Difference between SFTP and Shell users


New website users are created as either SFTP or Shell users. This article explains the difference between these user types.

FTP users

FTP is not considered a secure protocol since all of your traffic (including your login information) is transferred over the Internet in plain text, where anyone could eavesdrop.

For this reason, DreamHost strongly recommends you only use an SFTP or Shell user. If you need to use FTP for any reason, see the FTP security article for instructions on how to change the protocol to FTP.

Comparison chart

The following chart displays the primary differences between SFTP and Shell users. Both protocols are equally secure to use.

Protocol Log in using FTP client Command line access Secure
SFTP Yes No Yes
SSH Yes Yes Yes

SFTP users

An SFTP user is required in order to upload a website you've created to DreamHost's servers, or to make changes to an existing website.

SFTP users are similar to FTP users except that the SFTP protocol uses an encrypted connection to access a server. Port 22 is used in your client to connect to the server via SFTP.

The FTP Users & Files page lists the username and the type of user it’s configured as. In the following example, the username is example_username.

manage users edit access settings

Click the Login info button to display details about this user.

sftp user

Here you can see the user is set as an SFTP user.

  • File Access only displays SFTP
  • The Secure Shell Access toggle is set to off

Shell users

Shell users are users who can connect via SSH and SFTP. The "Shell" is the Linux command line on your hosting server you can use to run commands.

Changing to a Shell user To change an SFTP user into a Shell user, just click the toggle button so it turns blue. View the following article for further instructions.
SSH user

Here you can see the user is set as an SSH user.

  • File Access displays SFTP/SSH
  • The Secure Shell Access toggle is set to on

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Article last updated PST.

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