Information Services Division


What is SSH and how do I use it?

What is SSH?

SSH or Secure Shell is a network communication protocol that enables two computers to communicate (c.f http or hypertext transfer protocol, which is the protocol used to transfer hypertext such as web pages) and share data. An inherent feature of ssh is that the communication between the two computers is encrypted meaning that it is suitable for use on insecure networks.

SSH is often used to "login" and perform operations on remote computers but it may also be used for transferring data.

How do I use SSH?

You use a program on your computer (ssh client), to connect to our service (server) and transfer the data to/from our storage using either a graphical user interface or command line. There are many programs available that enable you to perform this transfer and some operating systems such as Mac OS X and Linux have this capability built in.

SSH clients will typically support SCP (Secure Copy) and/or SFTP (SSH File Transfer Protocol) for transferring data; we tend to recommend using SFTP instead of SCP but both will work with our service.

Will I have to use the command line?

No, there are many very good programs with graphical interfaces such as WinSCP for Windows and Cyberduck for Mac OS X. Please see the access guide for your operating system (Windows, Mac OS X and Linux) for more information.

Why did Research Data Services choose SSH?

SSH enables us to provide a service with encrypted access for the widest range of operating systems (Windows XP-10, Max OS X and Linux); this would not be possible if we provided Windows networked drives (which utilise the SMB/CIFS communication protocol). SSH is reliable and secure and is often used in the High Performance Computing community for this reason.

Related guides & other info

RDSS Access Guide

Help & Support

For further help and assistance you can contact researchdata-support@ucl.ac.uk