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SFTP Commands: Your Ultimate Guide to Secure File Transfers

Ready to secure your file transfers with SFTP? SFTP commands not only offer a more secure way to transfer files but also simplify file management tasks. In this comprehensive guide, we aim to make you an SFTP command expert, covering everything from establishing secure connections to managing file permissions and troubleshooting common issues.

Key Takeaways

  • Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) is a secure method of transferring files between two systems.
  • Establishing an SFTP connection requires appropriate software, authentication with SSH keys and entering the username & remote hostname/IP address.
  • Essential commands for navigating and managing local & remote directories include ‘cd’, ‘lcd’, ‘ls’ & more. File transfers are done using ‘put’, ‘mput’, ‘get’ or ‘mget’.
  • Understanding SFTP: The Basics

    Illustration of secure file transfer protocol SFTP, or Secure File Transfer Protocol, is an encryption-based protocol that safeguards data during transfer, providing a more secure option compared to traditional FTP. Also known as SSH File Transfer Protocol, SFTP reduces the necessity for file transfers, as it can serve as the primary file server for your business while allowing for secure file distribution through access links. The command-line utility SFTP is employed for navigating and managing remote working directories. This post covers various commands that are part of the SFTP help command, which facilitates a secure connection with a remote server.

    Establishing an SFTP Connection

    To establish an SFTP connection, you’ll need appropriate software on both communicating devices: an SFTP server utility on one end and a client at the other. The SFTP connection is authenticated and established using SSH protocol as a default setting. It is a secure and reliable method of data transfer. Enter the username and remote hostname or IP address at the command prompt to initiate an SFTP session. This will allow you to securely transfer data between two computers. Upon successful connection, you’ll be presented with an SFTP prompt. Proper authentication is key when establishing an SFTP connection. Most commonly, SSH keys are used for authentication, ensuring a secure connection between your local machine and the remote server. Be sure to create and manage your SSH keys to maintain a secure connection.

    Mastering SFTP Commands: File Navigation and Management

    This section covers essential SFTP commands for navigating and managing files and directories on both local and remote systems. Some basic SFTP commands for navigation and file/directory management include:
  • cd and lcd for remote and local systems, respectively
  • ls and lls for listing files and directories
  • mkdir, rmdir, lmkdir, and lrmdir for creating and deleting directories
  • These commands often require specifying a remote file path. To transition from a remote working directory to a local working directory, you can use the ‘lcd’ command in conjunction with the local directory path and the ‘cd’ command in conjunction with the remote directory path. After managing remote files and transitioning to the local shell, simply type the ‘exit’ command to exit the SFTP shell.

    Navigating Directories

    Navigating directories in SFTP is simple with the ‘cd’ and ‘lcd’ commands. The ‘cd’ command is utilized to change the directory on the remote server. To use the ‘cd’ command, enter ‘cd [directory path]’ to change the current remote directory on the SFTP server. For example, ‘cd /path/to/directory’ will move to the specified directory. On the other hand, the ‘lcd’ command serves to modify the local working directory for all sessions, allowing you to navigate and transition between directories on your local machine while using SFTP. To use the ‘lcd’ command, enter ‘lcd [directory path]’, such as ‘lcd /path/to/directory’, to change the current directory on your local machine.

    Listing Files and Directories

    When it comes to listing files and directories, SFTP has you covered with the ‘ls’ and ‘lls’ commands. The ‘ls’ command in SFTP displays the contents of the current directory on the remote server. To list files and directories in a remote system, connect to the remote system using SFTP and execute the ‘ls’ command to display the files and directories present in the current working directory. Conversely, the ‘lls’ command in SFTP displays the contents of the present directory on the local computer. To list files and directories in your local system, simply execute the ‘lls’ command. This command will display the contents of your current local directory.

    Creating and Deleting Directories

    Creating and deleting directories is a breeze with the following commands:
  • mkdir: creates a directory on the remote server
  • rmdir: removes a directory located at the specified path on the remote server
  • lmkdir: creates a directory on the local machine
  • lrmdir: removes a directory located at the specified path on the local machine
  • The syntax for creating a directory using the mkdir command is mkdir [path], where [path] is the desired location for the new directory on the remote server. To remove a directory, the ‘rmdir’ command can be used, provided that the directory is empty. The ‘lmkdir’ command, on the other hand, can be used to create a directory on the remote server if it does not already exist.

    Transferring Files with SFTP

    Illustration of transferring files with SFTP This section outlines the process of transferring files using SFTP, which involves uploading files to remote servers and downloading files from them. To transfer files with SFTP, you can use commands such as ‘put’ and ‘mput’ for uploading files and ‘get’ and ‘mget’ for downloading files.

    Uploading Files to Remote Servers

    Uploading files to remote servers is easy with the ‘put’ and ‘mput’ commands in SFTP. The ‘put’ command uploads a single file, while the ‘mput’ command uploads multiple files simultaneously. The syntax for the ‘put’ command is ‘put [local-file] [remote-path]’, such as ‘put file.txt /home/user/file.txt’. The ‘mput’ command allows you to transfer multiple files from your local system to a remote server, providing a convenient way to upload multiple files at once and save time. There are no restrictions on the types and sizes of files that can be uploaded using the ‘put’ and ‘mput’ commands, meaning you can upload any type of file regardless of size.

    Downloading Files from Remote Servers

    Downloading files from remote servers is a breeze with the ‘get’ and ‘mget’ commands in SFTP. These commands allow you to download single and multiple files, respectively, from remote servers. To download a file from a remote server to your local system, use the ‘get’ command in the SFTP prompt after navigating to the local directory containing the file. For downloading multiple files, the ‘mget’ command comes in handy. This command allows you to specify a glob pattern for the source files, such as ‘mget *.txt’ to download all text files from the remote server.

    Advanced SFTP Commands: File Permissions

    This section highlights advanced SFTP commands for managing file permissions, namely ‘chmod’. These commands allow you to maintain the security and integrity of your files while using SFTP.

    Changing File Permissions

    Knowing how to change file permissions using the ‘chmod’ command is key to maintaining proper file security in SFTP. The ‘chmod’ command allows you to modify the permissions of a file or directory, granting read (r), write (w), and execute (x) permissions. File permissions in SFTP are represented in octal format, with read (r) having a value of 4, write (w) having a value of 2, and execute (x) having a value of 1. To interpret the numerical values, simply add up the values for each permission. For example, a permission value of 644 indicates that the owner has read and write permissions (6), the group has read permission (4), and others have read permission (4). Correct file permissions help maintain the security and integrity of SFTP operations.

    Troubleshooting Common SFTP Issues

    Common SFTP issues include connection problems, file transfer errors, and difficulties with command usage. Typical errors encountered during SFTP file transfer include “File not found,” “Disconnected; protocol error,” “Error messages during CSV upload,” and “Failed file transfers”. When using SFTP commands, you may encounter issues such as:
  • The ‘mget’ command not functioning correctly
  • Difficulty determining if uploads were successful or unsuccessful in scripted SFTP sessions
  • Limitations and known issues with SFTP support for Azure Blob Storage
  • SFTP aborting if certain commands fail
  • Difficulties with the SSH server establishing communication with an SFTP server
  • Keep these potential issues in mind and be prepared to troubleshoot as needed to ensure a smooth SFTP experience.


    In this comprehensive guide, we’ve covered everything from understanding SFTP basics to mastering file navigation and management, transferring files securely, managing file permissions and ownership, and troubleshooting common SFTP issues. Equipped with this knowledge, you’re now well-prepared to harness the power of SFTP commands and secure your file transfers, ensuring the safety and integrity of your data.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What is the command for SFTP list?

    The command for SFTP list is "ls", which can be used while in the SFTP environment to list files.

    How does SFTP work for dummies?

    SFTP works by authenticating the client using an SSH key pair, which consists of a public and private key. It then uses secure shell encryption to securely send and receive file transfers. AES and other algorithms are also used to ensure data remains secure during the transfer.

    What is the command to check the directory in SFTP?

    The command to check the directory in SFTP is 'lpwd' for the local directory and 'pwd' for the remote directory.

    What is the difference between FTP and SFTP?

    SFTP provides an enhanced level of security compared to FTP as it uses encryption to protect data during transfer.

    How do I establish an SFTP connection?

    To establish an SFTP connection, use the SSH protocol for authentication and enter the username and remote hostname or IP address at the command prompt. Ensure both communicating devices have appropriate SFTP software installed.