SCP vs SFTP: Which One Ought to You Use for File Switch

SCP (Safe Copy) and SFTP (Safe File Switch Program) are options for FTP (File Switch Protocol), which is beneficial for non-scheduled file transfers. All three might help accomplish transferring information from one location to a different over a community medium. Nonetheless, FTP sends knowledge in plain textual content, whereas the opposite two use the SSH File Switch Protocol (SFTP) for communication.

What’s SCP?

SCP is a non-interactive file switch program that first appeared in 4.2 BSD. Traditionally, it used rlogin and SSH to transmit information between two computer systems. This made it liable to distant exploits because it ran instructions on the distant host to begin a knowledge switch.

File and listing transfers in SCP can both be between an area machine and a distant host or two distant hosts. This enables it to be extra versatile when working with completely different UNIX-like distributions.

SCP may also be used with a wildcard character to help in transferring a number of information primarily based on partial-string standards. Just like direct transfers, these wildcards may also be used to ship and obtain information and directories.

Additionally learn: The way to Securely Switch Recordsdata in Linux Utilizing SCP

What’s SFTP?

Not like SCP, SFTP is a file switch program that works equally to an FTP immediate and a distant shell. It gives an interactive immediate that means that you can navigate a distant machine’s file system and manipulate its contents.

SFTP additionally makes use of a number of SSH options, similar to compression or public key authentication, to connect with hosts and enter interactive mode. This makes it a strong distant filesystem browser for headless UNIX machines.

A terminal showing the SFTP prompt transferring files from a remote server back to a local machine.

SFTP may also be used to mechanically retrieve information when you use a non-interactive authentication methodology; in any other case, it retrieves them after profitable interactive authentication.

Notice: SFTP isn’t FTP over SSH however is a brand new protocol altogether.

Additionally learn: The way to Set Up an SFTP Server on Linux

SCP vs. SFTP: Which is Higher?

A couple of similarities exist between the 2 file switch applications. Each use TCP port 22 and run on SSH making them equal when it comes to safety. Moreover, each applications additionally assist the switch of huge information, as they do not have file dimension limits. The main variations between SCP and SFTP, subsequently, might be seen of their specs and features.


At its core, the essential function of SCP is to securely copy knowledge between two machines. That is evident in this system’s primary syntax which requires you to offer a supply and a vacation spot for each file switch. This makes it simpler to work with for easy one-time file transfers.

In the meantime, SFTP is a extra full file switch shopper that gives a file browser together with multi-file downloads. These options make SFTP supreme for a person who must consistently switch information to and from a distant host.

Winner: SFTP

Good to know: SCP and SFTP are usually not the one ones that may share information over the web. Discover ways to create your personal cloud drive utilizing ownCloud.


Since each SCP and SFTP use the SFTP protocol to encrypt and transport information, the 2 applications share the identical uncooked switch velocity when both sending or receiving knowledge. Nonetheless, beginning that switch is a unique story.

SCP is commonly sooner at reaching the utmost uncooked switch velocity of a connection whereas SFTP lags behind because it tries to “spool up” its velocity. Additional, beginning an SFTP switch additionally requires you to enter a immediate and use FTP instructions to add and obtain information.

Winner: SCP


Each SCP and SFTP depend on the SSH protocol for his or her base transport layer. This enables them to securely switch knowledge by way of a community utilizing military-grade encryption.

Regardless of that, SFTP edges SCP out by offering the -f flag that means that you can instantly write any transferred knowledge to the disk. Not solely that, its command line interface additionally gives numerous utilities that assist you to replace a file’s permission bits.

Winner: SFTP

Tip: Discover ways to additional safe your headless server by putting in two-factor authentication on SSH.

File Dimension

Most trendy variations of each SCP and SFTP in Linux are 64-bit binaries. Which means each utilities can hypothetically assist as much as 16 Exabytes of arbitrary knowledge so long as the underlying filesystem additionally helps it.

That stated, SCP can nonetheless current some issues with giant information particularly when working with older UNIX-like machines. That is largely on account of these methods operating 32-bit variations of SCP which might solely deal with as much as 4 Gigabytes price of information at a time.

Winner: SFTP

Command Traces

SCP is non-interactive and might’t learn command scripts, so every thing needs to be written on the command line. Nonetheless, this additionally permits it to be run as a part of bigger shell scripts which might be useful when automating system administration duties.

SFTP, alternatively, is interactive, so it might probably learn instructions from information. Whereas this may also be helpful for automation, it may be clunkier because it requires a set of instructions which might be completely different from an everyday shell script.

Winner: SCP

Resuming File Transfers

SCP doesn’t assist this operate outright. This makes this system liable to repeating complete transfers on spotty and intermittent connections. In the meantime, SFTP helps it on each the CLI immediate with its -a flag and thru its command line shopper utilizing the reget and reput subcommands.

Winner: SFTP

Which One Ought to You Use for File Switch: SCP or SFTP?

Whereas they’ve their similarities and variations, saying one is healthier than the opposite wouldn’t be honest. Each switch information and have related security measures as they run on SSH. Finally, the utility you select shall be primarily based on what’s finest to your atmosphere’s necessities.

Use SCP For

  • If you wish to switch both a single file or listing between two distant hosts.
  • If you wish to automate transferring knowledge over the community.
  • If you find yourself working with legacy UNIX-like methods with no SFTP assist.

Use SFTP For

  • If you find yourself transferring a number of information throughout a number of directories from a single distant host.
  • If you wish to work together with a distant host’s filesystem with out opening a brand new SSH session.
  • If you desire a dependable file switch program that may work even in intermittent community circumstances.

With that in thoughts, sending knowledge between two methods is simply step one in understanding how computer systems talk over a community. Learn the way your Linux machine is aware of the place to ship its knowledge by going by way of our hands-on DNS decision information utilizing dig.

Picture credit score: Alejandro Escamilla through Unsplash. All alterations and screenshots by Ramces Purple.