SFTP and SCP are two secure file transfer systems. If you are considering using either for protecting file transfers, you need to know what each system is and which would be better to use.

SFTP is the SSH File Transfer Protocol and it is also known as the Secure File Transfer Protocol. SCP stands for Secure Copy. The security system at the heart of both of these options is called the Secure Shell, or SSH. Given that these two systems use the same security protection, what is the difference between them? But before we answer this question let’s see which are the best SFTP and SCP utilities in the market today.

Secure File Transfer Protocol

The File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is very old, in fact, it pre-dates the Internet. However, this system transfers files in plain text and that lack of security makes it a risky system to use these days. A number of systems were proposed to add security to FTP and SFTP was one of them. However, SFTP isn’t FTP with SSH added on. Rather, it is a separate protocol that was created from scratch.

SFTP was first created in 1997 by SSH Communications Security as a proprietary system. It is now an open standard and has been revamped six times since its inception. Version 6 has actually been incrementally revised eight times.

SFTP relies on SSH to establish a secure connection. The file transfer system works with that encryption in what is termed a “tunnel.” SFTP operates as a command-line utility. Unlike FTP, the SFTP program doesn’t have an interactive mode. Instead, all commands need to be formulated in one line.

Secure Copy

SCP arose from the Unix operating system. In Unix, the command to copy a file from one location to another is cp. So, adding security to that service created the scp command. SCP is based on the BSD Unix Remote Copy Protocol (RCP), which dates back to 1981.

The SCP service uses SSH to provide its security. It is possible to send files to a remote server with the -t switch. This is called “source mode.” In order to fetch a file from the remote computer, the user enters the -f switch, which is called “sink mode.”

Despite being newer in origin than SFTP, SCP is regarded as being out of date. Although SFTP is older, it has been updated frequently, with the latest revision being released in 2006. Although SCP is based on a Unix routine, it is also available in Linux, macOS, and Windows.

The SCP utility is a straightforward one-line command the two parameters needed for a file transfer are the from and to file names. The remote system is indicated by a username and hostname on front of one of the files. The first file name in the command is the source and the second is the destination.

SFTP vs SCP: Similarities

There are many similarities between SFTP and SCP. Both have the following attributes:

  • A command-line utility
  • A one-line command that can be integrated into batch files
  • A Transport Layer protocol
  • Uses TCP port 22
  • Employs SSH for security
  • Available as a command for Unix, macOS, Linux, and Windows

SFTP vs SCP: Differences

There are a few major differences between SFTP and SCP.

  • SFTP requires an acknowledgment for each packet before the next is sent; SCP doesn’t.
  • SFTP can resume file transfers interrupted by a lost connection; SCP can’t.
  • SFTP is able to send directory management commands, such as listing directory contents or deleting files on the remote device; SCP doesn’t.

SFTP vs SCP: Which is better?

The packet confirmation procedures in SFTP imitate those used in FTP. However, FTP uses two channels, one for control messages and one for data. SSH only has one channel and the SFTP system has to work within that constraint. The problem with that configuration is that it waits for an acknowledgment for each packet before sending another. This slows down transmissions in SFTP considerably.

The developers of OpenSSH who produce the most widely-used implementation of SCP published a note in 2019 that stated SCP was out of date and shouldn’t be used anymore. They recommended SFTP and rsync instead.

SCP isn’t able to issue file manipulation or direct commands, However, perhaps as file transfer protocols, users shouldn’t expect remote access facilities from either SCP or SFTP. These are better systems for remote access and, supporters of SCP could argue that the file management commands in SFTP are superfluous.

In conclusion, SCP is faster than SFTP while SFTP has more utilities.

The best SFTP vs SCP utilities

The command-line versions of SFTP and SCP are not your only choice. In fact, most users of these two utilities don’t access them directly. Software producers have created some pretty impressive file transfer systems that, essentially, are GUI front ends to an operating system call of either the sftp or scp command.

Those frontends are able to assemble file transfer actions according to the values that the user enters in various parts of the interface. Many interfaces also introduce innovations, such as drag-and-drop actions that get interpreted into command variables.

The fact that these two commands can each be executed in one line makes them great for integration into workflows. IT automation systems operate in modules, which can assemble together into a batch file that executes down at the operating system. Under that scenario, it doesn’t matter so much that SCP can’t execute remote commands because a linked process can log into that server that received the file and execute commands through some other protocol.

Our methodology for selecting SFTP and SCP tools 

We reviewed the market for secure remote file transfer utilities that use SFTP and SCP and analyzed tools based on the following criteria:

  • Secure, SSH-based file transfer systems
  • The ability to move files between two remote devices
  • Systems that are resident in the cloud as well as on-premises utilities
  • A wide range of functionality from quick, lightweight utilities through to complicated system management automation services
  • Options to run batch files on a remote device
  • A free trial for a cost-free assessment period or a free tool
  • A paid tool that is worth the money or a free tool that is worth using

With these selection criteria in mind, we looked for a varied selection of SSH-based file transfer systems that range from small utilities to full-blown task automation packages.

Here is our list of the best SFTP and SCP utilities:

There really are many great systems that implement SFTP or SCP and a number of packages that offer both. The best ones are listed below.

  1. Serv-U Managed File Transfer Server EDITOR’S CHOICE An on-premises file server system that includes SFTP capabilities and is partnered by an SFTP client. This system also enables automated actions to be triggered by events and it is available for Windows Server and Linux. Access a 14-day free trial.
  2. Files.com (FREE TRIAL) This cloud-based file management platform is able to use SFTP for file transfers and also integrate the protocol into workflows.
  3. ExaVault (FREE TRIAL) This cloud-based hosted FTP service deploys SFTP for uploads to the cloud drive and then allows users to send out links for file access without moving the files any further. Access a 10-day free trial.
  4. SolarWinds Solar-PuTTY (FREE TOOL) This GUI file transfer client is able to manage multiple sessions simultaneously and offers both SCP and SFTP. It runs on Windows.
  5. WinSCP This file transfer client for Windows has an easy-to-use interface that operates both SFTP and SCP.
  6. ActiveBatch An innovative process automation service that includes a file transfer module that can operate SFTP and also FTPS. This is a cloud platform.
  7. FileZilla Pro A free FTP client that implements SFTP and also FTPS. It is available for Windows, macOS, and Linux.

1. Serv-U Managed File Transfer Server (FREE TRIAL)

Serv-U Managed File Transfer Server Dashboard

Serv-U Managed File Transfer Server is an on-premises software package that offers FTPS and SFTP. There is also a free secure FTP client available that partners with the Managed File Transfer Server. However, you can use many other SFTP clients with the Serv-U system.

Key Features:

  • Allows P2P file sharing
  • Send or fetch
  • Data protection standards compliance
  • File transfer security
  • ARM integration

Why do we recommend it?

Serv-U Managed File Transfer Server lets you integrate secure file transfers into scripts. You can create pre- and post-transfer steps to validate data or to add extra reference data to file contents. There are many applications for this system and that can include file backup and file integrity monitoring.

Serv-U includes an administrator console. It is possible to set up user accounts within the environment but Serv-U integrates with Active Directory and LDAP, so it is more usual to link company-wide user accounts to the SFTP system.  Serv-U logs all file actions, recording the user and timestamp for each. This is a necessary feature required for data protection standards, such as PCI DSS, SOX, GDPR, and HIPAA.

Although many of the SFTP servers available today are cloud-based, the on-premises delivery of Serv-U is an advantage because it simplifies the legal accountability of protecting data in transit and on a server. Other benefits of the Serv-U Managed File Transfer Server include the ability to integrate file transfer activity into wider process automation workflows.

Who is it recommended for?

The Serv-U system is a high-end product and it is suitable for use by large businesses. This is more than a secure file transfer system; you can get an SFTP server for free and you don’t need to pay the price of this tool if you just need to move files securely.


  • Runs on your own server
  • Can manage file transfers to multiple sites
  • Will link to batch files that can be triggered by events
  • Combines file transfers with data processing
  • Good for compliance with PCI DSS, HIPAA, FISMA, and SOX


  • No SaaS version

Serv-U Managed File Transfer Server installs on Windows Server and Linux. It is available for a 14-day free trial.


Serv-U Managed File Transfer Server is our top pick for an SFTP or SCP tool because it is easy to manage and you can host it on your own servers. This tool can be used as a straightforward file transfer utility or you can take the service a step further and set it up as a full task automation manager. You don’t get overwhelmed by the automation capabilities of the package if you just want to use it for secure file transfers. This means that the service isn’t too complicated for simple use but, for those who choose to try the extras in this package, it can be a very powerful time saver.

Official Site: https://www.solarwinds.com/serv-u-managed-file-transfer-server/registration

OS: Windows Server

2. Files.com (FREE TRIAL)

Files.com Dashboard

Files.com is a cloud platform that operates as a file management hub. File transfers under this service can be implemented with SFTP, FTPS, and FTPeS. The system is able to work with a long list of FTP clients.

Key Features:

  • Cloud platform
  • Storage space
  • Email attachment management
  • Compliance with HIPAA and PCI DSS

Why do we recommend it?

Files.com is a mediated file transfer system. It provides a number of time-saving secure file sharing options. Upload a file to the Files.com server and then email an invite link for others to access the file where it is or send out multiple files from that platform.

The Standard plan with Files.com includes 1 TB of storage space, the Power plan includes 5 TB of usage and the Premier plan includes 10 TB of data. Users need accounts set up with 2FA for validation. The file storage is central to the Files.com service.

All file transfers pass through the Files.com server, which monitors and logs all actions on files, including SFTP operations. The Files.com system will manage emails, upload attachments to the server, and insert a link in the email.

The storage and secure link system is also used for file distribution. This cuts down on the number of files that need to be transferred to outsiders. The file owner just emails a link to the file and this notification mechanism is also managed by Files.com.

Who is it recommended for?

This is a good choice for businesses that need to send out large files or companies that need to keep tight controls over where copies of their documents go. For example, sales teams can upload media-rich presentations and then embed a link to each file in a sales email.


  • A cloud service that mediates file transfers
  • Upload a file once and then forward it to many locations
  • Secure transfers for large files
  • Captures email attachments and replaces them with an access link


  • Can’t run task automation

The file activity logging service in files.com makes the service suitable for HIPAA or PCI DSS compliance. Files.com is available for a 7-day free trial.

Files.com Access 7-day FREE Trial

3. ExaVault – (FREE TRIAL)

exavault screenshot

ExaVault is a SaaS package that provides an upload mechanism to user storage space on the cloud platform. These transfers are implemented with SFTP and there is a range of mechanisms that can be used to implement them. The first of these is a user commanded transfer through a Web interface to the cloud storage space. Another option is to set up a syncing mechanism on a workstation or cloud account.

Key Features:

  • SFTP for file uploads
  • Access invites for sharing
  • Email attachment management

ExaVault provides stronger control over file distribution because the recipients don’t actually get a copy of the file. Instead, you send an invite to access the file on the ExaVault server. Permissions can be restricted to just viewing and copying can be blocked. They can also be time-limited and revoked.

ExaVault provides an API, which acts as a widget for Web pages. Inserting this into a page can provide a quick download link for a file or you can set up a file upload utility. There is also a list of integrations that enables ExaVault to operate as a file storage space for applications, such as productivity suites.

An integration for email systems scans outgoing emails, removes attachments, stores them on the ExaVault server, and inserts an access link in the email. ExaVault also provides a backup email system on the cloud that can be used as a business continuity service.


  • Individual user accounts for action traceability
  • Control over invitee permissions
  • Collaboration tools for file sharing


  • No self-hosting option

ExaVault is a subscription service and you can access it with a 10-day free trial.

ExaVault.com Access 7-day FREE Trial

4. SolarWinds Solar-PuTTY (FREE TOOL)

SolarWinds Solar-PuTTY

SolarWinds Solar-PuTTY is an easy-to-use terminal emulator system for remote access that has integrated file transfer utilities. The package is able to use the FTP, SCP, and SFTP systems for file transfers. The terminal emulator is secure as well. All of the security services in Solar-PuTTY are protected by SSH.

Key Features:

  • FTP, SFTP, and SCP
  • Secure terminal emulator
  • Stores credentials

Why do we recommend it?

SolarWinds Solar-PuTTY is a client that provides a terminal emulator and a secure file transfer utility. The service includes encrypted connection protection for both functions. The options for a file transfer include SFTP and SCP. You can use this tool to connect to a Serv-U server or any other target.

This is a simple tool for ad-hoc file transfers and remote access. It is a useful utility to have on hand for quick admin tasks to get access to endpoints on a network. This service is quick because it will store credentials for file servers and remote systems. It cuts out a lot of the delay that logging in can cause, so it is handy to have around.

Who is it recommended for?

This free tool is suitable for use by anyone. You set up connection specifications and these appear as buttons in the console. You just need to click on a button to connect to a target. This makes the tool great for technicians who regularly transfer files to a limited number of destinations.


  • A time-saving tool for ad hoc file transfers
  • Self-hosted
  • Good for centralized asset management


  • No SaaS version

SolarWinds Solar-PuTTY is a Free Tool and installs on Windows and Windows Server.

SolarWinds Solar-PuTTY Download 100% FREE Tool

5. WinSCP

WinSCP Dashboard

WinSCP is probably your best bet if you want an SCP client for Windows. This utility has been downloaded 153 million times, so it has been very well tested in the field. Remember, SCP is able to send files and received them, so you can manage all transfers from the client program installed on each endpoint. The only problem with this system is that there is no central control for administrators.

Key Features:

  • Free tool
  • FTP, SFTP, FTPS, SCP, and WebDAV
  • Drag-and-drop

Why do we recommend it?

WinSCP is a free secure file transfer client that runs on Windows. You can store credentials and reopen connections with a click. The interface shows the local and remote file systems, which you can move around. You drag and drop files from one side to the other to create a transfer.

WinSCP is able to use FTP, SFTP, FTPS, and WebDAV to govern transfers as well as SCP. This service is also implemented as a command-line utility that will run calls that are integrated into batch files for process automation.

Who is it recommended for?

This is a very widely-used tool and it is easy to operate. The utility won’t place much load on your computer other than the actual file transfer process. This tool can operate FTPS ads well as FTPS and SCP. It also has capabilities for WebDAV, S3, and FTP transfers.


  • Extensive use means all bugs have been discovered
  • Straightforward ad hoc secure file transfer utility
  • Run from the GUI interface or the command line


  • No task automation functions

WinSCP lacks a lot of coordination and control functions that many corporations need in a file transfer system but it is free to use.

6. ActiveBatch

ActiveBatch Dashboard

ActiveBatch offers a file transfer service that uses SFTP or FTPS. This is a cloud-based file server that can be integrated into an IT automation system and job scheduler. The combination of file transfer management and scheduling makes this a great system for running automated administration tasks.

Key Features:

  • Extensive automation
  • Implements orchestration
  • Compliance with GDPR, HIPAA, PCI Dss, and SOX

Why do we recommend it?

ActiveBatch is a managed file transfer system, similar to Serv-U. This tool is intended to automate tasks by calling an application, processing a file, moving the results to another application, processing it there, and so on. In this scenario, the secure file transfer function seems secondary.

The ActiveBatch service logs all actions, which provides the system auditing functions needed for standards compliance. It is suitable for use by businesses that need to comply with SOX, HIPAA, PCI DSS, or GDPR.

ActiveBatch can interact with applications, such as databases and ERPs. It can also coordinate file transfers with other cloud platforms, such as AWS and Azure.

Who is it recommended for?

This tool is more than a file transfer utility. It lets you set up a process flow and string together incompatible software packages into your own ERP. The tool provides security features to protect data as it passes between software packages. You can use it to run jobs out of office hours.


  • A sophisticated package with capabilities that extend beyond file movements
  • Combines file transfers with batch file execution
  • Process data on-premises and on cloud platforms


  • Too complicated for someone who just wants to transfer files

There is a demo system of ActiveBatch available for free for assessment.

7. FileZilla

FileZilla Dashboard

FileZilla is an on-premises package that is free to use and is very widely used. It offers FTP, SFTP, and FTPS for file transfers. The service can also mount cloud drives through WebDAV. The cloud platforms that FileZilla can interface to include Amazon S3, Backblaze B2, Box, Dropbox, Google Cloud, Google Drive, Azure, OneDrive, SharePoint, and OpenStack Swift.

Key Features:

  • FTP, FTPS, and SFTP
  • Easily interfaces to cloud file services
  • Free to use

Why do we recommend it?

FileZilla offers FTPS as well as SFTP. The interface for this tool is very similar to WinSCP. After connecting to a remote computer, you get a split screen showing both the remote and local file systems. You drag and drop a file from one side to the other to create a transfer.

FileZilla is a useful utility for uploading directories full of files, such as Website files or log files.  It can also interface with content management systems, such as WordPress.

Who is it recommended for?

FileZilla’s exceptional feature is its ability to connect to cloud drives and it also has a service to connect to WordPress. So, this is a good tool for bulk uploading files, such as images up to a WordPress account or for backing up a drive in the cloud.


  • Great for bulk directory transfers
  • Useful for WordPress
  • Mounts cloud drives with WebDAV


  • Doesn’t offer task automation

FileZilla is available for Windows, macOS, and Linux.


Is SFTP the same as SCP?

SFTP and SCP have different origins. SCP is like a Linux command that copies a file from one directory to another only wither of those folders can be on a remote device. SFTP is similar to FTP but it has added security. The security for both SCP and SFTP is provided by Secure Shell (SSH). There are many similarities between the two systems but they are not the same. SFTP has more functionality than SCP.

Why SCP is faster than SFTP?

SCP is faster than SFTP because it includes fewer transmission management features. SFTP expects an acknowledgment for each packet of data that is sent. This doesn’t happen with SCP. That means SFTP has a mechanism to identify lost packets and resend them but SCP does not.

What protocol is SCP?

SCP is a blend of two protocols: Secure Shell (SSH) and the Remote Copy Protocol (RCP). SCP transfers use TCP port 22, which is officially reserved for SSH. So, SCP is dependent on SSH and can be viewed as a service that runs within an SSH tunnel.