protocol is SFTP. The acronym SFTP stands for SSH File Transfer Protocol or Secure File Transfer Protocol. SFTP is a more secure option compared to FTP. Over the past two decades, SFTP has become the chosen method to establish a secure connection and provide organizations with a higher level of file transfer protection. 

SFTP does not require two-factor authentication. However, it does provide the choice to require both a user ID and password. This option allows for a more secure connection. Through SFTP, SSH keys prevent imposters from connecting to the SFTP server. Ultimately, an SFTP connection provides secure file access, file transfer, and file management functionalities over any reliable data stream. 

Read our guide, The What's, How's and Why's of SFTPto learn more about the benefits of an SFTP connection. 

What Are the Benefits of an SFTP Connection? 

An SFTP connection is always the best option for transferring files between two local or remote systems, especially for businesses. Read on to discover the top three benefits of using an SFTP connection for businesses. 

Increases Speed and Efficiency of File Sharing 

Using an SFTP connection allows for the efficient transfer of large file types, as well as bulk file transfers. In contrast, other file sharing methods like email or cloud-based solutions do not allow for the quick transfer of multiple files or large files. Therefore, using an SFTP connection is much more efficient for businesses looking to transfer large files or to complete bulk file transfers. Overall, this efficiency will keep all customers, suppliers, and trading partners happy. 

Lowers Risk of Corruption During Data Transfers 

Transferring files through traditional FTP protocols puts your data at extreme risk for a man-in-the-middle attack. An SFTP connection uses an encrypted method to transfer your business files securely between remote systems. This means that using an SFTP connection is the best choice when looking to preserve the confidentiality and integrity of your business data. In addition, an SFTP connection will always lower the risk of corruption during data transfers. 

Increases Overall Security 

One of the top benefits of an SFTP connection is the overall security that it provides. Some of the security mechanisms accompanying an SFTP connection are encryption, public key authentication, data integrity, authenticity checks, and host authentication. These security mechanisms make SFTP connections the best option for businesses to transfer their files safely and efficiently. Failure to comply with security requirements can also prove costly to companies. Therefore, it is always in a business’s best interest to share files in the most secure manner possible.  

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What Is Needed for an SFTP Connection? 

After reviewing the benefits of an SFTP connection, it’s time to discover what is needed to create an SFTP connection. An SFTP connection requires appropriate software to run correctly. Proper software will allow for the secure transfer of passwords, files, and other sensitive information over the network.

As discussed, SFTP adds encryption to the more basic file transfer system known as FTP. SFTP encryption uses an SSH connection, also known as the Secure Shell data stream. Through the Secure Shell (SSH) data stream, files can be transferred using WinSCP and SFTP client. 

An SFTP server utility on one of the devices is necessary to communicate with a client at the other end. Therefore, an SFTP connection will require one of the following:

  1. WinSCP 
  2. SFTP Client 

After obtaining an SSH client that supports SFTP, the system’s firewall will need to be configured to access port 22. Following the access of port 22, the following steps ensure the proper establishment of an SFTP connection:

  1. Set up SSH keys and transfer them to the appropriate systems.
  2. Once a connection starts, test SSH access.
  3. Establish the SFTP connection.
  4. When the remote system connects, the prompt should change to an SFTP prompt.
  5. Open an SFTP session. This should connect the system via the specified port.
  6. Initiate the file transfer.

If all six steps are complete, the SFTP connection has been a success.

SFTP and Reverse ETL 

Utilizing an SFTP connection is especially beneficial for ETL, the most commonly used data integration. ETL stands for Extract, Transform, and Load. With ETL, data is extracted from one or more source systems, then transformed as necessary, and loaded into a target warehouse or data lake. 

Along with the traditional ETL system, there is also a system known as Reverse ETL. As its name suggests, Reverse ETL flips the order of operations within the traditional ETL system. Essentially, traditional ETL targets are treated as sources, and traditional ETL sources are treated as targets. 

Whether using ETL or Reverse ETL as a system of data integration, an SFTP connection can send data to vendors, customers, or other third parties through a safe and secure method. Transferring files from one machine to another is a crucial part of the reverse ETL process. It's also essential to transfer these files in a manner that keeps them protected against potential hackers. Ultimately, using SFTP to transfer these files is the key to keeping them secure. 

Read our guide Reverse ETL: What You Need to Know to learn more about how SFTP and Reverse ETL can work together.

How Xplenty Can Help 

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Xplenty includes full support for the SFTP protocol in ETL and ETL Reverse workflows. By using Xplenty and SFTP, you can send and receive files from dozens of cloud data warehouses without the risk of being exposed to potential hackers.

Want to learn more about how the Xplenty platform can help you build powerful data integration pipelines to the cloud, including with the SFTP connection protocol? Contact our team today to schedule a 14-day demo or pilot. We look forward to working with you and helping you reach your goals.