Web Hosting Tutorials

What is FTP and how to use it to transfer files?

Methods to achieve data exchange are diverse these days.

Between one person and another on a same place, they can directly talk for exchanging information. If they are in different places, they can use phone, live chat, email, etc. to exchange data.

When it comes to exchange data, like a file, between 2 computers, you can simply create share files that 2 computers can download via the local network or Internet connections.

However, sharing files over the Internet is not recommendable considering security. Instead, FTP is used most when transferring files over the Internet, like transferring files between 2 computers, between a server and a computer, or others.

What is FTP?

FTP, namely File Transfer Protocol, is a number of conventions, applied to transfer files over TCP/IP network, such as the Internet. And the conventions are collected in RFC 959 document. One FTP practice used most is to transfer files between FTP servers and FTP clients, like a FTP manager.

Web hosting companies usually offer FTP accounts to customers, so that they can use their FTP accounts to upload files to servers or download files from their FTP servers over the internet. Moreover, instead of uploading or downloading one file at one time, FTP supports you to upload or download all files that you select. So, FTP makes file transferring faster and easier. Especially if you are building a site, you need to upload large files on your server. FTP is important to you get the work done efficient. Besides, you can directly move or delete your files on servers via your FTP accounts.

How FTP Works?

FTP is mainly used for transferring files or data. To understand how it works, we put it simple by giving you 3 elements: network, a FTP client, and a server. You get any FTP client, like FileZilla, CoreFTP, Cyberduck,etc. installed on your computer. Then you can use this client to send commands to servers over the network. For example, you can tell your servers that you need your certain file downloaded via your FTP client. Then the server will respond and send the file back.

In general, FTP points one connection specifically for commands while other connections are used for sending and receiving data or files. Moreover, people usually use port 21 as a command port for sending commands only. Correspondingly, there is a kind of port used for transferring data, called a data port. But the specific number of data port is different in different FTP connection modes.

FTP connection modes decide not only data port number, but also how your server will respond. Generally, FTP servers support active or passive connection modes. The active mode means that a client opens a port and listens so that its server can actively connect to it. On the contrary, in the passive mode, it is a server to open a port and listen. In this way, the FTP client needs to connect to the server.

Currently, FTP passive connection mode is the most acceptable mode considering security. You have to know that firewalls come to prevent outside connections. When you choose passive FTP connection mode, your FTP client initiates a connection. However, in the active mode, it is a server to initiates a connection. So if you do not configure firewall settings, the connection from your server to your client will be prevented eventually.

Why You Need FTP or Why You not?

There are arguments about FTP. Some prefer it to transfer files while others query whether it can guarantee security, and think it unfriendly.

In short, FTP has advantages like: supporting transferring multiple files each time, almost no limitation on the size of single transfer, getting control of transfers, faster and more efficient transfers, automatic backup, and so on.

It has disadvantages as well. If you do not use SFTP, your files, usernames and even passwords are in plain text to be transferred, which will influence security. In addition to that, servers could be cheated to send files or data to a random port and then an unintended computer.

But overall, FTP advantages outweigh its disadvantages. It creates convenient and improve efficiency to data exchange.

How to Use FTP to Transfer Files

To transfer files to or from your servers by using FTP tech, you have to make sure several things.

  • The address of your FTP server – It could be a format like ftp.yourdomain.com. Or you could get your FTP Host address as the number format, like
  • The login name and password.
  • Locations of folders you want to use.
  • A FTP client like FileZilla, CoreFTP, Cyberduck, already installed on your computer.

Next, you can type your server address, user name and password into the FTP client on your computer. Then you will be connected to your servers. Finally, it is ready for you to upload, download, move or just delete files.

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