FTP – File Transfer Protocol

FTP, SMTP, HTTP, IDE, KFC, what the… In 350 years the entire English language will look like assembler code… a large string of 1,2, and 3 letter acronyms with weird punctuation. In the meantime, File Transfer Protocol or just FTP is one of the foundation blocks of the mechanics behind the internet. Its the programming contraption used to… transfer files.

FTP is what we call a protocol. Protocols are basically sets of rules on how an outgoing and incoming stream of data (0’s & 1’s) is interpreted when traveling from one device to another. The originating computer issues the data which then travels through several layers of software before it leaves your computer and embarks across the internet to the intended receiving device. The data could be a request for a web page, or a bunch of pictures going to a server. A request for a web page would be a web address and would originate from a browser. The first four letters of this request are http, for example http://normansheppard.com. This tells the computer that the data will be using the Hyper Text Transfer Protocol. The computer will now append some extra stuff to the beginning (header) of this data. For starters it will attach your computers address so the receiving end knows where to send the data you requested.

FTP or File Transfer Protocol differs from HTTP in that it is more of a one way street. You don’t normally use a browser for FTP (you can use IE to FTP but I don’t recommend it). You normally use a dedicated FTP program or one that is included with an IDE or Integrated Development Environment… like Dreamweaver. Dreamweaver is great but it is NOT free so I will recommend Filezilla or WSFTP. Two great programs that do the job very well and are free.

Go to http://filezilla-project.org/ and download the free “client”. Install it. Now you need three things a) the IP address of the server you want to upload to. b) the account username and c) the account password.

Remember in my last post when I said “Save the emails, write down the username and password you choose” Well, this is where you’ll be glad you did.

FTP programs are pretty easy to figure out and they have robust help sections. Plug in the IP address of the site, you can usually just put in the URL (without the http part, this is ftp) www.website.com or whatever. Then plug in your username and password and hit connect. You should now be able to see the files and folders on your server in an explorer-like window.

Voi-La, you’re connected. Save this connection, we will be using it soon.

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