Secure File Transfer with Java: A Guide to SFTP

In today’s interconnected digital landscape, the need to securely transfer files between systems is ubiquitous. One of the most reliable and secure protocols for such transfers is the Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP). In this guide, we’ll delve into how to harness the power of Java to interact with an SFTP server, enabling seamless file transfers while ensuring data integrity.

1. Setting Up Your Environment: Before we embark on our SFTP journey, let’s ensure that we have the necessary tools installed and configured:

  • Java Development Kit (JDK): Ensure you have Java installed on your system. You can download it from the official Oracle website.
  • JSch Library: We’ll use the JSch library for Java, which provides support for SSH protocol. You can download the JSch library from its official website or include it as a dependency in your project using a build tool like Maven or Gradle.

2. Establishing a Connection to the SFTP Server: The first step is to establish a connection to the SFTP server. We’ll utilize the JSch library to achieve this. Here’s how:

import com.jcraft.jsch.*;

// Create JSch object
JSch jsch = new JSch();

// Set up session
Session session = jsch.getSession("username", "hostname", port);
session.setConfig("StrictHostKeyChecking", "no");

Replace "username", "hostname", port, and "password" with your SFTP server credentials.

3. Downloading a File from the SFTP Server: Once connected, we can proceed to download a file from the SFTP server to our local machine. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

// Open SFTP channel
ChannelSftp channelSftp = (ChannelSftp) session.openChannel("sftp");

// Download file
String remoteFilePath = "/path/to/remote/file.csv";
String localFilePath = "/path/to/local/file.csv";
channelSftp.get(remoteFilePath, localFilePath);

// Disconnect channel and session

Ensure to replace "/path/to/remote/file.csv" with the path of the file on the SFTP server and "/path/to/local/file.csv" with the desired destination path on your local machine.

4. Checking File Timestamps: It’s often essential to compare file timestamps to determine whether a local copy is up to date. Let’s see how we can achieve this:

// Retrieve timestamp of remote file
SftpATTRS attrs = channelSftp.lstat(remoteFilePath);
long remoteFileTimestamp = attrs.getMTime() * 1000L; // Convert to milliseconds

// Convert timestamp to human-readable date and time
Date date = new Date(remoteFileTimestamp);
SimpleDateFormat sdf = new SimpleDateFormat("dd-MM-yyyy HH:mm:ss");
String formattedDateTime = sdf.format(date);
System.out.println("Remote file last modified: " + formattedDateTime);

// Check if local file already exists and compare timestamps
File localFile = new File(localFilePath);
if (localFile.exists()) {
    long localFileTimestamp = localFile.lastModified();
    if (remoteFileTimestamp <= localFileTimestamp) {
        // Local file is up to date


Interacting with an SFTP server using Java is a straightforward process with the right tools and libraries at your disposal. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you’ll be equipped to seamlessly connect to an SFTP server, download files securely, and even perform timestamp comparisons to ensure data freshness. Incorporating these techniques into your Java applications will enhance their capabilities and reliability in handling file transfers.


JSch library documentation: [link]

Hey folks, I'm Vivek Kumar Pandey, a software engineer with a passion for crafting elegant solutions to complex problems. From the bustling streets of Mumbai to the heart of Bangalore's tech scene, I've journeyed through the world of programming, leaving my mark one line of code at a time. Join me as I continue to explore, innovate, and push the boundaries of what's possible in the digital realm.

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