FTP for the Enterprise

By ServerWatch Staff (Send Email)
Posted Nov 19, 2003

WS_FTP Server: An enterprise-class FTP server with strong encryption and management features Despite its limited bells and whistles, WS_FTP is one of the few FTP servers on the market that is strong, secure, and robust enough to meet enterprise needs.

The crowded marketplace for FTP servers is easily divided into two branches -- servers oriented toward community "sharing" and those designed for enterprise file delivery. One look at a server's feature set offers a pretty good idea of which market the vendor is after. FTP servers with oodles of user-level management controls, such as quotas and bandwidth throttling, are generally designed for the "sharing" segment, while those with more basic user controls and strong security are out to attract an enterprise crowd.

Ipswitch's WS_FTP server clearly falls into the latter camp.

WS_FTP server is a small download of less than 6 MB; it installs into a similarly sized footprint. Depending on where your log and user folders are located, its disk consumption may, of course, grow over time. The InstallShield setup is relatively routine, although it somewhat quirkily requires you to select "Custom" to simply specify an alternate installation folder.

While WS_FTP server is no new kid on the block, the latest version introduces a few noteworthy features. With 128-bit SSL encryption available in the commercial version, communication between server and client are extremely secure. As tight as any secure FTP server on the market, this flagship feature obviously speaks to enterprise clientele. What's more, SSL certificates can be generated and assigned on a per-host basis. Because the server can be configured to support a number of virtual hosts, limiting certificates in this way gives the administrator more control over access to trusted data.

Many FTP servers have begun to stumble in the face of widespread firewall and Network Address Translation (NAT) deployment. This latest version of WS_FTP server features intelligent configuration options so clients behind firewalls aren't caught in FTP oblivion. Specifically, you can configure both the external IP address and port range that the server may use with clients operating in PASV mode.

And WS_FTP server's security functionality goes even further. It defaults to an out-of-the-box state that assumes a secure orientation. For example, third-party transfers are disallowed by default -- this is a feature that, when enabled, is often abused by hackers to "launder" files between unsuspecting servers. User databases can be created within WS_FTP or drawn from NT and other ODBC sources.

Multiple WS_FTP servers can be administered remotely with an included Windows-based admin tool, but there is no support for a generic Web-based front end. The Windows GUI is straightforward and easy to navigate, albeit not particularly fancy -- basically, it just gets down to business.

WS_FTP server's log file management is somewhat rudimentary for an enterprise class product. While the server keeps daily logs and provides a separate log analysis application, it lacks any means to manage or rotate daily log files. Thus, if logging is enables (it is disabled by default), an active server may generate large daily logs that could consume excessive disk space.

While WS_FTP server certainly contains many additional features, security and enterprise integration are clearly its fundamental strengths. This is consistent with its $395 price tag. Ipswitch further encourages this enterprise-class orientation with detailed Web site examples illustrating how WS_FTP supports business, industry, and HIPAA compliance.

So while WS_FTP is one of many FTP servers on the market, it is one of few that is strong enough and robust enough for enterprise needs.

Pros: Very secure; Easy to administer; Solid firewall support
Cons: Lack of a Web-based front end; Lackluster log file management; Enterprise class price tag

Reviewed by: Aaron Weiss
Original Review Date: 11/19/2003
Original Review Version: 4.0

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