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. Other applications such as sftp and rsync can also 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

Methods for remote file transfer using SSH:

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. 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.

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

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

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

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.

Share this guide!
Discuss the article:

Comment anonymously. Login not required.