The SolarWinds SFTP Server website screenshot

The SFTP/SCP Server from SolarWinds is a secure file transfer system. Although the encryption included in this service could make this utility suitable for file transfers across the internet, SolarWinds views its SFTP/SCP Server as a tool for network administrators rather than end-users. As you will see in this review, if you are performing system updates and configuration backups across Cloud resources, the use of SFTP/SCP Server for internet transactions is perfectly appropriate.

SFTP is the Secure File Transfer Protocol, and SCP is the Secure Copy Protocol. These two transfer methods are both available to you in a lightweight app. SFTP is also known as SSH FTP because the security for this protocol is derived from SSH, which stands for “Secure Shell.” SCP is also made secure by SSH, but it is usually associated with Unix operating systems.

According to SolarWinds, the main purpose of this application is to provide a mechanism to archive configuration files for routers and switches. It is also intended as a medium for the distribution of firmware updates and patches to routing equipment. Both of these applications use TCP to manage connections. The default port for SFTP and SCP is 22. However, you can change the port used for your network file transfers in the settings of the SFTP/SCP Server interface.

How much does it cost?

The SolarWinds SFTP/SCP Server is free of charge.


SolarWinds Free SFTP/SCP Server Download FREE Edition at

What are the SFTP/SCP Server features?

The interface of the application is not very sophisticated. SolarWinds intends for this application to be used by systems administrators rather than network users. The main features of the SolarWinds SFTP/SCP Server include the following:

1. Efficient processing

The simplicity of the user interface for the server software is part of the general design of the application, reducing the amount of resources needed by the program. As this is an administrative tool rather than an end-user application, it shouldn’t hog the network, processing power, or disk space. The service of this utility is limited to managing the transfer of files of up to 4 GB in size. Although this limit represents a sizable file, the existence of a file transfer size limit shows the application aims to keep bandwidth usage low. SolarWinds stresses that the purpose of this tool is to enable the transfer of configuration files on a network.

The SolarWinds SFTP/SCP Server

2. Protocol options

The SFTP/SCP Server settings give you the option to use the utility with SFTP, SCP, or both protocols. You also get to choose which version of SSH the system should use with SSH1 and SSH2 as your available options. Transfers all employ TCP for session establishment, running to port 22 by default, but you can change the port number. You would use SCP for straightforward file transfers and opt for SFTP when you also need to create directories on remote devices or move files around on them.

SFTP Server TCP settings

3. Application restrictions

You can limit user actions with the SFTP/SCP server. These options close off certain commands, which include the ability to query the file directory, delete a directory, create a directory, delete files, and rename files. You can limit the operations of the server to just file downloads, just uploads, or transfers in both directions. New copies of existing files on the disk can be forced to generate a new file, rather than overwriting the existing file. You can make the file server available to all nodes on the network or just those IP addresses entered into the settings of the SFTP/SCP interface.  The restriction to SCP would limit the damage that less experienced or new team members could cause on your network devices.

SFTP/SCP Server settings

4. User authentication

The inclusion of SSH security enables the SFTP/SCP server to enforce user authentication. You can set up user accounts in the server’s interface settings pages. You need to allocate a password to each of these user accounts. User accounts enable you to identify which user performed which actions and enhance your audit trail.

SFTP Server user settings

What about TFTP?

When you review the SolarWinds website, you may notice that the company also offers a free TFTP Server. This product is also billed by SolarWinds as a method for backing up and installing configuration files. So why does the company offer two free tools that essentially perform the same task?

TFTP is the Trivial File Transfer Protocol. It is a very lightweight system that needs little processing power and creates very little overhead during file transfers. However, that lightness is achieved at a cost. TFTP does not include any user authentication procedures and has no encryption at all. This presents a problem for security because wire tappers could reap device configuration data as it passes along the network in plain text when transported by TFTP.

You should only risk using TFTP on secure private networks. The convention of using TFTP for network administration tasks is predicated on the assumption that the network is kept secure by other means. Nowadays, when telecommuting, distributed WANs and Cloud services are commonplace, maintaining system files involves transmissions over the internet. You should never use TFTP over the internet. Instead, you would use the SolarWinds SFTP/SCP Server.

Although the SFTP/SCP Server is a great tool for transferring files, it has no management features and so it won’t help you keep track of configuration image versions and it can’t track supplier databases for patch and update availability. With the SFTP/SCP Server, you get a secure way to transfer files, not a configuration management tool.

What are the system requirements?

The SolarWinds SFTP/SCP Server program is only available for the Windows operating system.

What about large networks?

Companies with networks that are anything other than very small would be advised to opt for a more comprehensive configuration system. In such a case, the SolarWinds Configuration Manager would be a much better option.

SolarWinds Network Configuration Manager (FREE TRIAL)

SolarWinds Network Configuration Manager

The SolarWinds Network Configuration Manager has a more comprehensive list of features that would give larger companies better service for device configuration monitoring. These attributes extend to security procedures that guard against unexpected changes to device settings. Once a hacker gets onto your network, access to the configurations of the network devices such as switches and routers is often the first goal. The opportunity to set DNS references and proxy server right inside the network’s managing devices is too tempting for intruders to resist, so locking down those configurations is important.

You can push device OS and firmware updates and also back up device configurations with the SFTP/SCP Server. However, there are more device configuration controls that you need in order to be completely secure. The Network Configuration Manager gives you configuration template and script management for your network devices, change management, auditing, and account tracking to support IT management team collaboration and task delegation.

The full configuration management tool gives you data security compliance that will help you fend off legal action and support facility management contract bidding. You can evaluate it on a 30-day free trial.

SolarWinds Network Configuration Manager Download 30-day FREE Trial

SFTP/SCP Server review

The bare user interface for this utility shows it probably wouldn’t be a good tool to hand over to network users. This is only intended for use by system administrators on small networks. The purpose of the SolarWinds SFTP/SCP Server is to provide a secure method to backup configuration files for network equipment and to send out firmware updates to the same equipment.

Despite the limited scope intended by SolarWinds, SFTP/SCP Server’s security could allow individuals to set up a private cloud server. The SSH protection of the utility would make it suitable for file transfers across the internet.

Companies with networks that are anything other than very small would be advised to opt for a more comprehensive configuration system. In such a case, the SolarWinds Configuration Manager would be a much better option.

SolarWinds SFTP/SCP Server FAQs

How can I automate my file backups with a SFTP/SCP Server?

There are a number of ways to automate file backups with an SFTP/SCP server, most of these hang off the scheduling service in your operating system. For example, in Windows, you would do this with Task Scheduler, and with Linux or Unix, you would do this with Cron. There are SFTP/SCP server utilities available that integrate scheduling and automation facilities.

How do I speed up an SFTP transfer?

SFTP can be a little slow because it is a connection-oriented protocol that requires an ACK for each packet before sending the next. It also takes time to encrypt each packet. Another reason is the maximum packet length for the protocol is 32768 bytes and smaller packets require more transactions to send a file. There isn’t much you can do within an SFTP utility to speed up a transfer because you can’t get around these three slowing factors.

How can I use SolarWinds SFTP server for testing purposes?

The graphical user interface of SolarWinds SFTP is incredibly easy to use, which makes it a good tool for testing more obscure SFTP systems to ensure that you have your client configured correctly. Some applications have integrated SFTP systems that you can’t replace. If you can’t get file transfers running, it is difficult to work out whether the problem is with the client or the server. In this instance, just set up your connection in the SolarWinds tool to test a connection through to the client. If that works, you know your problem is with your integrated server and not the settings of your SFTP client.

How do I fix authentication issues with SolarWinds SFTP server?

There are many possible causes of authentication issues with any networked tool. The best way to find a solution to authentication problems in SolarWinds SFTP is to make a note of the error message that is reported on the failed connection and then post it to the SolarWinds user community to ask for advice. This system is called Thwack.

Related post: The Best free SFTP and FTPS serves for Windows & Linux