FTP vs. TFTP vs. FileCatalyst: What is the Difference? 


FTP vs. TFTP vs. FileCatalyst: What is the Difference? 

Transferring files over the internet is a common task in today’s digital world and it’s important to find and use protocol that fits your organisation’s needs. 

A protocol is a set of rules and messages between a sender and a receiver. It functions much like a language that both ends of the network understand so the data arrives uncorrupted and with a proper file name. When it comes time to choose a protocol, there are many options that are still commonly used: FTP, FTPS, SFTP, HTTP, TFTP, among others. 

Out of all these file transfer protocols, we’ll be concentrating on three in this blog: FTP, TFTP and FileCatalyst, which uses a proprietary UDP (User Datagram Protocol) based protocol. All three protocols are used for file transfer, but there are some significant differences between them. 

What is FTP? 

FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol and it is used to send and receive files from a remote computer. 

FTP establishes two connections between the client system and the server system, one for control information and the other for data to be transferred. One secure version of this protocol is called FTPS, which uses SSL to encrypt data in transit. Control information carries commands and response. Authentication must be done initially by way of validating username and password and, once complete, files can be transferred between two systems. FTP handles both binary and text format files. 

When an FTP client requests to connect to an FTP server, a TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) connection is established to the FTP server’s port 21, which is reserved for FTP. After authentication is done, another TCP connection is established for the actual data transfer on another ephemeral port, usually above 1024. 

What is TFTP? 

TFTP stands for Trivial File Transfer Protocol. TFTP is much simpler than FTP and executes file transfer between client and server processes. However, it does not provide user authentication and other useful features supported by FTP. 

While FTP uses TCP, TFTP uses UDP, which both makes it an unreliable protocol and causes it to use UDP-supported application layer recovery. 

How TFTP Works: 

  • A small header is embedded between the UDP header and the data. 
  • The embedded header incorporates various codes, including read, write and acknowledgement, along with numbering scheme which numbers 512 bytes of data. 
  • Provided block numbers are then used to acknowledge the receipt and re-send the data in case of checksum failures. 
  • TFTP begins sending one block and waits on acknowledgement before sending another block. 

What Makes FileCatalyst Different? 

FileCatalyst uses a proprietary UDP based protocol for file transfer, and also borrows concepts from FTP and TFTP protocols. 

FileCatalyst vs. FTP 

FileCatalyst uses a TCP Control connection just like FTP, but the data is sent via UDP to provide acceleration and immunity to latency and packet loss on a network. FileCatalyst uses SSL for control connection and AES for UDP data transfers. 

FileCatalyst vs. TFTP 

Unlike TFTP, FileCatalyst sends many blocks of data at once to maximize bandwidth. It also incorporates many custom commands for dynamic bandwidth control, checkpoint restarting, MD5 checksum verification, compression, file attributes transmission and sending many small files over a single data channel by auto archiving small files into a single archive. 

FileCatalyst was designed for bulk data transfer and bandwidth optimization over long distance networks. 

Which Protocol Will Make the Most Difference? 

Ultimately, TFTP is best when transferring data locally within a data center where security and network stability is not an issue. FTP and its secure version FTPS are best for transferring files over wide area network where files are smaller or the volume of files is not a concern. 

FileCatalyst is the best option for sending large files (>2GB) over wide area network using public internet connections and where the transfer time is critical due to business needs. FileCatalyst is also more secure due to AES encryption of files in flight. 

Discover the power of FileCatalyst

If you’re looking for an advanced method of transferring large files quickly and securely, FileCatalyst is a great option. In addition, our managed file transfer (MFT) solutions offer complementary capabilities if you need a broader platform for fast file transfers. Learn more about the best ways to approach this important business decision with security and flexibility in mind. 


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