WS_FTP, Ready for 2007?

WS_FTP Server: Windows-based, user friendly FTP server and client for secure and quick backup, file synchronization and internet file transfer. The latest version of Ipswitch's WS_FTP offers a host of improvements on both the client and server sides. But is the version 2007 ready for the year 2007?

For occasional internet file transferring, using the built-in browser mode HTTP is adequate though not ideal. Shoveling files around this way, though, is a little like ... well, like filling a bin with a coal shovel. It works, but it's slow, crude, and you can lose the contents. Internet FTP (File Transfer Protocol) has been around a long time, so it might seem only one step up from a coal shovel, but the handling of FTP has evolved. Nothing beats it for controlled file transfer — it's faster, secure, and reliable — at least it is with Ipswitch WS_FTP Professional 2007. This Windows client sets the bar for making FTP versatile and user friendly.

Over the years, WS_FTP has moved toward a packaging that makes using FTP for backup, archiving, and secure delivery more obvious and easy. The WS_FTP Professional 2007 client has taken big steps in this direction. This is important because the cumulative effect is to encourage companies (especially small and midsize businesses) and even individuals to think of uses for FTP. Of course, volume or high value of file transfer may be appropriate before stepping into an FTP server and client combination.

Serving It Up

The WS_FTP Server is sold as a separate product. It has a light footprint that does not require dedicated hardware, and is an easy to install and manage. It compares well with similar server products and is particularly strong in the management of file-level permissions for individual users. It also has an auto-resume feature, which we consider an important benefit to the user, but is not found on quite a few FTP servers. It supports 128-bit SSL encryption, SSL certificates and a Trusted Authorities database on a per host basis, and firewall or NAT configuration for SSL. WS_FTP Server keeps a detailed log, which can be interpreted using the Log Analyzer. WS_FTP Server supports virtual servers to maximize use of hardware. It does not, however, have cluster support — scalability up to moderate capacity.

Build-It-Your-Way Client

Before installing the WS_FTP client, we decided to test both its backup and secure delivery features under a variety of circumstances (home, office, on the road). In a way, this reflects the versatility of WS_FTP. Actual installation and configuration was quick and easy. The tabbed user interface (UI) is easy to understand (presuming a rudimentary knowledge of Windows file system).

The UI integrates the main features, many of which are underlying utility programs: Upload Wizard (simple interface for file uploading), Find Utility (local and remote file find), Backup Utility (wizard driven), Synchronize Utility (folder mirroring), Script Utility (WS_FTP script manager), Scheduler Utility (interface to Windows Scheduler), and Browser Integration Utility (integrates WS_FTP into standard browsers). A nifty new feature is one-button integration with desktop search engines (i.e., Google, Copernic and Windows) to find files for transfer.

Setting up scheduled backup and folder synchronization sessions turned out to be simpler and easier than what we've seen in some dedicated backup/archive software. More importantly, WS_FTP provides far more security and control for sending data off-site, an important aspect of true backup and disaster planning.

Using the various features, you can combine functionality in WS_FTP to fully automate backups, archiving, file updating (such as for a Web site) and scheduled inter-office file transfer. We tested the client against a number of FTP servers and had no difficulty, except with an Apple-based OSX machine (that was cured by treating it as a Unix box).

Make It Secure

The security measures available to WS_FTP are impressive: 256-bit AES encryption to secure files during SSL/FTPS and SSH/SFTP and HTTP/HTTPS transfers. This can be combined with the integrated OpenPGP mode (an industry first). Using OpenPGP, files may be encrypted with a key up to 4,096 characters. Of course, many of the encryption features require connection to an FTP server supporting it, such as WS_FTP Server. To validate the transfer of files ('guaranteed delivery'), WS_FTP uses SHA1, SHA256 and SHA512 protocols-current state of the art. As a detail of file transfer confirmation, we also liked the option of automatically sending e-mails to users when the transfer occurs.

On Top of Its Game

Combining a top-of-the-line client, WS_FTP Professional 2007, with the efficient WS_FTP Server makes a relatively easy to install and administer FTP system, certainly easier than trying to manage a multiplicity of FTP clients. Although WS_FTP products are not the least expensive (there are plenty of shareware and free FTP products), the range of features and the ease of use make WS_FTP stand out, also among commercial products. In a situation where using FTP matters (i.e., speed, reliability and security)' then the capabilities of Ipswitch FTP Professional 2007 and WS_FTP Server more than justify the investment.

Pros: State-of-the-art security (encryption) and a user interface that easily manages a full house of features.
Cons: The client occasional difficulty interacting with other server platforms; No anti-virus hooks on either servant or client; Windows-only products.

Reviewed by: Nelson king
Original Review Date: 11/09/2006
Original Review Version: 2007

This article was originally published on Nov 9, 2006
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