SSH or Secure Shell is a protocol that allows a secure way to access remote computer. SSH implementation comes with scp utility for remote file transfer that utilises SSH protocol. SSH for file transfer is also utilised by other applications such as sftp and rsync which can make use of SSH to secure its network transaction.

All these applications allow us to copy our files from local to remote server and to copy files from remote server to our local machine. Below are examples on how to use these applications for files transfers based on this setup:

Make sure you have access right to the remote server and correct permission to the remote files and folders

Transfer file using scp

The easiest of these are scp or secure copy. While cp is for copying local files, scp is for remote file transfer where both uses almost the same syntax. The main difference is that with scp you'll have to specify the remote host's DNS name or IP address and provide login credential for the command to work. You can both scp files from local to remote and local to remote.

  1. Copy single file from local to remote using scp.
    $ scp myfile.txt [email protected]:/remote/folder/

    If the target folder (/remote/folder/) is not specified, it will copy the file to the remote user's home directory.

  2. Copy single file from remote to local using scp.
    $ scp [email protected]:/remote/folder/remotefile.txt  localfile.txt

    Using . as the copy target (replacing localfile.txt will copy the remote file to the current working directory using the same filename (remotefile.txt)

  3. Copy multiple files from local to remote using scp.
    $ scp myfile.txt myfile2.txt [email protected]:/remote/folder/
  4. Copy all files from local to remote using scp.
    $ scp * [email protected]:/remote/folder/
  5. Copy all files and folders recursively from local to remote using scp.
    $ scp -r * [email protected]:/remote/folder/

    remoteuser need to exist and have write permission to /remote/folder/ in the remote system.

    GUI programs such WinSCP can also be used to transfer files between local and remote host using scp methods.

Transfer file using sftp

sftp or Secure FTP in the other hand works almost exactly like ftp but with secure connection. Most of the commands are similar and can be used interchangeably. The following sftp example will work exactly as ftp would.

$ sftp [email protected]
Connected to
sftp> dir
file1      file2  file3   
sftp> pwd
Remote working directory: /home/user
sftp> get file2
Fetching /home/user/file2 to file2
/home/user/file2                                                   100% 3740KB 747.9KB/s   00:05    
sftp> bye

WinSCP can also be used to for file transfer usiing SFTP. The other popular tool is FileZilla.

Transfer file using rsync

You can also use ssh to secure your rsync session. To do this, use --rsh=ssh or -e “ssh” with your normal rsync commands. The following 2 commands will work exactly the same;

$ rsync -av --delete --rsh=ssh /path/to/source [email protected]:/remote/folder/
$ rsync -av --delete -e "ssh" /path/to/source [email protected]:/remote/folder/

If these options are not specified, rsync will first try to connect to rsyncd but will automatically fallback to SSH if rsyncd is not running in the remote system.

Mount remote filesystem locally

Remote filesystem could be mounted to a local host and could be accessed as a local filesystem. This requires SSH access to the remote host and with the use of sshfs.

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