One of the oldest applications on the Internet – the file transfer protocol – got a facelift, with Ipswitch Inc.’s release of what it claims is the first secure FTP software for Windows.

FTP allows users to make files or folders stored on a PC available to other users via the Internet. An alternative to e-mail attachments, FTP allows organizations to transfer extremely large files such as computer-aided design drawings and graphic files quickly and reliably.

With the latest versions of its WS_FTP Server and WS_FTP Pro client software, Ipswitch has added support for the Secure Sockets Layer protocol to automatically encrypt files transferred over the Internet. WS_FTP Server and WS_FTP Pro run on Windows NT/2000.

“This is the first secure FTP solution, and it serves as an alternative to” VPNs, says Sumner Saitz, product marketing manager at Ipswitch. “This is a great solution for workgroups within large companies, for small and midsize businesses, and for very large corporations with lots of telecommuters.”

WS_FTP Server 2.0 also features Open Database Connectivity integration, which allows administrators to authenticate users against existing ODBC-compliant databases, including Oracle and Microsoft’s Access and SQL Server. In addition, administrators can automate routine tasks by creating customized site commands for such functions as unzipping compressed files.

WS_FTP Server 2.0 costs $395 a copy, and WS_FTP Pro 6.6 costs $40 a copy, with volume discounts and site licenses available for large organizations.

More than 10 million people use Ipswitch’s FTP products, company officials say.

Based in Lexington, Mass., Ipswitch is a privately held company founded in 1991 that offers Internet messaging and network monitoring software. The company has a staff of 125 and will post $20 million in revenue this year.