FTP Server – Use-Cases in the Factory


Data transmission and exchange play an increasingly important role in modern production facilities. In practice, in addition to the transfer of real-time data, the exchange of files is also necessary for the seamless integration of different systems, locations and supply chain partners. FTP servers (File Transfer Protocol servers) have established themselves as an efficient means of transferring files in factories. This article highlights the advantages and disadvantages as well as typical use-cases of FTP servers in the factory.



An FTP server uses the File Transfer Protocol to enable the exchange of files and data between a client and the server. This transfer can include the uploading and downloading of files as well as the management of file structures. Authentication is usually carried out using a user name and password. Anonymous FTP allows users to access files, programs and other data on the Internet without the need for a user ID or password. SFTP (Secure File Transfer Protocol) is a secure extension of conventional FTP. It offers a higher level of security and data protection through encryption and is therefore to be preferred.

FTP Server in the Factory


The Advantages of FTP Servers in the Factory

Communication via FTP servers can be useful, especially if file formats are necessary for the exchange of information or can be realized more economically. The advantages of SFTP in particular are:

  1. Security: SFTP uses encryption technologies to protect data during transmission. This ensures that confidential information, such as production data and quality reports, is transferred securely between different systems or locations.
  2. Authentication: SFTP requires authentication to ensure that only authorized users and systems can access the server. This prevents unauthorized access to sensitive production data.
  3. Integrity: SFTP checks the data integrity during transfer and ensures that the transferred files arrive unchanged and error-free. This is particularly important in production-critical environments where data consistency is crucial.
  4. Logging: SFTP servers log all transactions, which makes it possible to monitor and track data exchange. This is crucial for meeting compliance requirements and identifying errors.
  5. Flexibility: SFTP supports a variety of file formats and can be integrated into different platforms and systems. This facilitates the integration of production machines and interaction with various software applications.


The Disadvantages

Despite the many advantages offered by FTP servers in factories, there are also some potential disadvantages to consider. These can affect various aspects of data transmission and management in industrial environments:

  1. Security concerns: While SFTP is a secure extension of FTP, traditional FTP remains vulnerable to security risks. Without encryption, sensitive data can be compromised during transmission. In security-critical production environments, these vulnerabilities can lead to data breaches.
  2. Scalability: FTP can reach its scalability limits with large amounts of data and in heavily frequented networks. This could lead to bottlenecks in data transmission and impair the efficiency of production processes, especially in companies with extensive production data.
  3. Lack of real-time support: When using files as an interface for the system connection, updates cannot be made in real time, which leads to delays in the processes.
  4. Complexity of implementation: The implementation and maintenance of an FTP server requires certain technical knowledge. The configuration of firewalls, user access rights and integration into existing systems can be time-consuming and require additional resources.

With these potential drawbacks in mind, it is important to consider alternative protocols and technologies to meet the specific needs of a manufacturing facility and ensure optimal data transmission and management.


FTP Server – Use-Cases in the Factory

In production environments, FTP servers are often used to transfer production data, reports, logs and other files between systems or locations. Other examples are:

  1. Exchange of machine logs to analyze machine downtimes or calculate KPIs (e.g. OEE)
  2. Exchange of information with supply chain partners and suppliers (e.g. PLC programs)
  3. Exchange of information between ERP and production (e.g. transfer via csv file via UC4 Jobs in SAP)


i-flow and FTP server

i-flow performs several functions in combination with FTP servers. While FTP provides the exchange server, i-flow determines which FTP server receives and distributes which data (route control). This enables the implementation of business logic and rules for data exchange. If necessary, system protocols and data structures of source and target systems are translated in i-flow depending on the requirements and use case. This ensures that data is transferred correctly and seamlessly between the systems.

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