March 14, 2018

    FTP Servers vs File Services: What are the Biggest Differences?

    Are you in the market for a new file storage server? If so, you’ve probably heard the terms “FTP server” and “file server” tossed around. These two solutions are similar, and many people make the mistake of using the terms interchangeably. But, FTP servers and file servers have some distinct variations that could mean one is right for your business and the other isn’t.

    Before you are able to choose the right server for your needs, it’s crucial that you understand exactly what FTP servers and file servers are. Then, you need to know more about their similarities and differences. Once you have all the facts, you’re equipped to choose the best server for your business’ needs.

    Defining FTP Servers and File Servers

    You probably know a little bit about each of these terms, but to ensure you choose the right solution, you need to know exactly what FTP servers and file servers are.

    FTP, or file transfer protocol, has been around since the 1990’s. It’s a way to transfer files to any computer in the world that is connected to the internet, which is a Wide Area Network (WAN). File servers, in contrast, are only accessible within a business’ internal network, part of a Local Area Network (LAN). To put it simply, WANs are public; LANs, are closed. They essentially act as a shared hard drive for businesses.

    FTP servers run as an FTP application, making them accessible by users anywhere around the world. And data is stored at a remote location managed by the host. You can choose a hosted FTP server, so your business doesn’t have to worry about housing, buying, or maintaining your own hardware. You simply access the server using the internet, and the host does the rest.

    Now that you know a little bit more about FTP servers and file servers, let’s explore where these two solutions overlap and how they differ.


    How FTP Servers are Similar to File Servers

    FTP servers and file servers do perform many of the same functions, which can cause a little confusion between the two. As you’re searching for the right solution, it’s important to note that both of these servers overlap in some pretty important ways. There are two main functions that both of these solutions perform – file storage and file sharing.

    Businesses need a central location to store files, and both FTP servers and file servers meet this need. File servers essentially act as a local shared hard drive for offices, and they’re only accessible within the business’ internal network. With FTP servers on the other hand, you store files on a remote server, uploaded via the internet. While both solutions can store large quantities of data, you should note that with a file server, you have to pay for hardware to support large amounts of data storage.

    The other way these two solutions are similar is in file sharing. With both solutions, you can share files with or transfer files to other parties. With a FTP server, you share files using an internet connection. File servers on the other hand only need to be connected to the server itself to access a file someone has shared with you.

    How FTP Servers Differ from File Servers

    Although both FTP servers and file servers perform the basic functions of storing and sharing data, they have key differences, too.

    The first key difference is accessibility. If your company uses an FTP server, you can access files from anywhere in the world, as long as you’re connected to the internet. A file server, in contrast, is a local server, making it only accessible within your business’ internal network. This severely limits a company’s ability to allow remote work if essential data is only accessible in the office.

    Another area of difference is the security requirements for both FTP servers and file servers. FTP servers need multiple layers of security and encryption, like FTPS, to keep data safe. This is because files are shared over and thus exposed to the internet. File servers still need security measures but there are different considerations for how to keep data safe.

    The security benefit of choosing a hosted FTP solution is that your host is responsible for keeping data secure. That means you have FTP experts managing your solution and implementing the strongest security measures.

    File recovery is another area where these two solutions differ. With an FTP server, everything is stored on the cloud, so any files that are lost due to user error or a disaster, like a power outage, are simple to recover. With a file server, you’re limited when it comes to file recovery. Because data is stored on the server, if something happens to the server, your files could be lost forever.

    Overall, with a FTP server, profitability is a big perk. In addition to enabling remote work capabilities, these solutions also facilitate large data transfers, making them perfect for companies that store a large amount of data.

    Which Option is Right for Your Business?

    Which of these solutions better suits your business’ needs? There are a number of factors to take into consideration before you take the leap and invest in a new server.

    If you want a solution that will allow you to share files easily and securely with external parties, such as customers or suppliers, an FTP server is ideal for you. Or, if you’re looking for a closed solution that’s only accessible to internal workers as part of a LAN or remote workers over a VPN, file servers are adequate for your needs. If your business requires a solution that combines remote worker access with external file sharing, while offering enhanced security and file recovery capabilities, an FTP server is the best option.

    To make the decision process a little bit easier, you should research FTP hosts who provide and maintain FTP servers for businesses. Talk to top FTP providers about the benefits this type of solution could provide, or if a tradition file server is better suited to your business needs.

    Consider both solutions carefully before making your decision. Evaluate your needs and determine which server is best aligned with your processes. Now that you know more about the differences between FTP servers and file server, you’re better equipped to make the right choice.

    Do you want to learn about the differences between file sharing solutions? Download this free comparison guide for more information.

    Tag(s): FTP

    Martin Horan

    Founder of Sharetru (Formerly FTP Today) and a respected voice in secure file transfer and Internet protocols. A software and IT geek since a young age, Martin has successfully led his companies through the digital age by spotting market niches and filling them with quality IT services.

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