Learn more about the differences between MFT (Managed File Transfer) and SSH (Secure Shell) protocols. Discover which one is best for your file transfer needs.

Written by Editorial Staff. Last Updated:

Transferring files and information is a critical business process that every department in your organization depends on daily to complete their work. Whether transmitting critical business documents inside or outside the company, there is a constant transit of data that must be transferred securely, accurately and on time.

File transfer management and security is more critical to business success than ever before, with modern data breaches costing organizations billions of dollars and irreparable reputational damage. Luckily, there are numerous strategies available to companies of all sizes to help ensure secure, reliable data transfer and communication across networks. 

Two of these methods include managed file transfer, or MFT, and secure shell, or SSH. Managed file transfer is a platform that supports a wide variety of functions, while SSH is a file transfer protocol that connects to network services over an unsecured network. 

What is Managed File Transfer? 

Managed File Transfer protocol, or MFT, is a technology platform that supports a number of different protocols for file sharing between multiple systems. MFT is used by organizations to transfer large volumes of unstructured data, providing guaranteed delivery, end-to-end security, global visibility, auditing and reporting, automation, and non-repudiation.

MFT is a critical file transfer process because it enables secure and reliable data exchange between trading partners and clients, both internal and external, across multiple geographic locations.   

What is SSH? 

Secure shell, or SSH, is a network protocol used for secure remote access and data communication over unsecured networks. SSH provides encrypted communication between two computers, allowing users to securely access and manage remote systems or devices over a network. 

SSH uses public key cryptography for remote system authentication to establish a secure connection between a client and server. Network administration, system maintenance, and software development teams use SSH for a variety of tasks like remote login, file transfers, and executing commands on a remote machine. 


MFT supports SSH, a secure file transfer protocol, on its platform. SSH is a general-purpose protocol for secure communication between two machines. 

MFT is a more comprehensive data transfer solution, providing end-to-end encryption, secure protocols, and centralized management between a client and MFT server. Managed File Transfer supports multiple protocols, including FTP, SFTP, HTTPS, and AS2, and has the ability to handle large files, automate file sharing, and manage user permissions and access control.

SSH, on the other hand, is simply a secure file transfer protocol that provides encrypted communication between two computers.  Primarily, SSH file transfer protocol is used for remote access to a computer system’s command line interface, file sharing, and tunneling applications. SSH supports various encryption algorithms, including AES and 3DES, and provides safe authentication methods.

Managed File Transfer Protocols

MFT supports various file transfer protocols for secure data exchange. While FTP, SFTP, FTPS, and HTTPS are used more commonly for safe file sharing, AS2, OFTP, MQ, and REST have more niche applications. The protocols supported by MFT include: 

  • FTP
  • SFTP
  • FTPS
  • AS2
  • OFTP
  • MQ
  • REST

FTP, or File Transfer Protocol, is the standard protocol used for file sharing over the Internet, transferring files between an FTP server and FTP clients using TCP or IP.

SFTP, or Secure File Transfer Protocol, is a more secure version of FTP that uses SSH for encryption and authentication between an SFTP server and SFTP client.

FTPS, or FTP over SSL or TLS, is also a more secure FTP protocol, but instead of using SSH, it uses SSL or TLS encryption for data transfer.

Similarly, HTTPS, or Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure, provides trusted communication using SSL or TLS encryption.

AS2, or Applicability Statement 2, enables reliable data exchange of business documents using digital certificates for authentication and encryption.

OFTP, or Odette File Transfer Protocol, is used in the automotive industry for protected file sharing through encryption and authentication capabilities.

MQ, or Message Queueing, offers reliable message transfer between applications, can guarantee message delivery, and supports encryption.

REST, or Representational State Transfer, is a lightweight data exchange solution for web-based APIs.   

SSH Encryption Algorithms

SSH supports several encryption algorithms to protect the confidentiality and integrity of data exchange between two systems. Some of the most commonly used SSH encryption algorithm include: 

  • Symmetric Key Encryption Algorithm
  • Asymmetric Key Encryption Algorithm 
  • Hash functions 
  • Diffie-Hellman Key Exchange
  • Public Key Authentication 
  • Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC)

SSH supports multiple symmetric key encryption algorithms including AES (Advanced Encryption Standard), Blowfish, Twofish, and 3DES, as well as asymmetric key encryption algorithms RSA and DSA. Asymmetric key encryption algorithms are used for SSH key exchange and authentication. 

To ensure message integrity and key authentication, SSH uses hash functions like SHA-1, SHA-2, and MD5. 

Diffie-Helman is an algorithm SSH uses to securely establish a shared secret SSH key between two systems, while public key authentication is supported using RSA or DSA. Elliptic Curve Cryptography is another public key algorithm, but offers better performance and security compared to RSA And DSA.  

MFT vs SSH Use Cases 

While MFT can be used by any organization that requires the ability to securely support different file security during transfer, it is a more prominent platform used in industries like healthcare, banking and finance, and government where customer and internal data is particularly sensitive. 

SSH is used for gaining remote access to another machine, and managing servers and other network devices. SSH ships by default with every Unix, Linux, and Mac server.  

SSH tunneling is a method for opening a secure tunnel between local and remote hosts. Because they can penetrate an enterprise firewall undetected, SSH tunnels are both powerful and dangerous.  

For teams only managing file transfers, and not needing to perform remote actions on another machine, managed file transfer is an accessible strategy. Plus, teams can automate and orchestrate related workflows and operations with the use of MFT solutions.   

Managed File Transfer Solution with ActiveBatch 

Secure, reliable, and on-time data exchange is key to maintaining successful relationships with customers and trading partners. Our MFT solutions bring together the benefits of robust, enterprise workload automation software with the reliability and security of file sharing tools. 

Optimize MFT with automation using ActiveBatch’s unified managed file transfer solution. By consolidating enterprise data transfer processes, IT teams can automate and control MFT workflows and operations from a centralized platform. 

ActiveBatch MFT solutions enable teams to manage both scheduled and ad hoc file transfers across multiple technologies and for numerous use cases. IT infrastructure includes on-premises data centers for Windows, UNIX, IBM iSeries, and AS/400, and cloud vendors like Amazon EC2, VMWare, and Microsoft Azure for hybrid IT file sharing. 

Event-driven architecture provides advanced scheduling features for high-volume data exchange: 

  • Advanced trigger suite includes FTP event triggers to initiate workflows when files are created or modified on any FTP server 
  • Restart automation determined by the success of file transfer, improving SLA performance
  • Share and update connection information between workflows on-premises
  • MFT automation includes real-time monitoring and auditing 

ActiveBatch supports file transfer protocols SFTP, FTPS, web tunneling, SSL, and TLS to encrypt sensitive data, as well as Open PGP for customers that need to meet compliance requirements like HIPAA, GDPR, etc.  

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some SSH implementation methods?

SSH is an open protocol that has implementation methods for most computing platforms. The open source OpenSSH is the implementation most commonly found on Linux, Unix, and Mac.  

Most implementations of the SSH suite include three components: slogin (secure login), ssh, and scp (secure copy). These are secure versions of the related insecure Unix utilities: rlogin, rsh, and rcp. 

What are some SSH commands?

The secure shell program is typically invoked using the command line or executed as part of a script. Here are some arguments you can include with the SSH command to perform various remote actions:

1. ssh server.example.org – Connect to the destination <server.example.org> and the destination host will respond by promoting a password and user ID. 
2. ssh example.org ls – Execute the Unix ls command which lists all contents of the current directory on the remote host. 
3. ssh-keygen – Create a new key authentication pair for SSH for login automation, SSO implementation, and host authentication. 
4. sftp – Copy files from one computer to another through an SSH-secured version of ftp. 

Learn how ActiveBatch enhances data security for file sharing by supporting a variety of file transfer protocols.

Is SSH better than FTP?

Secure shell (SSH) and file transfer protocol (FTP) are both protocols that can be used to transfer files over a network. While they can be used to perform similar functions, they differ in security, functionality, and ease-of-use. 

SSH is more secure because it encrypts all data by default, including login credentials.  SSH is also more feature rich, offering remote command execution and tunneling. FTP is, however, extremely easy to use, while SSH clients require more technical expertise. 

See how managed file transfer automation can streamline your enterprise file sharing operations.

Are SSH and SFTP the same?

SSH and secure file transfer protocol (SFTP) are related protocols, but maintain some differences. SFTP is a protocol that runs over SSH and is specifically designed for secure file transfer. SFTP uses the SSH protocol to provide secure authentication, encryption, and data transfer between network devices.

Get best practices for automating file transfer and ensure more secure connections between your network devices.