An Overview of Ftp for Transferring Files

by : Gary Hayduk

FTP, also known as File Transfer Protocol, is a powerful way to transfer files between computers. It serves as one of the foundations for file sharing on the Internet. FTP simply handles copying files from one computer to another. Indeed this is a common thing everybody uses for downloading files from the Internet.

A wide variety of drag and drop GUI based FTP programs are available making FTP as easy to use as Windows' file Explorer. FTP is a client-server based approach, and you need both types of applications, i.e. FTP servers and FTP clients, to successfully transfer files using this method. But it doesn't require both types of applications on both of the computers involved in the transfer, however. One of each application type is all that's needed. Here's how you determine which application needs to run where:

*The person who will be requesting the file to be moved uses an FTP client on their computer.
*The FTP server is run on the computer that must answer the request for file movement.
*To repeat, the only computers that need to run an FTP server are the ones that must respond to requests for file transfers.
*The initiator of the requests needs only to use an FTP Client.

FTP works well because all it does is get files from one computer to another, which is great if you want to transfer a batch of files. You won't directly view or edit a file on another computer through FTP. For example, let's say you want to edit a web page on another server. First you will have to use FTP to transfer the file to the computer with the editor, and then edit it, and then copy it back. So two copies of the file will exist. Some of the FTP clients today allow you to do this seamlessly, but behind the scenes they still must transfer the file to the client computer first. This differs from the LAN based file sharing most of us think of where only one copy of the file exists on disk. In that scenario, the file remains on another computer where it is directly read and written to by the applications. But depending on what you need to do, FTP's functionality may work just fine. It is also fast and efficient.

Tip: If you plan to run an FTP server, you need to be security conscious when configuring it. FTP is powerful because it is a well-established standard. But because it is a standard, lots of people are familiar with it, and the ways that it can be attacked or compromised. Be sure to use strong password protection and only share the minimum number of folders necessary.

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