Guidance needed on FTP software

We have been providing offsite backup services for about 100 of our customers for years, using pcAnywhere at both ends.  Our three host computers are standard PCs running Win7 Pro.  This setup works well, except for two insurmountable problems with the pcAnywhere software:

1) If it loses the connection, it can't automatically restart.

2) Only one customer PC can be connected to the host at a time.

So I'm wondering if FTP software will be better--doing everything pcAnywhere does, plus solving these two problems.  I found a site that says SmartFTP is the best client software, so wrote them an email with a few questions (since there is apparently no way to talk to a person).  Here is the narrative:

>1) I see that it can auto-reconnect, which is one of the important things pcAnywhere cannot do.  How does this work?  Does it reconnect a preset number of times, or does it keep on trying “forever”?  Does the transfer pick back up where it left off, or does it start all over?
=> It can be setup. Default is 99 times. Transfers are resumed.

2) In pcAnywhere, I have a ‘queue’, where I can set up commands telling it which folders to copy from the local PC, and where to copy them to on the remote PC.  They also offer a command where I can tell it to run a batch file on the host PC.  And, I can save this queue and run it from within a DOS batch file, thus completely automating it to run at night.  Can I do all these same functions with SmartFTP?
With programming/scripting yes but you have to write your own scripts.

>3) Say I have 25 customers backing up to one host PC.  Would I buy 25 copies of your software for those 25 PCs?  And then what would I need to purchase for the host PC?
Yes you need 25 licenses + FTP server.

>4) I would need to be able to set up the scripts (?) on all 25 of those PCs somewhat differently, in terms of telling the software where to copy the files and folders on the host PC.  Can I do this?
You can use the same script

5) Does the software have the ability to zip or compress data before it sends it—or would I need to zip the data in a batch file before running the SmartFTP app?
No you have to zip the files yourself. But transfers are compressed/encrypted.

Now I'm realizing that I also have to have FTP server software.  Like I say, I want something that can run on these same Win7 PCs already in place.  It does not need to be free--just reasonable.  Any suggestions on server software for my purposes? I headed in the right direction overall?  Or, is there a better way to handle my file transfer/backup problems for my customers?  TIA
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Kent DyerIT Security Analyst SeniorCommented:
Have you had a look at WinSCP?

I have used it for scripting, automation, and so on..  I have never looked back.

Like you, about 4 years ago, I loved SmartFTP.  However, the product has grown into Nagware, Shareware, and have become unhappy with it.

I have use FileZilla and I like it as it is open-source and have been happy with it.

When I found WinSCP, it was a no-brainer as it supports scripting.  I have a couple automated jobs to check for vendor update files.


sasllcAuthor Commented:

As you can tell, I have no idea what I'm talking about here.  I have been "spoiled" for years on the ease of setting up command queues in pcAnywhere for what I want to do for each customer, and I had a user manual back in the early days to help me get it all set up.  With this FTP software, I really am starting from scratch, making me wonder if I need to go with software that is NOT free, so I can get setup help and support.  Any thoughts?

And, based on my description of what I'm trying to do, do you feel like WinSCP with FileZilla can be set up to do what I want and need?
Kent DyerIT Security Analyst SeniorCommented:
Gosh..  Well I think you are going to have to dive in and look..

What works for you may not work for me..

Here are a ton of user-driven reviews for FTP Clients/Servers/etc. at this site.

I would be happy to give more of a recommendation, but I think it is time you setup a chart of pluses and minuses of what the feature set is available and whittle down to the one that fits your business model the best.

I hope I am not coming across to "put-offish" but you are going to have start looking at the various clients out there and put the rubber to the road rather than getting "some guys" opinion of software.

As another take of this, why do people use LINUX versus Windows versus Mac?  Let's break this down: LINUX is more customizable than Windows and Windows is more customizable than a Mac.  If we really boil this down to the finite components.

WinSCP is open-source which means that you can download and install the software, binaries and such.  You can also download the source code and tweak it to your needs.

SmartFTP is not open-source and you are constrained by what you can do.

I know you also mentioned FTP server..  Servers are available as part of IIS, and you can download FTP Servers too.


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Dave BaldwinFixer of ProblemsCommented:
You should look at Filezilla because they provide both a server for Windows and clients for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
Using FTP for backup... is an inherently primitive way of doing it.

I'm assuming that your backup needs consist basically or just saving some individual files from each computer - maybe they are documents?

What FTP doesn't allow you to do:

- Differential or incremental backups
- Copying only the changed blocks in a single file
- Encryption / compression by default (it needs to be specifically enabled, e.g. Z Mode and FTPS)
- Multiple revisions of backed up files
- Backups of files which are currently in use (no use of volume shadow copy)
- Any form of data integrity checking
- Remote configuration of clients
- Resuming if the connection is interrupted or if the computer is turned off at the time of the schedule
- Throttling so that the network is not saturated during transfer

..... if you are looking to provide a hosted backup solution for your customers, I'd take a look into CrashPlan.

The free version of CrashPlan lets you create an "adhoc" configuration of several home computer which can backup to, and restore files from, each other. It which works nicely for personal use, or to just try it out and get a feel for how it works.

But, ultimately what I think you want is the enterprise version, CrashPlan PROe. This allows you to host your own Master Server, create organizations and users for your clients, and it will hold all storage for the backups. Then you can install the CrashPlan clients on your customer's computers and they run quietly in the background as a Windows service, doing backups continuously.
Robo-FTP is a scriptable FTP client with error handling functions so you can write a script that reconnects and resumes where you left off if the connection drops.  You can set the max transfer rate so the network is not saturated and, if the server supports it you can also resume in the middle of a file and do integrity checking.  

That said, it is not easy to use out of the box... it is more of a development tool for automating file transfers so it has a user guide that is 400 pages long.  So there is a learning curve but you can use it to build exactly what you want.  I've got it set up to run as a windows service at client locations.  In the middle of the night it runs a script which connects to my server and downloads a list of files and a copy of the automation script if they have changed since last execution.  Then it runs its automation script which reads the list of files and uploads them if the local copy has been modified as compared to the one saved on the server.  This allows me to remotely change the behavior of the client service by updating its file list or automation script.  Each location has a slightly different file list.  I have to admit that I didn't come up with this plan all by myself, I called to ask if we could get a volume discount and some engineering hours were included as part our the package with a server and about 60 clients. Their engineer wrote the initial scripts but in modifying them to meet evolving needs over the years I have learned quite a lot about the scripting language.
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