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My webhosting service currently offers FTP as the only means of connecting to their servers for syncing my local files with the 'live' server.

"For security", I must either provide the IP address I'm connecting from, into their account settings webpage, or allow access from all IP addresses for up to 30 days. I get a dynamic IP address from my ISP, and I'm also travelling.

Invariably, whenever I want to sync my website, I'm locked out and have to go to their control panel and either add my latest IP address or extend the time limit for another 30 days.

I keep asking them about more secure alternatives that would allow me to connect from any IP address without hassle, but they claim that they aren't able to provide any. Is that reasonable? I get authenticated SMTP and IMAP using SSL from them.

Surely, people are connecting to internet servers all the time in a reasonably secure manner without such procedures? What other protocols are available that I suggest they employ?

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SFTP is far better for these reasons:

  • it's not plaintext like FTP
  • the webhosting company is probably on a Linux or Unix platform and SFTP works well with this operating system and user accounts on it.
  • it requires 1 port to be open, not 2 like FTP.
  • it doesn't require firewalls to specially support it in active mode like FTP.
  • it can be secured through key files which are better than passwords.
  • Filezilla and WinSCP are two well known free programs that support it.

Note this is different than FTPS, which is just FTP with SSL tacked on it.

The key files in particular is what makes this more secure than IP addresses - properly administered key files that are long enough are very difficult to forge unless you tell someone the password you used to protect them. Whereas IP addresses--even in a situation where you are given a static IP--is not a guarantee of who you are talking to. IP addresses are not designed to identify users.

  • So there is no reasonable technical barrier to them providing SFTP to a dynamic IP? – benwiggy Aug 5 at 16:59
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    No, it's harder to implement FTP than SFTP if you are a unix based host. – LawrenceC Aug 5 at 17:15

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