When you need to copy files over a network, plenty of different tools and protocols can be used. FTP is likely the best known of these protocols. However, FTP is dated and insecure technology. SFTP and SFTP are more secure and will give you the protection you require. But for the best in both security and speed, SCP is probably the very best technology you can use. There’s only one problem with using SCP. There are far too many products available and picking the best one can quickly turn out to be a daunting task. To assist you in choosing the best SCP server software, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best SCP server software and we’re about to review each one of them.
We’ll begin our discussion today by having a look at SCP. Without going too technical, we’ll do our best to explain what it is, where it’s coming from and how it works. We’ll then briefly discuss the other file transfer technologies that are available. It will help us better compare the different products as some of our best SCP servers also support other protocols. We’ll also talk about how SCP differs from other secure file transfer systems. And finally, we’ll be reviewing some of the very best SCP server software.
SCP In A Nutshell
SCP stands for Secure CoPy. It is, as its name suggests, a way to securely copy files from one computer to another. At its base, SCP is a file copy technology, much like copying a file from one directory to another—using the copy command, for instance. The main difference is that while copy copies a file from one directory to another on a computer, SCP can copy them between different computers. SCP is based on the Berkeley RCP (Remote Copy) command to which it adds a security component which we’ll discuss in a moment. RCP is typically used to copy files over a secure network whereas SCP is used when copying files over insecure networks, such as public networks or the Internet.
SCP can be used to copy files between any two computers as long as both are equipped with the proper software. The computer from where the command is launched runs an SCP client while the computer where the files are copied to or from runs an SCP server. The server vs client distinction has nothing to do with the direction of the transfer. A file can be copied from the client to the server or from the server to the client. In fact, a client could launch a direct transfer between two servers. Some SCP software can perform both the server and the client functions while others are dedicated to one or the other.
A Word About SSH
The security of SCP is achieved by encapsulating the process within a Secure Shell (SSH) session. Secure Shell is a cryptographic network protocol created to operate network services securely over an unsecured network. Its most common application is remote command-line login. SSH is also the name of an application that can be used to remotely connect to a system’s console. SSH can also be used for remote command execution—as is the case with SCP, but any network service can be secured with it.
The security of SSH is achieved through the use of public-key cryptography to authenticate the remote computer. There are a few ways SSH can be used. It can, for instance, use automatically generated public-private key pairs to simply encrypt a network connection, and then use password authentication to log on. This is how SCP uses SSH for encryption. The SSH component is normally transparent to the user of the SCP command who just specifies a source and destination along with login credentials to the destination.
Here’s what a typical use of the SCP command looks like:
Copying file to host:
scp SourceFile user@host:directory/TargetFile
Copying file from host:
scp user@host:directory/SourceFile TargetFile
Other File Transfer Systems
SCP is by no means the only file transfer technology available. For as long as there have been networked computers, there was a need to transfer files between them. Many different protocols were created specifically for that purpose. The best known of them is probably the File Transfer Protocol or FTP. FTP’s most interesting feature is its file browsing ability. After opening an FTP session with a server, you can see a directory listing of the available files. You can also navigate the directory tree of the server and move between directories, much like you do with a local file explorer.
However, FTP is an insecure protocol. When the need arose to copy files over public networks, the FTPS protocol was created. Much like HTTPS encrypts web page data with either SSL or TLS encryption, FTPS does the same thing with FTP traffic, thereby offering a decent level of security.
SFTP is another secure form of FTP. It is, however, very different in the way it operates. While FTPS is simply the FTP protocol using secure packets, SFTP uses the SSH protocol and to encrypt the whole process. An SFTP file transfer is really an SSH connection where instead commands, files are sent.
TFTP, which stands for Trivial File Transfer Protocol is yet another file transfer protocol with little or no security that is almost only used to copy firmware images to various devices.
How Is SCP Different From SFTP?
Since both SCP and SFTP are using SSH to encrypt network traffic, you may be wondering what the difference is between the two. From a security standpoint, both technologies are equivalent as they both encapsulate the session within SSH. The main difference is in the functionality of the two technologies.
SCP is a copy protocol. All it allows is to copy a file (or a directory) from one location to another. Using it implies that you know the file name and path before launching the command. SFTP, on the other hand, is a more complex file transfer system which lets you do more. You can, for instance, browse local and remote directories and create directories and files, both remotely or locally. SFTP really gives you all the advantages of FTP with the security of SSH. The main reason why anyone would use SCP over SFTP is speed. SCP is one of the fastest secure file copy protocol. So, unless you need the more advanced features of SFTP, it is the tool to use for the best performance.
The Best SCP Servers For Windows
Now that we understand what SCP is and how it differs from other file transfer methods, we’re ready to have a look at some of the best SCP server software. As we’ve mentioned before, some SCP software can be used as both the server and the client. Also, since SCP is an extension of the SSH protocol, some SCP servers are actually SSH servers that support copying files. Other tools included on our list combine multiple protocols. Some will do both SCP and SFTP as they both use SSH. Others yet are FTP or SFTP server with added SCP capabilities. Let’s have a look at the best products.
1. SolarWinds SFTP/SCP Server (Free Download)
SolarWinds has long been known as one of the best network and systems administration tool providers on the market. Its flagship product, the Network Performance Monitor, consistently scores among the top network bandwidth monitoring tools. But SolarWinds is also famous for its free tools. They are simpler tools, each addressing a specific need of network administrators. Two great examples of those free tools are the Kiwi Syslog Server and the Advanced Subnet Calculator.
The SolarWinds SFTP/SCP Server is another one of those free tools and it is our first pick. The software can be used to transfer files of up to 4GB in size. This is more than likely enough to meet the needs of most users, even in a demanding enterprise environment.
- Free Download: SolarWinds SFTP/SCP Server
- Official Download Link:https://www.solarwinds.com/free-tools/free-sftp-server/registration
Although the product is primarily advertised as a tool for pushing firmware updates to devices and backing up device configurations, it is a true SCP server which could be used for any purpose. It just so happens that this is the most common use for SCP from a network administration standpoint. After all, SolarWinds primarily makes network administration tools. But if what you need is to transfer files securely across an insecure network, this tool has all the features you need. The product features a simple and easy to use user interface, making it quite easy to do quick file transfers.
For extra convenience—and even better security, the SolarWinds SFTP/SCP Server allows users to authorize individual IP addresses and address ranges. However, one of the tool’s most useful feature is the ability to create virtual users. These are user accounts that are only present within the server’s context as opposed to system account or domain accounts.
If your primary need for SCP is in managing device configuration, the SolarWinds Network Configuration Manager might be worth looking into. It does include the same SFTP and SCP capabilities but adds several useful features such as advanced device configuration templates and script management, full configuration change management capabilities and configuration audit, all that in a highly scalable tool with multi-user administration. Should you want to try this advanced tool, a free trial is available from SolarWinds.
- FREE TRIAL: SolarWinds Network Configuration Manager
- OFFICIAL DOWNLOAD LINK: https://www.solarwinds.com/network-configuration-manager/
2. Bitvise SSH Server
Bitvise is a relatively well-known company in the networking community. It makes only two products, an SSH server and an SSH client. From such a highly specialized company, you can expect the products to be among the best. All the company does is SSH and it does it well. But wait, isn’t this post about SCP servers? It is. It is, but since SCP is an extension of SSH, it is supported by the Bitvise SSH server.
The Bitvise SSH Server supports all desktop and server versions of Windows—both 32-bit and 64-bit—from Windows XP SP3 and Windows Server 2003 to Windows 10 and Windows Server 2016. It offers most SSH services such as secure remote console access, secure remote GUI access (from a Remote Desktop or WinVNC client), secure file transfer using SFTP and SCP, Secure file transfer using FTP over TLS/SSL (FTPS), and secure TCP/IP connection tunnelling (port forwarding).
The Bitvise SSH Server has no limits as to the number of users who can connect simultaneously which is limited only by system resources. It also won’t limit transfer sizes by default although it can be configured with per-user and per-group quotas and bandwidth limits. It also keeps a record of daily, monthly, and annual usage statistics.
The Bitvise SSH server is free for personal use. If you want to use it in a professional context, you’ll need to purchase a license. The price is $99.95 per license which includes the first year of maintenance and upgrades. Longer maintenance periods of two to five years can also be purchased at prices varying between $19.95 and $79.80 per license. For testing purposes, the software can be used for free for up to 30 days.
OpenSSH is an SSH server. That certainly won’t come as a surprise. And just like many SSH servers, it also supports SCP file transfers, hence its inclusion on our list. We could most certainly define it as “an oldie but a goody”. The utility was part of the Open BSD operating system when it was first released, back in 1999. Rather than just a single SSH server, OpenSSH is actually part of a suite of some 10 tools, with OpenSSH being the core of the suite, the one that handles the actual SSH sessions.
OpenSSH, we’ve said it, originates in the Unix world and it is primarily meant to be used on Unix-like systems. However, the software can be relatively easily ported to other operating systems.
The Microsoft OpenSSH server is one of the most recent ports of the software. In fact, it is still under development. A pre-release version is available but be aware that virtue of its pre-release status, the installation process might not be as polished as could be. Getting it installed and working will require a good knowledge of Windows system administration and some Power Shell skills. It is an excellent SSH server and it wouldn’t surprise me to see it become the standard SSH server on Windows, just like it already is on Unix.
There’s really only one drawback to this tool and it has to do with its Unix ancestry and its age. You see, OpenSSH is a command-line based utility. If you expect to find a nice and user-friendly GUI like you’ve become accustomed to, chances are you’ll be disappointed. But if what you want is just pure SSH functionality with no frills, this tool is probably for you.
If you’re at all familiar with Unix or Linux, the “d” in FreeSSHd won’t surprise you. It stands for “deamon’ which is what we call background services in the *nix world. What might surprise you, though, is that FreeSSHd runs on Windows, not on Unix or Linux. In fact, it will run on pretty much any version of Windows—client or server—that is not older than Windows NT 4. The tool is amazingly small and lightweight, especially when you consider its feature set.
Talking about features, the server boasts an easy-to-use graphical user interface where you can monitor the service as well as start and stop it. It also supports virtual users that only exist within the server’s context, a feature that we don’t see too often on free products. FreeSSHd is a simple tool. As such, it will get the job done and it has a GUI but it certainly doesn’t have the same type of smooth and professional look and feel like some other tools on this list.
As basic as FreeSSHd is, it still packs all the required functionality and it will support SSH connections as well as SFTP and SCP. If what you’re looking for is a simple tool that will handle your SCP file transfer needs without overloading the server where it’s running, this is the right tool for you.
SFTPPlus is more than just a file transfer tool. It is a rather complete Managed File Transfer (MFT) tool. It supports SCP, SFTP, FTPS and HTTPS for transferring files. While the file transfer functionality of this tool is at par with the other products on this list, what sets this one apart is its automation capabilities. You can, for instance, configure alerts and actions based on various triggers of your choice. As for the system’s Managed File Transfer capabilities, they include triggered and event-based transfers, scheduled transfers, events, pre- and post-processing as well as external calls to any programs.
What sets SFTPPlus apart from its competition is the range of platforms on which it can run. You have versions of Windows and Linux but also form OS X, Solaris, AIX, and HP-UX. It could make this product the best options for organizations with a variety of servers.
The main drawback of SFTPPlus is its price. It is the most expensive product on our list. Although it is a permanent license, it will set you back some $1 500 per server instance. You can get a 10% discount when purchasing 5 to 10 licenses and 20% for higher volumes. There is also a 30% discount for small businesses with up to 10 employees. These prices don’t include support and you’ll have to spend 20% of the product’s purchase price every year to get it. If you’d prefer to try the product before committing to such an expense, a free 30-day trial can be arranged.