File Transfer Protocol (FTP) powers one of the most fundamental Internet functions: the transfer of files between computers. Prior to 1995, FTP generated more traffic on the Internet than any other service. Today, Web developers use FTP protocols to upload/update their web sites and download other information.
A basic understanding about the FTP process and software programs is important for every Web developer. You’ll use to post and modify your Web pages at your Web host’s server.
Terms to know
Let’s review some basic FTP terms.
FTP For The Web Developer
When you purchase a web hosting account, the host assigns you a username and password for this purpose. Depending your preference (and your Web host’s capabilities), you may access an FTP connection directly using UNIX commands or use an interface. Unless you’re comfortable with UNIX commands, you probably use an FTP interface.
You web host will generally provide specific instructions about how to access their FTP server, but it’s important that you understand the basic process:
What Kind of FTP Program Do You Need?
If your Web page editor doesn’t provide an FTP interface or if you code your pages by hand, you can choose from many FTP programs that don’t require extensive UNIX knowledge. They provide a drag-and-drop interface familiar to Windows and Mac users.
WS_FTP is a popular FTP package for PC’s while many Mac users employ FTP programs like Fetch and Anarchie. FTP is platform independent: you can use it to upload files from a Mac to a UNIX server without any trouble.
You may actually have already used FTP and never realized it. If you developed your site in FrontPage, the simple “Publish Web” option posted it using the FrontPage extensions installed with your account on your Web host’s server. If you have FrontPage extensions installed within your site, you should only use FrontPage to send and edit your Web files.
There are three basic ways to use FTP – your choice depends on how you plan to use it.
FTP Knowledge Increases Your Options
Even if you use an HTML editor that makes the FTP process almost invisible, it’s still important to have a basic understanding of the process. If you rely solely on a single method, you limit your options unnecessarily. FTP-literate developers aren’t constrained by particular tools or methods. They’re free to choose Web design packages and web hosts based on their overall value – not just their FTP features.
Download a free FTP package (remember the virus scan!) and practice with it for a few hours. It’s easier than you think and well worth your time.