Shared, VPS and dedicated server customers using Odin Plesk sometimes report inability to use SFTP. The error reported would be “Error: Fatal: unable to initialise SFTP on server: could not connect. Error: Could not connect to server“. SFTP allows customers to securely upload their website contents to the server, and protects them from password snooping. Failure to use SFTP forces them to use insecure channels.

What is SFTP?

SFTP is our regular FTP piggybacking on an SSH (Secure Shell) connection. So, if a user has a shell account in the server, they can use SFTP to securely send their login details and transfer their files over an encrypted channel.

What is this error?

The important part of the error is “Unable to initialize SFTP on server“. This means an SFTP session couldn’t be created. It usually happens when shell access is not enabled for the user trying to connect to the server.

How to fix this error

Just enable shell account for the user as mentioned below:

1. As admin user, go to “Domains” >> “{}” >> “Control Panel” >> “Websites & Domains”
2. Go to “FTP Access” >> “{FTP account name}”
3. Under “Access to the server over SSH”, change from “Forbidden” to any other value.

Note: These are the steps for a Plesk 11 server. The settings should be in similar locations for other versions.


Website upload errors are one of the common issues reported by Odin Plesk users. Bobcares helps webmasters quickly resolve their account issues and avoid business downtime.


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