As the digital universe grows, transferring files securely becomes increasingly important. Two commonly used protocols are Secure Copy Protocol (SCP) and Secure Shell File Transfer Protocol (SFTP). Both leverage SSH (Secure Shell) to provide secure file transfer, but which one is superior? This in-depth guide will cover the SCP vs SFTP debate, focusing on their speed, functionality, security, and the protocols’ appropriateness for different environments and needs.


What is SCP?

SCP, short for Secure Copy Protocol, is a reliable network protocol based on the BSD RCP (Remote Copy Protocol) and the SSH (Secure Shell or Secure Socket Shell) protocol. Its principal function is to provide secure file transfers between different hosts on a network. Along with file transfer, SCP ensures that the file’s access permissions and timestamps are preserved, making it a suitable option for data transfer when these attributes matter.


What is SFTP?

SFTP, or Secure File Transfer Protocol, also operates over SSH. But, unlike SCP, it’s not just for file transfer—it’s more of a full-fledged remote file management protocol. SFTP allows you to perform various operations on remote files, like viewing directories, deleting files, and more.

Now, let’s dive deeper into the SCP vs SFTP comparison.



SCP vs SFTP: Speed, Security, and Functionality


In terms of speed, SCP generally outperforms SFTP, especially on high-latency networks. SCP utilizes a more efficient transfer algorithm that doesn’t have to wait for packet acknowledgment, unlike SFTP. Hence, SCP takes the cake when the concern is primarily about transfer speed.

Protocol of choice for speed: SCP



Regarding security, both SCP and SFTP stand on equal ground. They leverage SSH for providing features like password and data encryption, and public-key authentication, ensuring high data transfer security.

Protocol of choice for security: Either SCP or SFTP



SCP’s functionality is somewhat limited, it’s excellent for securely copying files but not much beyond that. On the contrary, SFTP, a full-featured file transfer protocol, allows you to manage files remotely. You can search directories, organize files, and even pause and resume data transfers—an invaluable feature in environments with intermittent connectivity.

Protocol of choice for functionality: SFTP


File Size

Neither SCP nor SFTP has file size restrictions. However, SCP’s superior speed can be beneficial when transferring large files.

Protocol of choice for large files: Depends on your needs




Regarding SCP versus SFTP, the “better” protocol largely depends on your specific requirements.

SCP may be the best choice if your primary need is to copy files quickly and securely. But if you require a more robust file management system, SFTP is your best choice. An intelligent FTPS server like Cerberus FTP allows you to implement both protocols, offering the most flexible solution for your file transfer needs. Start a 25-day free trial of Cerberus FTP.

JSCAPE’s Comparison

If you’re looking for a more detailed comparison of SCP vs SFTP, including how they perform regarding speed, security, and functionality, explore our comprehensive guide on the JSCAPE blog. As part of the Redwood Software family, JSCAPE offers tailored MFT (Managed File Transfer) solutions to maximize your data transfer security and efficiency. Dive into our SCP vs. SFTP – 5 Key Comparisons article and discover more about JSCAPE’s Managed File Transfer Solutions for the enterprise. 



Now let’s answer some commonly asked questions about SCP and SFTP.


1. Which is better: SFTP or SCP?

Since both protocols have different features, it depends on your specific needs. For speedy transfers, SCP is usually the better choice. However, for robust file management and functionality, SFTP takes the lead. Remember, an intelligent FTPS server can implement both, providing the best of both worlds.

Find out more about securing an FTP or SFTP server here.


2. Is SCP more secure than SFTP?

In terms of security, both SCP and SFTP provide the same level of security as they operate over SSH, ensuring robust data and password encryption.

Learn more about how secure is FTP and how to mitigate risks here.


3. What is the difference between FTP, SFTP, and SCP?

The largest difference is SFTP and SCP are secure methods to transfer files. FTP (File Transfer Protocol) is a traditional file transfer method, it lacks security features. However, SFTP and SCP offer secure file transfers thanks to their basis in SSH. SCP focuses on efficient file copying, while SFTP provides broader file management capabilities.

Get to know more about FTP or FTPS ports here.


Now that you know more about SCP vs SFTP, why not test them? Try Cerberus FTP Server’s 25-day risk-free trial and experience the differences for yourself. Download Now!