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Problems with FTP (And How to Solve Them)

Two men stand on laptops, using a pulley to transfer files from one to the other, representing the problems with FTP.

Once upon a time computing and FTP were novel ways to share information. The two became intertwined at the birth of computers, when FTP was among the best ways to send data and files across network connections and allowed programmers and sysadmins to simplify their workflows.

FTP quickly became an everyday necessity for file exchange as workplaces started using the Internet, but problems with FTP were revealed in short order: businesses had sensitive data to send and share, and FTP wasn’t cutting it. As soon as businesses jumped online, the culture of data security shifted, and the problems with FTP were revealed.

Common Problems with FTP

While FTP was once the premier file transfer protocol, cybersecurity limitations have relegated it to the bottom of the barrel. Discover some of the top problems with FTP alongside solutions you can use instead.

FTP is Not Secure

FTP is an unsecure way to transfer files for multiple reasons:

  • Lack of encryption and authentication: Data sent via FTP is not encrypted and is instead sent “in the clear.” Anyone with the know-how can intercept and access the files you send via FTP.
  • Risks to your system: Like the data sent via FTP, the credentials you use for your FTP solution are not encrypted, which can put your entire FTP system at risk if they’re exposed.
  • Maintenance and updates: FTP was never meant to be used into the 2020s, and replacement file transfer protocols are here to prove it. Because no new FTP security features are added or updated, your organization can outgrow FTP quickly. If you’re starting to add new solutions to cover functionality that modern solutions inherently include, it may be time to move away from FTP entirely.

The Solution: A Secure File Transfer Method

There are many protocols that grew out of FTP, and nearly all of them are more secure, but five of the top replacement protocols are: SFTP, FTPS, AS2, HTTPS, and SCP. A secure file transfer protocol can help you transfer data within and outside your organization securely.

Dive Deeper: 5 Secure File Transfer Alternatives to FTP


FTP is Unreliable

Developing, maintaining, and troubleshooting scripts can take up time and put the brunt of the burden on certain employees, causing bottlenecks if something needs to change – and they’re not in the office. Many FTP users report problems like connection errors and inconsistent functionality. For example, while FTP is not a new technology, not all clients and servers work the same way. Some get tripped up when events do not follow typical orders, causing files to be lost to the ether – and giving your FTP admins more to worry about.

The Solution: Internal Tracking & Notifications

If troubleshooting and hunting down your lost file transfers is the bane of your existence, a solution that offers file movement tracking and notifications for both failed and successful transfers may be the right fit for you. GoAnywhere MFT, for instance, tracks and stores detailed information about all the goings-on within the software, and also keeps you abreast of all failed transfers. To keep even more off your plate, GoAnywhere MFT will also automatically restart and resume failed transfers, right from where it left off.


FTP Lacks Features

We already know FTP doesn’t include encryption features – meaning that you’d have to employ a third-party solution to encrypt the files you’re sending via FTP – and it’s also missing features that other file transfer protocols include off the bat, such as automation. You could tack on a solution to help automate FTP movements, but that is not recommended.

Related Reading: Replace Your FTP Scripts to Increase Security

The Solution: A File Transfer Method with More than the Basics

Instead of tacking on solution after solution to achieve encryption, automation, and transfers, centralize your workflow. Selecting a solution that does each of these – and more – from one centralized tool saves you the time of logging in, out, and in again, only to lose a connection. Easily streamline day-to-day operations and reduce the time you usually spend checking that each of your tools is working properly.


FTP is Outdated

As one of the original file transfer methods, FTP is rarely a developer’s first choice. For instance, if you wanted to use the cloud, cloud computing platforms, or even integrate with popular web applications, you would have to accept a lot of risk to continue using FTP. While cloud computing platforms like Azure and AWS do offer some security themselves, they shouldn’t take the place of the security practices your organization uses. Because FTP is an outdated protocol that is no longer updated, it cannot grow with your organization as you need more features and more security – which could leave you in a lurch at an inopportune moment.

Related Reading: Why You Should Never Use FTP to Transfer Cloud Files

The Solution: A Modern File Transfer Protocol

Using industry-standard protocols ensures that you can easily connect with today’s popular and emerging tools. FTP is not equipped to handle modern cybersecurity needs, and is often completely incompatible with new technologies. At a minimum, your secure file transfer solution should be encrypted and employ multi-factor authentication.


FTP Does Not Meet Compliance Requirements

If your organization must adhere to any compliance requirements, FTP most likely isn’t up to snuff. Most data security standards require file transfer encryption, monitoring, auditing, reporting, and user permissions and access control. With none of these inherently part of FTP, you’re at risk of both data loss and fines associated with insufficient data protection. Many compliance requirements offer examples of the minimum security standards organizations should employ – and FTP is not one of them.

Solution: Fit Your Solution to Your Compliance Requirements

If your business is in a highly regulated industry, such as healthcare, insurance, banking and finance, putting managed file transfer in place is one of the easiest moves you can make to meet PCI DSS, HIPAA, FISMA, SOX, and the GDPR compliance regulations, among others.

GoAnywhere offers both high security and file activity tracking through detailed audit logs and reports. Using an MFT solution helps organizations of all sizes comply and avoid hefty penalties, fines, and loss of reputation, as well as loss of customer or partner confidence and potentially, loss of business.

Using FTP is Not Worth the Problems

There’s a better way to transfer your data. Learn how to bring your FTP implementation into a more modern, secure framework, and achieve your business’s day-to-day tasks more effectively. Learn how secure your file transfers with our guide, Beyond FTP: Securing and Managing File Transfers.

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