FTP vs SMTP: Difference and Comparison

In the networking world, different types of protocols are used to transfer data. The Internet transfer Protocol, known as IP/TCP, is used in all communication protocols, whether the Internet or any other network.

When the suite of Internet Protocol is purchased, then it provides a lot of features like an end to end communication. It classifies how data should be packetized, routed, addressed, transmitted, and received.

FTP and SMTP are also types of communication protocols that are used for different purposes.

Key Takeaways

  1. FTP (File Transfer Protocol) facilitates the transfer of files between computers over a network.
  2. SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) is responsible for sending and routing email messages between mail servers.
  3. FTP is used for file storage and retrieval, while SMTP deals exclusively with email communication.


FTP stands for “File Transfer Protocol” and is a standard protocol used to transfer files over the internet, allowing users to transfer files between two remote computers. SMTP stands for “Simple Mail Transfer Protocol” and is a standard protocol for sending and receiving emails online.


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FTP is a communication protocol that is built for the client-server model. FTP transfers the computer files between the server and the client using separate data and control connections.

FTP users can authenticate the transmission using a username and password. FTP is considered one of the safest means to transfer files as it is encrypted.

Because of its encryption, FTP has replaced SFTP, i.e. SSH File Transfer Protocol.

FTP was used for the first time in the form of lines, i.e. commands in the program used by the clients even before operating systems had GUI (Graphical User Interface).

SMTP, unlike FTP, is exclusively used for sending electronic mail. It is an Internet communication protocol. Data connection is needed in SMTP, and it is also persistent.

Usually, mail agents and mail servers use SMTP to receive and send emails/messages. SMTP was first launched in the year 1981.

Since then, it has been remodified, updated and extended multiple times with new changes.SMTP has various extensions like authentication, encryption, binary data transfer, and internationalized email addresses.

It uses the TCP number 25 for communications.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonFTPSMTP
Full-FormFile Transfer ProtocolSimple Mail Transfer Protocol
No of TCP Connection21
Type of TCP ConnectionBoth Persistent and Non-PersistentPersistent
Port Number20 & 2125, 587, 465
Type of BandOut of bandIn-Band

What is FTP?

FTP, known as File Transfer Protocol, was first written by Ajay Bhushan and was published as RFC 114 in 1971. From the year 1971 to 1980, it ran on NCP i.e.

Network Control Program is also called the predecessor of TCP/IP. FTP can run on two different types of modes, i.e. active and passive.

It depends upon the data connection established. Both modes were updated in 1998.

The passive model was further updated and used as an extensive passive mode. FTP has four different types of data that are used over the network.

ASC II, Image, EBCDIC and Local. Data Transfer in FTP can be done in three ways. Firstly, Stream Mode, where data is sent continuously.

Then there is Block mode which was designed for transferring record-oriented files. The third is Compressed mode which extends Mode B.

FTP normally uses a username and a password to grant access to its users. The username and Password in FTP are sent via the server using USER and PASS commands, respectively.

The sequence sent is encrypted so that it cannot be attacked on the network.

FTP follows a standard protocol that is used to send files from one host to another using a client-server architecture.

There can be two types of connection in FTP one is control, and the other is data. Data uses Port 20, and Control uses Port 21. FTP is very reliable and efficient in transferring data.

file transfer protocol

What is SMTP? 

In the 1960s, different types of methods were used to send electronic messaging. Users communicated with each other using mainframe computers.

More and more computers got connected, and there was a need to send this message, especially to US Government. Different standards were made to exchange mail.

This was how SMTP was born. It is said to have been developed in 1971 by incorporating two implementations. SMTP was properly developed in 1980 when Jon Postel published it.

It replaced the File Transfer Protocol, which was used for mail. SMTP became popular in the early 19870s.

It worked better for sending and receiving messages when computers were constantly connected to the network. SMTP was very similar to UUCP i.e.

Unix to Unix Copy Program and had the same features as SMTP. Both of them had the same mechanism: first, to store the message and then forward it.

This technology was called Push Technology Sendmail, which came in 1981 and was one of the first to use the SMTP protocol. With time Unix and other companies began to implement SMTP.

SMTP is connection-oriented, meaning it cannot send messages without a connection. It uses a text-based protocol where a sender communicates with a receiver using command strings.

SMTP transaction has three types of reply/command sequences: MAIL, RCPT and DATA command. Original SMTP used Port 25 to transfer mail.

But Modern SMTP uses submission ports, i.e. 587 and 465.


Main Differences Between FTP and SMTP

  1. FTP means File Transfer Protocol. SMTP means Simple Mail Transfer Protocol.
  2. FTP has a stateful protocol. SMTP has a Push Protocol primarily that stores and forwards messages.
  3. FTP uses two TCP connection data and control. SMTP uses only one TCP connection.
  4. FTP has both Persistent and Non-Persistent types of TCP. SMTP has the only persistent type of TCP.
  5. FTP uses ports number 20 and 21. SMTP uses port number 25 and submission port 587.
  6. FTP is out of the band. SMTP is in the band.
Difference Between FTP and SMTP
  1. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11416-006-0030-0
  2. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/11863908_1

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