February 26, 2019
3 min Read
File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is one way to get and transfer files between computers. The protocol is one of the oldest methods that is still used today; its early development started in 1971. It was developed as a mechanism for granting access to users so that they could access and use files on a specific system. An average internet user wouldn’t use FTP that often. As a website developer, however, it is instrumental.
In this article, we will learn all the basics about FTP and how to use the protocol.
As stated above, FTP is a method to access and share files on the internet. The protocol is a way to communicate between computers on a TCP/IP network, the internet. It’s used by users who have access to transfer and receive files in the FTP server (also known as FTP host/site). The access control is essential to prevent an unauthorized person from getting those files.
Think about FTP like using Windows Explorer or a Finder on a laptop. With the help of such tools, the owner can get and move files – text, image or audio to a specific place in their drive.
As a website developer, FTP is often used to make changes to a website. Given the large number of files that need to be handled, it is more comfortable and secure to use FTP to manage them. For example, you can move a web template, add image files, upload specific files to build the website, etc.
FTP connection needs two parties to establish and communicate on the network. To do that, users need to have permission by providing credentials to the FTP server. Some public FTP server may not need credentials to access their files. The practice is common in a so-called anonymous FTP.
There are two distinct communication channels while establishing an FTP connection. The first one is called the command channel where it initiates the instruction and response. The other one is called a data channel, where the distribution of data happens.
To get or transfer files, an authorized user will use the protocol to request on creating changes in the server. In return, the server will grant that access. This session is known as active connection mode.
The distribution in active mode might face a problem if a firewall is protecting the user’s machine. The firewall usually does not allow any unauthorized sessions from an external party.
The passive mode is used if that issue occurs. In passive mode, the user establishes both command and the data channel. This mode then asks the server to listen rather than to attempt to create a connection back to the user.
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There are three approaches on how to establish an FTP connection. A very simple method is using a command line FTP, such as using Command prompt for Windows or Terminal in Mac/Linux. Developers still use it today for transferring files using FTP.
A user also can use a web browser to communicate to the FTP server. A web browser is more convenient when users want to access large directories in the server. Yet, it’s often less reliable and slower than using a dedicated FTP program.
Today, the most common practice to use FTP, especially for a web developer, is by using an FTP client.
An FTP client provides more freedom compared to the command line and web browser. It is also easier to manage and more powerful compared to the other methods.
There are also more features available whilst using such a client. For example, it allows users to transfer large files and use the synchronizing utility.
There are many FTP clients to choose from. From free open-source applications to premium options. For the purpose of this article, we will use FileZilla, an open-source and popular FTP client.
We will need an FTP server first, and we can set one up using our Hostinger account.
So there you have it, you can get and transfer files from an FTP server. As a web developer, you will need to use FTP with an FTP client to access the website that you are managing. Furthermore, it is easier to create and remove directories and read a large number of files on the server.
We hope this article helps you to understand the FTP as well as different methods and programs used.