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For organizations across industries, secure, accurate data exchange is of the utmost importance. Healthcare companies, for example, have to comply with HIPAA regulations and must pay close attention to their file sharing processes. Financial companies sending financial or client information to trading partners are more incentivized to focus on security or face fines for infractions.

Advanced security methods like managed file transfer and secure shell are used for secure network connections and data transfer, but MFT and SSH are different in their design.

Both play a key role in handling each file transfer workflow, but it’s important to first understand how MFT and SSH work and how they are best implemented.

What is secure shell (SSH)? 

SSH stands for secure shell and refers to a network protocol that provides secure remote access and communication over unsecured networks. SSH enables encrypted communications between a client and a server so users can securely manage and access network systems and devices remotely. 

When using SSH file transfer protocol, public key cryptography is used for remote system authentication to establish a secure connection. SSH ships by default with every Unix, Linux, and Mac server.

SSH tunneling can be used to open a secure tunnel between local and remote hosts. Because SSH tunnels can penetrate an enterprise firewall undetected, they can be both powerful and risky. 

SSH Encryption Algorithms 

There are several encryption algorithms supported by SSH that protect the integrity and security of file sharing.  Some of the most used SSH algorithms include: 

  • Hash functions 
  • Diffie-Hellman key exchange 
  • Public key encryption
  • Symmetric key encryption algorithm
  • Asymmetric key encryption algorithm

Hash functions used to ensure message integrity and key authentication include SHA-1, SHA-2, and MD5. The Diffie-Hellman SSH algorithm is used to establish a shared secret SSH key.

Symmetric key encryption algorithms supported by SSH include AES, 3DES, Blowfish, and Twofish. The asymmetric key encryption algorithms include RSA and DSA, which are used for SSH key exchange and authentication. Another public key algorithm is Elliptic Curve Cryptography, but it offers better security and performance than RSA or DSA.

What is MFT? 

MFT stands for managed file transfer: a secure file transfer process for data exchange between multiple systems. Companies use the MFT protocol to transfer large amounts of sensitive data because this process guarantees delivery and enhanced security. Managed file transfer also offers auditing and automation capabilities.

MFT Protocols 

Managed file transfer supports various protocols for secure data exchange: 

  • FTP
  • SFTP
  • FTPS
  • AS2
  • OFTP
  • MQ
  • REST

File transfer protocol (FTP) is a standard protocol for online file sharing, and secure file transfer protocol (SFTP) is a more secure version of FTP that uses SSH for authentication. 

FTPS refers to FTP of SSL or TLS, and is also a more secure FTP protocol. FTPS uses SSL or TLS encryption for secure data transfer. HTTPS also uses SSL or TLS to provide secure communication. 

Understanding the Differences between MFT vs SSH

While both secure protocols, SSH and MFT were designed for different use cases. Managed file transfer is an advanced tool specifically for file transfer management and security, while SSH is used primarily for secure communication between two machines.

SSH is a secure file transfer protocol that enables remote access to a computer’s system through the command line, and supports various encryption algorithms like 3DES and AES. SSH can also be used for ad hoc file sharing, to provide safe authentication, and tunneling applications.

Managed file transfer is more robust in terms of data transfer functionality. It provides centralized management of file sharing activities between a client and MFT server, and supports multiple file sharing protocols: FTP, SFTP, HTTPS, and AS2. 

Using Managed File Transfer Solutions

MFT solutions can be used to optimize file sharing workflows and streamline operations. Teams can manage critical and sensitive data transfers internally and externally with ease using Redwood’s managed file transfer automation.

This managed file transfer solution enables reliable and high-volume data exchange through automated file sharing workflows, and allows teams to track and log all data transfer activity. Guaranteed delivery is made possible with automatic resume or retry if file sharing fails because of network issues or timeouts.

Automation functionality enables accelerated delivery across enterprises. Redwood’s MFT solution allows teams the ability to create, import, and export SSH keys and SSL certificates and assign SSH private keys to users. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is MFT and FTP the same?

MFT and FTP are different file transfer protocols. FTP is a simple file transfer protocol that uses two channels, one for control information and another for data transfer. FTP is not secure and lacks functionality for managing file transfer workflows or tracking file transfer activity.

MFT is a more advanced solution with features like automation, workflow orchestration, and more. FTP is used for file sharing between an FTP client and FTP server.

Learn how you can implement managed file transfer automation with Redwood.

Is MFT the same as SFTP?

MFT and SFTP are both secure file transfer protocols, but they are not the same. MFT is a more comprehensive file transfer solution that incorporates automation, management functionality, advanced security features, and supports a range of file transfer protocols.

SFTP is a subsystem of the SSH protocol and offers encryption and authentication. SFTP is used for file sharing between an SFTP client and SFTP server.

See how to improve security management and establish automated processes with Redwood.

What is the difference between SSH and SFTP?

SSH and SFTP are related secure file transfer protocols but differ in a few ways.

SSH, or secure shell, provides a secure, encrypted connection between the client and the server while keeping any transmitted data confidential. SSH is commonly used for remote command line access, but it can also be used for secure file transfer.

SFTP, or secure file transfer protocol, is specifically designed for secure file transfer. It uses the SSH protocol as its underlying transport mechanism, but adds its own set of commands and features specifically for file transfer. SFTP provides a more secure and efficient way to transfer files between computers when compared to other file transfer protocols like FTP or SCP.

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