What is FTP anyway?

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If you have a website and you’ve created some pages for it, you’ll need to transfer those files to the website’s server. The best way to accomplish this task is to use FTP. What is FTP? FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol. It’s the mechanism that allows users to transfer files between computers that are connected to the Internet. The easiest way to perform these transfers is by using an FTP client, which is a simple software product you run on your computer that allows you to drag and drop selected files to a remote server. Let’s take a look at some basic facts about FTP and compare the strengths and weaknesses of some popular FTP clients.

Understanding FTP
Not only is FTP a simple protocol, it’s also one of the oldest ones; in fact, it’s decades older than the HTTP protocol that serves as the basis of communication on the web. In the earlier days of the Internet, FTP was more popular than it is today, but it’s still commonly used for transferring files to a public web server.

One potential problem with standard FTP is its relative lack of security. Secure FTP (SFTP) is a specific type of FTP: It works the same way as traditional FTP, except it encrypts the files that are transmitted. Most of the well-known FTP software products offer SFTP, and its use is highly recommended. Although the settings can be a bit more complicated than a standard configuration, the security benefits justify the effort.

Using an FTP Client
A few key pieces of information are required in order to use an FTP client to transfer files. You’ll need your server name, your username and password to log in. The server name should be either your domain name or a subdomain of that domain name. The username and password should be the ones you use to log into your web hosting account. If you have trouble locating any of this information, your web hosting company should be able to help. You may be prompted to have your computer remember your password in the future; if you’re using a public or shared computer, skip this option.

Once you log in, you’ll see a list of files in the home directory of your website’s server. Take note of the “public_html” directory: This is where you’ll place any files that you want to be visible on the web.

If you make changes to files on your computer, you’ll have to upload them again in order to see those changes reflected on your website. Many FTP clients allow you to edit files directly on the remote server and skip the step of re-uploading them. You can always check your uploaded files by viewing them in a browser. If you’ve uploaded the index.html file, just enter the URL for your domain and you should see the file. If the file had a different name, you’ll have to specify that in the URL. For example, if you uploaded a file named aboutme.html, the URL for it would be: http://www.yourdomainname.com/aboutme.html. Don’t forget to reload your page each time you’ve uploaded changes in order to see the most recent version of the page.

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