File Transfer Protocol (FTP)

What is File Transfer Protocol (FTP)?

The term File Transfer Protocol (FTP) refers to a process that involves transferring files between devices over a network. This process works when one party allows the other party to send or receive files over the Internet. Originally used as a way for users to communicate and exchange information between two physical devices, it is now commonly used to store files in the cloud, which is often a secure location for remote storage.

A business or individual can use FTP to transfer files from one computer system to another, or to have a website upload or download files from its server.

key takeaways

  • File Transfer Protocol is a method of downloading, uploading, and transferring files on the Internet and between computer systems.
  • FTP supports transferring files to and from computers or through the cloud.
  • Users need an internet connection to perform FTP transfers.
  • FTP is an essential tool for those who build and maintain websites.
  • Although most websites already have FTP built in, many FTP clients are available for free download.

How File Transfer Protocol (FTP) Works

File transfer protocols allow individuals and businesses to share electronic files with others without having to be in the same space. This can be done using an FTP client or via the cloud. Whichever option you choose, both parties need an active internet connection.

Most web browsers come with FTP clients that enable users to transfer files from their computer to a server and vice versa. Some users may want to use a third-party FTP client, as many of them provide additional functionality. Examples of free downloadable FTP clients include FileZilla Client, FTP Voyager, WinSCP, CoffeeCup Free FTP, and Core FTP.

Many people have used FTP before without even realizing it. If you’ve ever downloaded a file from a web page, then you’ve used FTP. The first step is to log in, which may happen automatically or by entering a username and password manually. FTP also requires that you access the FTP server through a specific port number. After accessing the FTP server through an FTP client, you can now transfer files. Not all public FTP servers require you to log in, as some allow you to access them anonymously.

As mentioned above, FTP was originally developed as a way to send and receive files between two physical computers. But as technology changes, users can perform file transfers through the cloud. Using the cloud allows for easy, secure transfer (which protects individuals and companies from data breaches), and relatively low cost.

The term FTP client refers to software that allows you to transfer files to another party.

special attention items

File Transfer Protocol is one of many different protocols that determine how computers and computing systems behave on the Internet. Other such agreements include:

  • Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP): Designed to transmit data over a network
  • Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP): Provides access to bulletin boards or email messages from shared services
  • Network Time Protocol (NTP): Synchronize the clock time on your computer over the network

FTP enables computers on the Internet to transfer files back and forth. As such, it is a must-have tool for building and maintaining websites today.

What to look for in an FTP client

Each FTP client provides different features that allow users to modify the way they upload and download files. For example, if you use FileZilla, the program allows you to set bandwidth limits for files. This gives you control over upload and download speeds, which is helpful if you’re managing multiple file transfers at the same time.

Other features you might want to look for in an FTP client include public key authentication, the ability to set file compression levels, or a tool that enables you to search servers using file masks.


File Transfer Protocol (FTP) example

The setup of the FTP software is relatively simple. FileZilla is a free, downloadable FTP client. Enter the address, port and password of the server you want to access.

Once access is granted, the user’s files on their local system and the servers they access will be visible. Users can download files from the server to the local system, or upload files from the local system to the server. They can also change files on the server as long as they have the proper authorization.

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