Who Needs a TFTP Server?

Trivial File Transfer Protocol (TFTP) is a lightweight communications method perfect for file transport on private networks. SolarWinds has created a file server system based on TFTP called SolarWinds TFTP Server that will enable you to upload and download small files.

The TFTP protocol operates over UDP, meaning it doesn’t have session establishment and the application of encryption would be difficult. This file server system would not be suitable for communications across the internet, so you should limit file sharing to upload and download files to the nodes on your LAN.

The most likely use for this free TFTP server is for the storage of network equipment configuration files and forwarding patches and firmware updates to routers and switches.  In these cases, the tool can transfer files quickly and with little overhead. Once you gather the current configurations of all of your network devices to one central location, you can start your network administration tasks, checking on firmware versions and looking for the latest releases.

Networking equipment usually has a TFTP implementation pre-installed for the purposes of receiving firmware updates. The great thing about protocol implementations is that compatibility is assured. You don’t have to research the TFTP program that your equipment uses because any application that follows the TFTP standard will be able to communicate with and transfer files to any TFTP program written by anyone.

How much does it cost?

SolarWinds TFTP Server is completely free of charge.

MORE INFORMATION ON THE OFFICIAL SOLARWINDS SITE:

www.solarwinds.com/free-tools/free-tftp-server/

SolarWinds Free TFTP ServerDownload FREE Edition at SolarWinds.com

What are the TFTP Server features?

The SolarWinds free TFTP Server is a good tool for the management of device configuration files and the distribution of device upgrade and patch programs. As an administration service, you don’t particularly need a user-friendly interface. The app for the utility is functional and suited more to system administrators than to end users.

The beneficial features of the SolarWinds TFTP Server include the following:

1. Small footprint

The simplicity of the TFTP makes it a very lightweight communications method. Many of the commands of the standard File Transfer Protocol are not available with TFTP. This reduced functionality means any program that implements the protocol can be a lot smaller. The system takes up very little disk space, requires few functions in its user interface, and is very efficient with its use of memory. The files that can be transferred with the SolarWinds TFTP Server cannot be larger than 4 GB. This is another limitation that helps reduce traffic on the network.

TFTP Server

2. Address discovery

The TFTP Server scans the connected network for contactable devices when it starts up. This network discovery feature is a nice utility that you wouldn’t normally expect from a lightweight system admin application.

3. Security restrictions

It is important to remember that the TFTP system does not integrate any encryption at all. However, some service restriction options can help make the system a little more secure. You can restrict the server to only accept files or only send out files, or you can set it to allow both upload and downloads. If you use the service to backup configuration files and settings images, then you will need to set the server to allow both uploads and downloads. If you just want to use it for distributing new firmware versions, then you can restrict the service to only send files and not receive them.

TFTP Server security settings

Another restriction you can place on the TFTP server is to limit its services to a list of IP addresses. As an alternative operating methodology, you can choose to blacklist addresses, in which case all addresses on the network except for those listed in the server settings will be allowed to use the file server.

4. Application integration

The TFTP Server facility can be integrated with other products from SolarWinds. The utility is bundled in with the company’s Engineer’s Toolset package and it can also interact with the Network Performance Monitor.

What are the system requirements?

The SolarWinds TFTP Server can only be installed on the Windows operating system.

Usage Scenario

TFTP’s lack of features is a big advantage in terms of overhead, but other options that give you more functionality are available with little extra processing or traffic creation. The SolarWinds SFTP/SCP Server is a better option, particularly if you centralize the administration of a WAN and need to transfer files across the internet. The SFPT/SCP system uses SSH security, which builds in user authentication and adds encryption to transfers. These two features would make your configuration backups and rollbacks much more secure and use very few extra resources when compared to the TFTP server.

TFTP sends files in plain text, but SFTP and SCP encrypt all data in transit. Neither system includes configuration management or version control features beyond basic activity logging. If your network is very small, you could track firmware versions and device settings manually. However, once your network starts to grow, you will need a proficient configuration controller to make sure you don’t lose track of your configuration responsibilities. For a tool that offers complete visibility of network device configurations, you should look into the SolarWinds Network Configuration Manager.

Summary

The TFTP Server can substitute for a configuration manager. If you have a small network with very few network devices to keep track of this tool will serve you very well. If you want greater automation, you should opt for the SolarWinds Network Configuration Manager instead.

On the other hand, this handy free tool supports the admin file transfer tasks needed to organize a starter network.