What is FTP?

by Martin Malden

Before I started building websites FTP was one of those terms that I heard but never understood.

In fact, I initially hoped I could run an on-line business without ever needing to build a website just so I didn’t have to deal with things like FTP  🙂

Well, I found out the hard way I couldn’t do that – so I ended up getting to grips with it.

And here’s what it is:  

FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol and it’s simply the means by which you move files from your PC to your web server and back again.

In this article I said that a web page is made up of lots of files that Internet Explorer receives from the web server and arranges on your screen, so you can see the web page.

In many cases web designers work offline, creating the files that make up their pages using tools that they have on their PC.

For example, the graphic I have at the top of this page is a single file, which I made by editing a much larger picture and adding the text.  To do that I used a graphics tool that sits on my PC.

Having made up the file I then had to transfer it to my web server so it can be displaid whenever anyone types the link to this page.

I used FTP to do that.

Luckily, today we don’t need to know the ins and outs of how FTP actually works, because there are software packages that take care of all that for us.

All we have to do is learn how to use the software packages – there’s a description of how to do that here.

In this post I talked about Internet Explorer on your PC being the client because it’s what the server serves web pages to.

Many programs that people use to work online need a version that sits on the server and a version that sits on your PC.

These two versions work together to make sure they can carry out whatever they’re designed to do.

That applies to FTP.  So there’s a version that sits on your PC, which is called the FTP client, and a version that sits on the server.

There are lots of FTP clients available and they all work to the same standards, so that they can communicate and work with the server end.

They also work in pretty much the same way at the client end (your PC), but the user interface (what you see on the screen) looks different as each manufacturer tries to make their version more user friendly, or give it distinguishing features.

All you need to do, then, is to install an FTP client on your PC, make the connection with your FTP account on the server and you’re good to go.  Here’s a description of how to do that.

Using the FTP client on your PC is exactly the same as using Windows Explorer.  You simply drag and drop your files where you want them to go and the FTP client takes care of the rest.

Couldn’t be easier, but for a more detailed description read this.

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