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TFTP Overview, History and Standards
(Page 2 of 3)
Comparing FTP and TFTP
Probably the best way of understanding
the relationship between TFTP and FTP is to compare it to the
relationship between TCP and UDP at the transport layer.
UDP is a simplified, stripped-down alternative to TCP, used
when simplicity is more important than rich functionality. Similarly,
TFTP is a greatly simplified version of FTP that allows only basic operations
and lacks some of FTP's fancy capabilities, in order to keep its implementation
easy (even trivial!) and its program size small.
Some of the more significant specific
differences between FTP and TFTP:
- Transport: The comparison to TCP and UDP
is apt not only based on the features/simplicity trade-off, but because
FTP uses TCP
for transport while TFTP uses UDP.
Like TFTP, UDP is simple and this makes the two ideal for embedding
together as a hardware program set in a network device.
- Limited Command Set: FTP includes a rich
set of commands to allow files to be sent, received, renamed, deleted
and so forth. TFTP only allows files to be sent and received.
- Limited Data Representations: TFTP does
not include some of FTP's fancy data representation options; it allows
only simple ASCII or binary file transfers.
- Lack of Authentication: UDP uses no login
mechanism or other means of authentication. This is again a simplification,
though it means the operators of TFTP servers must severely restrict
the files they make available for access. (It is also part of why TFTP
specifically does not allow the client to perform dangerous
file operations such as deletion.)
Due to its limitations, TFTP is a
complement to the regular File Transfer Protocol, not a replacement
for it. It is used only when its simplicity is important and its lack
of features is not. Its most common application is bootstrapping, as
described above, though it can be used for other purposes. One specific
application that the TFTP standard describes for the protocol is the
transport of electronic mail. While the protocol supports this explicitly,
TFTP is not generally used today for this purpose.
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The TCP/IP Guide (http://www.TCPIPGuide.com)
Version 3.0 - Version Date: September 20, 2005
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