Difference Between FTP and SMTP

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


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

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


The difference between FTP and SMTP is that FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol which is a type of communication protocol that is used to transfer computer files. SMTP stands for Simple Mail Transfer Protocol that uses Internet communication protocol to transfer files with the help of an email. The port number used by TCP is 20 and 21. The port number used by SMTP is 25. The data connection used in FTP is non-persistent. While SMTP data connection is persistent as it uses the Internet.


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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.

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

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

FTP, when used for the first time, was in the form of lines i.e. command 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 mails. 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, which can also be called the predecessor of TCP/IP. FTP can run on two different types of mode i.e. active and passive.

It depends upon the data connection established. Both the 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. Username and Password in FTP are sent via server using USER and PASS command, 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.

What is SMTP? 

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

More and more computers got connected there was a need to send this message especially in US Government different standards were made to exchange the mails.

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 File Transfer Protocol which was used for mails. SMTP became popular in the early 19870s.

It worked better for sending and receiving messages when computers were connected to the network all the time. 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 that was first to store the message and then forward it.

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

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

SMTP transaction has three types of reply/command sequence: 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 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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