What are Secure Shell Access and Secure File Transfer Protocol?

What are Secure Shell Access and Secure File Transfer Protocol?

Liam Firth

Most people will opt to use File Transfer Protocol (FTP) to shuttle data between different computers and servers.  However, while your current security provisions may stretch to your live site, the data travelling via File Transfer Protocol will likely be vulnerable.

To help enhance security levels, it is advisable that you use both Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) and Secure Shell Access (SSH) in combination.  This will help to ensure that your data remains safe and secure at all times and that prying eyes will not be able to access any sensitive information.  Also, implementing SSH and SFTP is actually fairly simple.

In this post, we’ll be discussing both security solutions and why they are necessary.

What is FTP and SFTP?

In order to understand SFTP, we first need to discuss FTP, which is one of the most common ways to access your site’s server.  If you’re unfamiliar with this process, FTP enables you to enter a set of credentials that will enable you to access the different folders and files on your web server.  FTP uses a dedicated client, which means you can use a Graphic User Interface that you are already familiar with, rather than a command line.

FTP is generally one of the quickest ways to tackle any technical administrations that you may have to complete.  Plus, it’s much quicker for your server to deal with these issues, as you won’t be wading through several layers like when you log in to WordPress.

This is one of the main reasons why FTP is now a common solution used by both experts and beginners when it comes to accessing your server.  The major flaw with this solution is that the whole process is not secure, which leave it open to malicious usage.  If you enter SFTP, this will encrypt the connection with Secure Shell Access using only one channel.  This means that both SFTP and SSH will work in tandem to keep your server protected.

Implementing SSH and SFTP on Your Site

Using a dedicated FTP client is one of the easiest and most intuitive ways to connect your computer and server.  One of the stand-out options for this is FileZilla.

FileZilla is open-source and free to use.  It is also continuously updated and maintained.  Plus, this FTP client offers plenty of handy WordPress-specific guides to help you out.

Once you have chosen your preferred FTP client, you will also need to consider whether your host will allow SFTP connection.

Connect to Your Server via SSH

Next up, you will need to locate your user credentials.  If you’re a WP Engine user, you can navigate the User Portal to find your port number and SFTP address.

Once you have your credentials, the final step in this process is to connect to your server.  It’s a good idea to make a backup of your website at this point, just in case anything goes wrong when you are tinkering with the back end of your site.

For WP Engine users, all you need to do is type in your credentials into the relevant FileZilla fields.  If all goes well, you should then be able to connect to your server.

Liam Firth

Author Liam Firth

Liam is a Technical Lead with eight-years’ experience in Magento and WordPress development, as well as engineering AWS and DevOps. He likes sourcing new and shiny tech solutions for real-world problems. He is a Magento Professional Certified Developer.

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