WS_FTP Server: FTP server with strong encryption and management features
With its newly minted version of WS_FTP Server, Ipswitch has expanded the FTP server’s range of features while keeping a locked focus on the enterprise market.
Ipswitch’s version 4 release of WS_FTP Server focused on delivering a secure FTP server. We noted at the time how the vendor was, quite legitimately, pursuing the enterprise file delivery market rather than “community sharing,” as evidenced by its emphasis on user management and bandwidth/quota controls. With the recent release of WS_FTP Server version 5, Ipswitch has expanded the server’s scope in several useful ways while retaining its focus on the enterprise market.
WS_FTP Server hasn’t grown much in size from the earlier release. It is now a 6.5 MB download that expands into about 7 MB when installed, including the new Notification Server component. The InstallShield setup is straightforward, but, like the previous version, it requires the “Custom” setup option be chosen if you want to so much as choose an alternate install location.
The new Notification Server is a separate program from WS_FTP Server that is installed at the same time. Notifications are paired with rules so events can trigger notices sent via pager, SMS, e-mail, or any external program. In the administration interface, for example, you can define a rule for any download of a file by any user in a certain subfolder. When that event occurs, the notification system sends a customized alert. The rule system is very flexible and includes masks and wildcards to support a wide range of possible events, including directory creation, file deletion, download, rename, upload, failed login, and quote exceeded.
The previous version of WS_FTP offered support for 128-bit SSL encryption. Version 5 builds on this security with support for Clear Command Channel (CCC). Primarily used inside networks behind firewalls, CCC is a hybrid security approach in which authentication enables unencrypted commands while maintaining encrypted data transfers.
Many improvements to WS_FTP Server are related to user management. First, user folders can now reside on any network folder by virtue of support for UNC (i.e., “pathfolder” style names). Home folders for each user can be set to a particular folder, rather than constrained to that user’s home. This change supports aggregating users to a given folder — for example, three users can share a single folder as their home folder.
Bandwidth and quota management are applied easily to users or groups. Quotas are defined as maximum disk space, number of files, or both. These enhancements both expand and contribute to WS_FTP Server’s focus on secure file exchange.
Some tweaks to WS_FTP Server’s administration interface will make life a little easier for admins. In addition to a slight aesthetic makeover, it is now easy to duplicate many objects, including users, groups, and rules, which can help speed up the configuration of multiple virtual servers.
As with version 4, however, log file management remains a bit klunky. Logs are disabled by default and, once enabled, are not easily managed. A separate log file analysis tool is included, but it too feels a little bit like an afterthought.
By charging the same $395 licensing price as it did for version 4, Ipswitch has wisely chosen to increase the value of WS_FTP Server without raising the price price. While the enhancements to WS_FTP Server are indeed valuable, we’re doubtful that they merit a full digit increase in version number. It would probably be more accurate to call this latest release version 4.5, but we’re realistic enough to know that marketing and competition drive version numbering across the board these days.
Pros: Very useful notification server and rules; Improved user management capabilities; No price increase.
Cons: Lack of Web-based front end; Lackluster log file management; Version number implies more significant changes.
Reviewed by: Aaron Weiss
Original Review Date: 6/8/2004
Original Review Version: 5.0