Transfer files to or from a Linux server without FTP

  • Last updated on: 2019-12-20
  • Authored by: Rackspace Community


This article helps you connect to a Linux® server when you need to transfer a file to or from that server. Most of the time, the File Transfer Protocol (FTP) service is not needed because you can do file transfers over the same port as the Secure Shell (SSH), port 22, which is used to log in to a server from the command line.

If you are using a file transfer graphical user interface (GUI) tools, such as FileZilla®, Cyberduck®, or WinSCP®, this protocol might be listed as SFTP (Secure FTP), which does not require an extra FTP service. You can use any of the following GUI tools to perform a file transfer over SFTP:

If you cannot connect after you have logged in by using SSH, you should verify that FTP has been used in the past. If you need assistance getting logged in with SSH, review the following article for your platform:

Log in to a Linux server

To log in to a Linux server, you need the following information:

  • IP: Available in the Cloud Control Panel
  • User name: root
  • Password: If you don’t know your password, reset it from the Cloud Control Panel.

CentOS, RHEL, or Fedora

To confirm whether SFTP has been installed on CentOS®, RHEL®, or Fedora®, run the following command:

# rpm -qa | grep -E "vsftp|proftp"

If SFTP has been installed, the following output displays:


If SFTP has not been installed successfully, the following output displays:

# rpm -qa | grep -E "vsftp|proftp"

Ubuntu operating systems

To confirm whether SFTP has been installed on Ubuntu® operating systems, run the following command:

# dpkg-1 | grep -E "vsftp|proftp"

If SFTP has been installed, the FTP version displays.

Confirm whether FTP is running

To check whether FTP is running, enter the following command:

# netstat -ntlp | grep :21

If FTP is running, the following output displays:

tcp   0      0*        LISTEN      21209/vsftpd

If FTP is not running, the following output displays:

# netstat -ntlp | grep :21

User Configuration

If FTP is installed and running, check the users. By default, FTP users also can log in over SSH. If you have a more advanced FTP configuration, this might not be true.

To check the list of users where the user home directory is /home (Linux default), run the following command:

# cat /etc/passwd | grep "/home" |cut -d: -f1

Run the following command to update the passwords for the preceding list of users:

# passwd tom
Changing password for user tom.
New password: <enter password here> - you will NOT see anything as you type
Retype new password: <enter password here> - you will NOT see anything as you type
passwd: all authentication tokens updated successfully.

Run the following command to determine whether FTP is being blocked on the firewall even though the service is running:

# iptables -nL INPUT

If the last line of the output from the preceding command is a DROP or REJECT, then FTP is blocked unless it has been explicitly allowed. You can check for this explicit permission by using the following command:

# iptables -nL INPUT | grep :21

If there is an ACCEPT line in the output, then FTP is allowed from that Internet Protocol (IP) address or range of IP addresses (otherwise it is not allowed).

If you need to add a firewall rule for FTP, you can run the following commands:

# iptables -I INPUT 4 -m tcp -p tcp -m conntrack --ctstate NEW --dport 21 -j ACCEPT
# service iptables save
# service iptables restart

The first line adds the rule to the firewall that is currently running. The second line saves the rule to the static configuration file so that it is invoked when the service restarts. The third line restarts the service.

Confirm that the firewall explicitly allows FTP by rerunning the following command:

# iptables -nL INPUT | grep :21

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