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FTP (File Transfer Protocol)


What is FTP?

File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is a protocol used to transfer files between computers in a network. 

It establishes a connection between a client and a server secured by login details, which consist of a server address, username, and password.

How does FTP work?

FTP uses the transmission control protocol/internet protocol (TCP/IP) to move files between computers, or between a computer and a server.

FTP can be used to both upload and download files. Uploading is the process of transferring files from a local computer to another server, while downloading involves retrieving data from a server and storing it at a local computer. 

Once you set up an FTP program, you’ll need your FTP details. These consist of a server address, username, and password. If you’re hosting the server, these logins can be found from your hosting dashboard. 

File types and different transfer modes

FTP offers two modes of data transfer: ASCI and binary transfer

ASCI transfer is used to transfer text-based files such as HTML documents and PHP scripts. 

Meanwhile, the binary transfer is better suited for moving bigger files such as images, applications, web pages, and compressed .zip or .rar files. 

Most FTP clients can tell the difference between the two, and change the transfer mode automatically based on the type of file being transferred. However, binary is often used as the default mode since this method works for both types.

How to use an FTP client to transfer files

The easiest way to use FTP is through an FTP client, with software that offers a quick and easy way of transferring files. It allows you to access the files on the server remotely from a local computer and make the required changes. 

Here are some of the reasons to use an FTP client to transfer files:

  • Simple and easy to use – it has an intuitive dashboard, making it easy to use even for beginners.
  • Flexible most FTP clients are compatible with popular operating systems like macOS, Windows, and Linux.
  • Automated file transfer – you can schedule the data transfer process, saving time and minimizing human error.
  • Resume feature – in case of connection loss during the transfer process, the software can pick up where you left off.
  • Queue uploading feature – if you need to transfer multiple files and directories at the same time, you can easily do it by adding these files to the uploading queue.

Keep in mind that the software also comes with several disadvantages:

  • Security issues – while file transfer is easier using FTP, the files transferred through it are not encrypted and are therefore more vulnerable to cyber attacks.
  • Doesn’t support a multiple-servers transfer – FTP clients only allow for a file transfer to one server at a time.
  • Unmonitored transfer activities – if you need a system that lets you track what has been transferred in a certain period, the software is not for you.

Even though it has a simple and intuitive dashboard, transferring files through this tool can be quite tricky for beginners. Here’s a step-by-step tutorial on how to utilize an FTP client:

Install an FTP client

Choose an FTP client and download the installer. Follow the instructions provided by the install wizard.

Setting up a connection

Once you have an FTP client set up, configure a connection between your computer and the desired web server. 

As mentioned earlier, you need to collect the following FTP details to set up a connection:

  • Server address or hostname  – the FTP server address, the format is: ftp://yourdomain.com.
  • Username or password  – the chosen username and password to login into the FTP client.
  • Default port  – the default FTP port is either 21 or 22. Check with your hosting provider if neither work.

If you can’t find FTP details, look around the FTP connections section in your control panel, or ask your hosting provider for assistance.

Connecting and transferring files

After your FTP client is connected to the desired server, you should be able to see the directory of the FTP server. It usually consists of a local site and a remote site section. 

The local section consists of files stored on the computer where the client is installed, while the remote section is the server the computer is connected to. You can now navigate around these servers to upload and download files easily.

Written by

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Olivia is a writer for Zyro and an eCommerce know-it-all. Having spent many years as a retail buyer, she loves writing about trend forecasting, brand building, and teaching others how to optimize online stores for success. She lives in London and spends a lot of time exploring the city’s parks with her whippet.

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