FileZilla comes up early in searches for FTP and SFTP clients, but viable free and proprietary Filezilla alternatives do exist — some of them with more intuitive interfaces, better features, or connections to more tools.
Although FTP has been the go-to file transfer mode for almost 30 years, recent updates to security have caused many developers to switch to SFTP, or secure file transfer protocol. This means of transferring data encrypts your password and the data during the transfer, keeping it safe from prying eyes.
Okay, so you use FTP for transferring all your files, and you want a FileZilla alternative for strictly FTP use? Well, too bad. Most developers and programs have moved away from that old FTP format because it puts your data out in the open for anyone to find, so we’re going to skip past the basic FTP software and move on to SFTP.
SFTP encrypts your data, keeping not only the files and documents you transfer between computers safe, but also the passwords that protect those files. You read that correctly: FTP does not encrypt your passwords, which makes one wonder why it even requires a password at all?
I can’t in good conscience suggest that you continue to use an FTP client, so all but one of the options in this list include both FTP and a secure form of file transfer, often SFTP via SSH.
ExpanDrive offers a cloud-backup service for iOS and Windows that receives regular updates and bug fixes (the most recent update released in February 2017). ExpanDrive claims to work “like a USB drive to the cloud.” The program works silently in the background to update your files from anywhere on your computer directly to your cloud storage. While you could log in directly to your cloud storage to upload documents, ExpanDrive lets you work from the browser or application Save function to push your files to the cloud.
Once you’ve connected your cloud storage to the ExpanDrive app, the native interface makes saving to the cloud no different than saving to your desktop. The program connects directly with your cloud storage and stores API keys in your Mac keychain or in an encrypted user profile for Windows, meaning ExpanDrive has no access to those keys.
This comparison tool provided by Scooter Software compares and merges changes and differences between individual files, folders, and version control systems like Git. Like many proprietary licensed programs, Beyond Compare offers extra features for its Pro version, including “3-way merge” which compares two files, looks for conflicts, and merges them into a third.
Beyond Compare’s strongest feature may be its ability to work from the command line as a file syncing service across your devices. Set and filter the files you want copied among your devices, and Beyond Compare can update throughout your system.
Despite its dated website, NcFTP comes highly recommended among the WordPress crowd. When it was released in 1990, it gained popularity as a Unix FTP alternative because of its ease of use. NcFTP offered many users their first exposure to features that increased ease of use, including bookmarking and restoring failed downloads. NcFTP is the open-source version of the client, and NcFTPd is the proprietary version.
This software also comes in the form of a command-line utility program and a batch update version. While lots of folks seem to love NcFTP, it doesn’t support SFTP or an FTP over SSH hack, so use caution with this program.
WinSCP has a busy user interface (and the site leaves something to be desired), but it comes recommended as one of the best FTP clients for Windows. Use the SFTP via SSH client, or as an FTP to update files to a remote computer. You’ll find command-line capabilities, an internal text editor to update text files remotely, and the ability to work in a Windows Explorer-style or two-pane Commander interface.
WinSCP provides secure transfer of files over an SSH, but they do warn that users sharing files on public computers or devices affected by malware should use extra security measures to protect keys.
Cyberduck comes recommended by WordPress for Mac users, and you can access it for free under the GPL license. This program runs much like ExpanDrive, but works on both Mac and Windows operating systems, and the interface won’t confuse you when you switch between programs.
Use any of your local programs to edit documents, and then Cyberduck will transfer the documents to remote storage. You can even connect to Dropbox, Amazon S3, or Microsoft Azure. Unlike some of the older clients that don’t receive updates regularly, Cyberduck includes support for files over 5GB.
FireFTP downloads to your Firefox browser, where you can use the browser to move and sync files from computer to computer. Once you get connected, you will see the local files on the left side of your browser window and the remote files will sit on the right side. You can sync files between computers by clicking the arrow buttons.
FireFTP supports most operating systems, but Mac users will find some complications because of the file structure. Check the extensive support documentation for extra help. As with any free application, you’ll want to take precaution with sensitive documents, but FireFTP does support SFTP.
* * *
An SFTP client makes automating your file syncing and backups easy, but make sure you protect your data as you transfer. Check the security settings and requirements of any file transfer software you use, including these six FileZilla alternatives.