Hypertext transfer protocol, or HTTP, and file transfer protocol secure (or file transfer protocol SSL), known as FTPS, are two of the most common paths for secure file transfer over the web. They were both developed in the later 1990s, and both protocols use similar encryption over SSL. While most secure transfer solutions, such as Cerberus FTP Server’s Enterprise edition, support either protocol, FTPS and HTTPS both have different use cases. Today, we’re going to explore when to use FTPS compared to HTTPS for specific file transfer scenarios.


Where Does the “S” Come from in HTTPS and FTPS?


The S in both FTPS and HTTPS comes from these protocols’ use of SSL/TLS encryption to secure data connections. The two methods have slight differences in how they enable this encryption, which we’ll review below.


When Should You Use HTTPS Instead of FTPS?


Using an HTTPS Web Client is ideal for many of the most common communications scenarios that occur between a server and client. Beyond the casual web browsing we’re all familiar with, these use cases may include:

  • Serving lighter-weight content that does not require significant bandwidth
  • Manual file actions, such as the upload or deletion of a single file
  • Supporting a diverse range of devices and operating systems
  • Allowing less technical users to manipulate controls and data
  • Displaying trust to users by providing publicly available certificates


What are Some Ideal Use Cases for HTTPS?


HTTPS offers a distinct set of advantages, primarily tailored for user-centric interactions with web servers. HTTPS web clients are usually turnkey solutions that eliminate the need for complex installations, offering a user-friendly and intuitive interface for individuals to securely upload and download files from a server. This simplicity and ease of use make HTTPS web clients particularly suitable for scenarios involving human end users rather than automated processes or system accounts. As an example, various online file sharing platforms, e-commerce websites, and cloud storage services prominently employ HTTPS to establish a secure and seamless data interchange framework between users and their servers. The added layer of security provided by HTTPS, achieved through SSL/TLS encryption, ensures that sensitive information, such as personal credentials or financial data, remains protected during transmission, instilling confidence among users engaging in online transactions or data sharing activities. Thus, HTTPS shines as the preferred choice when user experience, accessibility, and security are paramount concerns.


When Should You Use FTPS Instead of HTTPS?


Using FTPS file transfer is a better solution for situations that go beyond browser-based manual actions, due to FTPS’s ability to transfer multiple files and high data volumes very quickly. These scenarios include:

  • Transferring data and files at regular intervals
  • Sending large files
  • Manipulating directories and other more extensive file operations
  • Transferring data as quickly as possible
  • Eliminating manual sharing and transfer tasks.


What are Some Ideal Uses Cases for FTPS?


FTPS is best suited for scenarios requiring the reliable and secure exchange of data, primarily catering to power users and automated systems. Its core strength lies in its ability to facilitate rapid and efficient data transfers between systems, making it indispensable for use cases with extensive data volumes. One prominent application of FTPS is in phone and data backup systems, where automated processes need to systematically back up a diverse range of files, including multimedia content, contacts, and app data. FTPS ensures the integrity and confidentiality of this data during transit, safeguarding it from unauthorized access or tampering. Additionally, FTPS is instrumental in handling large, automated batch file transfers that occur regularly in various industries, such as finance and healthcare, where bulk data processing and exchange are routine operations. Its robust security features, including encryption and strong authentication mechanisms, make it a reliable choice in scenarios where data security and integrity are required.


Want to try HTTPS and FTPS for free? Download a free trial of Cerberus FTP Server here.