FTP vs TELNET: Difference and Comparison

FTP (File Transfer Protocol) is primarily used for transferring files between a client and a server over a network, providing a secure and efficient means of file exchange. TELNET, on the other hand, is a remote terminal emulation protocol that allows a user to remotely access and control a computer over a network, transmitting data in plain text, which can pose security risks, unlike FTP.

Key Takeaways

  1. FTP and Telnet are networking protocols for file transfer and remote login, respectively.
  2. FTP is used for transferring files between computers over a network.
  3. Telnet is used for remote login to a computer or device over a network.


FTP (File Transfer Protocol) refers to transferring files from one computer to another remote computer in plain text. TELNET (Telecommunication Network) is a protocol used to access the remote computer. The user can execute commands on remote computers using TELNET.


File Transfer Protocol or FTP is an application layer protocol used to ease the process of transmitting files from one operating system to another. It also provides limited features for handling existing data directories.

Comparison Table

FeatureFTP (File Transfer Protocol)TELNET (Telecommunication Network)
PurposeTransfer files between computers.Establish a remote terminal session to another computer.
FunctionalityUploads, downloads, deletes, renames, and manages files on a remote server.Allows users to interact directly with the command-line interface of a remote computer.
SecurityOffers basic security features like username and password authentication (though outdated versions may not be secure).Highly insecure as it transmits data in plain text, making it vulnerable to eavesdropping. Not recommended for modern use.
Ports usedPort 21 for control connection, port 20 for data connection.Port 23.
ConnectionsEstablishes two connections: one for control commands and one for data transfer.Establishes only one connection.
Remote loginNot mandatory for basic file transfer functionality.Mandatory to access the remote system.
Modern useStill commonly used for transferring files, especially in legacy systems.Generally discouraged due to security concerns. More secure alternatives like SSH (Secure Shell) are preferred.

What is FTP?

FTP, which stands for File Transfer Protocol, is a standard network protocol used for the transfer of files between a client and a server on a computer network. It operates on the application layer of the OSI model and facilitates the reliable, efficient, and secure exchange of files over a TCP/IP-based network, such as the internet.

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How FTP Works

  1. Client-Server Architecture: FTP operates in a client-server architecture. A client initiates a connection with a server to perform file transfers. The client sends commands to the server to request file operations like upload, download, list directory contents, etc.
  2. Control and Data Connection: FTP uses two separate connections to transfer files: the control connection and the data connection. The control connection is established initially for issuing commands and transmitting responses between the client and the server. Once a file transfer request is made, a separate data connection is created for the actual transfer of file data.
  3. Commands and Responses: FTP utilizes a set of commands and responses defined in its protocol specification. Commands are sent by the client to instruct the server to perform specific operations like login, change directory, or transfer files. The server responds to these commands with appropriate status codes indicating the success or failure of the operation.
  4. Modes of Operation: FTP supports two modes of operation: active mode and passive mode. In active mode, the server initiates the data connection to the client, whereas in passive mode, the client initiates the data connection to the server. Passive mode is used in situations where the client is behind a firewall or NAT (Network Address Translation) device.
  5. Security: While FTP originally transmitted data in plaintext, modern implementations use secure variants like FTPS (FTP Secure) or SFTP (SSH File Transfer Protocol) to encrypt data during transmission, providing confidentiality and integrity of the transferred files.

What is TELNET?

TELNET, short for Telecommunication Network, is a network protocol that allows users to establish a bidirectional interactive text-based communication session with a remote host. It enables users to access and control remote computers or devices over a network, the internet, using a terminal emulator.

How TELNET Works

  1. Client-Server Communication: TELNET operates in a client-server architecture. A client application, known as a TELNET client, initiates a connection with a TELNET server running on a remote host. Once the connection is established, the client and server communicate by exchanging plain-text messages.
  2. Terminal Emulation: TELNET clients emulate terminal devices, enabling users to interact with the remote system as if they were using a local terminal. This emulation allows users to execute commands, run programs, and perform various tasks on the remote system.
  3. Text-Based Communication: TELNET transmits data in plain text format, meaning that all user input and output, including commands, responses, and data, are sent in readable text form over the network. This simplicity makes TELNET easy to implement but also poses security risks, as sensitive information can be intercepted and read by unauthorized parties.
  4. Usage: TELNET was widely used in the early days of the internet for remote access to computers, network devices, and servers. It provided a convenient way for administrators and users to manage and troubleshoot remote systems. However, due to security concerns related to transmitting data in plaintext, TELNET usage has declined in favor of more secure protocols like SSH (Secure Shell), which encrypts data during transmission, providing confidentiality and integrity.

Main Differences Between FTP and TELNET

  • Purpose:
    • FTP: Primarily used for transferring files between a client and a server over a network.
    • TELNET: Used for establishing text-based interactive communication sessions with a remote host, for remote terminal access.
  • Data Transmission:
    • FTP: Transfers files between a client and a server, with data transmitted in binary or ASCII format.
    • TELNET: Transmits data in plain text, facilitating interactive communication between a client terminal emulator and a remote server.
  • Security:
    • FTP: Originally transmitted data in plaintext, but modern implementations use secure variants like FTPS or SFTP to encrypt data during transmission.
    • TELNET: Transmits all data, including user credentials and commands, in plaintext, posing significant security risks, especially over untrusted networks.
  • Functionality:
    • FTP: Facilitates file upload, download, directory listing, and other file management operations between client and server.
    • TELNET: Enables users to execute commands, run programs, and perform various tasks on a remote system as if they were using a local terminal.
  • Usage:
    • FTP: Commonly used for transferring files over the internet and local networks, especially in scenarios requiring reliable and efficient file exchange.
    • TELNET: Historically used for remote access and management of computers, network devices, and servers, but its usage has declined due to security concerns, with SSH being preferred for secure remote access
Difference Between FTP and TELNET
  1. https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/978-1-4020-7870-5_83.pdf
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Last Updated : 01 March, 2024

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21 thoughts on “FTP vs TELNET: Difference and Comparison”

  1. This article offers a comprehensive and detailed analysis of FTP and TELNET protocols. It provides valuable information and emphasizes their key differences. Well done!

    • I agree, the comparison tables and the explanations are very helpful in understanding the functionality of FTP and TELNET.

  2. The article effectively addresses the fundamental disparities between FTP and TELNET, providing a clear understanding of their roles in networking.

    • Absolutely, the article aptly highlights the differences between FTP and TELNET, contributing to a better comprehension of these protocols.

  3. The article effectively illustrates the functionality and purpose of both FTP and TELNET. It’s an essential guide for those seeking to understand networking protocols.

    • Absolutely, the comprehensive comparison enhances the understanding of FTP and TELNET. It’s a commendable effort.

    • Agreed, the article is a valuable resource for those interested in gaining a detailed understanding of these protocols.

  4. This article fails to emphasize the relevance of TELNET in contemporary networking. FTP and TELNET should both be acknowledged for their contributions.

    • I agree with Sean, TELNET is still utilized in specific contexts. The article could provide more balanced coverage of both protocols.

    • I understand your point, but TELNET’s usage and popularity have indeed declined in comparison to FTP. It’s essential to acknowledge the changing landscape of technology.

  5. The content provides sufficient information to grasp the significant disparities between FTP and TELNET. Well organized and insightful!

  6. The comparison of FTP and TELNET provides invaluable insights into their operations and security. It’s a commendable analysis.

    • Absolutely, the detailed overview of both protocols is beneficial for individuals seeking comprehensive knowledge in this field.

  7. The article thoughtfully examines the distinctions between FTP and TELNET, shedding light on their unique functionalities and applications.

  8. The article is extremely informative and enlightening about the role of FTP and TELNET. It’s great to have such detailed information in one place!

    • Absolutely, I appreciate the in-depth analysis of both protocols and their applications. It’s a valuable resource for anyone interested in networking.

  9. I found this article to be very helpful, especially in understanding the security differences between FTP and TELNET. Great work!

    • Agreed, the comparison of the security of connections was particularly insightful. It’s an excellent evaluation of these protocols.

  10. The article presents a clear and concise comparison between FTP and TELNET. It effectively highlights their functionality and practical applications.


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