What is FTP?

Based on abbreviationfinder, FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol and means translated file transfer protocol. This is an uncomplicated way of exchanging data between different computers or publishing it on the Internet. Which operating system and which connection path is used is irrelevant for the use of the protocol.

  • The File Transfer Protocol is one of the best-known and most widely used Internet protocols.
  • FTP enables data to be uploaded to a server, data to be downloaded from a server or to be transferred between two FTP servers.
  • Communication between the computer and the server takes place using software, the so-called FTP client.
  • In principle, it is always necessary to log on to the server, although this can often be done anonymously, especially on public servers.

What is FTP

The File Transfer Protocol is a network protocol specified in 1985 which is used to transfer data over IP networks. This means that FTP belongs to the Internet protocol category. The communication between individual devices takes place via a so-called TCP connection. The network protocol defines how the data exchange is implemented in detail. Basically, FTP offers the following options:

  • Transferring files from the client to the server (uploading)
  • Transfer files from the server to the client (download)
  • Client-controlled transfer between two FTP servers
  • Create and rename directories and set access rights
  • Manage or delete files

As a rule, there are no restrictions on the file formats. Difficulties only arise if the target computer does not accept a specific file extension, for example. FTP works with two different transfer modes. Which type is used in a specific case depends on the file type – whether binary file or text file. This is relevant because two systems do not necessarily have to use the same code table to decode characters.

FTP client

The data transfer method requires an FTP client. This means special software that is also referred to as FTP software or FTP program. Once installed on a computer, the application uses the FTP protocol to transfer files. The range of functions varies depending on the FTP client used. For example, there are providers who provide their customers with various additional functions, such as point-in-time downloads and uploads. The open source software FileZilla, which allows parallel connections to several servers, is considered to be popular in this area. However, there are numerous other free FTP programs such as Total Commander or Core FTP.

The term “FTP client” is irritating in some cases. Often the word “client” also refers to the respective terminal that communicates with the server. Usually it is a standard computer or laptop.

Use an add-on instead of an FTP program

It is not always necessary to download software. There is also the option of communicating with the FTP server via the browser. For example, there is an add-on for the popular Firefox browser called FireFTP. In addition, there are various web hosting providers or web servers where access to the FTP server also works via HTTP. This feature is known as WebFTP. After logging in, customers can, for example, upload files or create a new folder via their web browser. The user interface is usually based on common FTP programs.

The biggest advantage of an add-on is that there is no need to install any client software. However, the use of browser-based alternatives is often a bit more complicated. For demanding work, it therefore makes sense to prefer an appropriate program.

FTP server

An FTP server is the counterpart to the client. It waits for a terminal device to contact you in order to fulfill defined tasks – also known as services. In this context, the File Transfer Protocol defines the way in which data is exchanged.

In order to be able to access a normal FTP server, a login with the user name and the associated password is required. In order for a user to have access, the server administrator must enter the relevant data on the server. This is primarily relevant for all those who want to upload a website to a hoster via FTP.

Log in anonymously on public servers

Anyone who works with the File Transfer Protocol must log on to the server in any case. However, there is also the option of anonymous registration. For this purpose, users often use the user name “anonymous” and choose any password. It used to be an unwritten rule to use your personal email address. However, this is no longer advisable for reasons of spam protection. Anonymous FTP is offered in particular by public servers, for example those of universities or technical colleges.