FTP

By: Richard Lowe

Believe it or not, browsing the web with Internet Explorer or
Netscape is relatively new. It wasn't that long ago (ten to
fifteen years) when the tools you would use on the internet (not
the web) were email, gopher (a menu based browser), archie (a file
and directory locator) and FTP.

The letters FTP stand for File Transfer Protocol, and that's
exactly what FTP allows you to do - transfer files from place to
place. In fact, FTP is by far the most efficient (the fastest) way
to copy large files across the internet.

Today many people use a sophisticated FTP client to get files to
and from their web sites. This has several advantages over the
method commonly used by amateurs on free web sites. Many newbies
who don't know any better use the gadgets provided by their free
host to edit their sites. The problems with this are many and
varied.

First, the gadgets are not very impressive as editors. Most users
who want to create a web site of any size and complexity will find
themselves constrained horribly by these tools. Probably the only
good thing about these editing tools is they give people a nice,
easy way to start creating web sites without a huge learning curve.
But take my word for it, you will outgrow them soon enough.

In addition, a major problem is the editing is generally done
directly on the host site. This means you do not have a back up of
your site on your own hard drive. If your host decides to close
your account, goes bankrupt or just plain is unavailable, you lose
your site. If you ever want to have a frustrating experience, just
try and call your host and ask them to restore your site from one
of their backups!

Other people use products such as Dreamweaver or FrontPage, which
include site updating capabilities.

These are often very
convenient until they don't work or perform unexpected actions.
For example, I spent several days trying to figure out why my CGI
routines were not working, until I realized that FrontPage was
uploading the files incorrectly. From that moment forward, I used
an FTP package to upload my files.

Most of the modern FTP clients are very simple to use. You just
launch the program, enter some basic information (such as the site
address, account name and password) and connect. Once connected,
you can usually just drag and drop files from your own hard drive
to the site.

Precisely why is it a good idea to use an FTP client over, say,
FrontPage (or Dreamweaver) or direct editing on a hosts web site?

FTP is fast and efficient - As it turns out, FTP is actually one of
the most efficient ways to transfer large amounts of data on the
entire internet. Don't believe me? Try transferring a very large
file, say a megabyte, using FTP. It really moves, doesn't it?

By using FTP, you have an automatic backup - If you use FTP you
will be editing your files locally on your own computer. As you
make changes you will copy the files up to your host's computer.
This means no matter what happens to your host, even if their
computer is totally destroyed, you've got a copy of your site on
your own disk. The reverse is also true - if your computer is
trashed you can recover your site from your host's system.

FTP gives you control - You can choose whether to transfer in
binary (executables and compressed files) or ASCII (text files) as
needed. This is an advantage over FrontPage, which does not give
you the choice. This means you cannot use FrontPage to upload your
site if you use, for example, CGI routines.

Some good FTP projects include the following.

AceFTP - http://www.visicommedia.com/aceftp/

This FTP client has the ability to do multiple tasks at the same
time. This means you can start a long copy, look at the site and
copy some smaller files all at the same time.

AutoFTPPro - http://www.primasoft.com/32org/32ftpro.htm

Has the ability to schedule transfers for selected times. The
template feature allows you to create a pattern which can make
future transfers much easier.

CuteFTP - http://www.internet-tips.net/Products/cuteftp.html

This is the product that I like to use. It is very easy to use,
with a simple interface that allows drag and drop.

KnoWare, Inc - http://www.knowareinc.com/

Several different FTP clients. FtpNetdrive maps an FTP site as a
drive letter, which integrates it directly into your desktop.
Internet Neighborhood adds the FTP site directly to your network
neighborhood. These are both very nice products.

WebDrive - http://www.riverfrontsoftware.com/

WebDrive is a Windows 95/98/NT FTP software client that allows
you to map an Internet FTP site to a local drive utilizing the
standard FTP protocol. This enables you to connect to an FTP site
and perform familiar file operations like copy, xcopy, and
directory functions with the Windows explorer, a DOS box, or any
other application like Microsoft Word, Excel, etc. WebDrive
instantly FTP enables any application that reads or writes files
by allowing the application to read files from or write files to
the FTP site.

WS_FTPPro - http://www.ipswitch.com/Products/WS_FTP/index.html

Another very nice FTP client with scheduling, speed and
integration into the browser. This allows you to enter ftp:// in
the address bar of the browser to call up the program.

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