FTP (File Transfer Protocol) is the simplest and most secure way to exchange files over the Internet. Whether you know it or not, you most likely use FTP all the time.
The most common use for FTP is to download files from the Internet. Because of this, FTP is the backbone of the MP3 music craze, and vital to most online auction and game enthusiasts. In addition, the ability to transfer files back-and-forth makes FTP essential for anyone creating a Web page, amateurs and professionals alike.
When downloading a file from the Internet you're actually transferring the file to your computer from another computer over the Internet. This is why the T (transfer) is in FTP. You may not know where the computer is that the file is coming from but you most likely know it's URL or Internet address.
An FTP address looks a lot like an HTTP, or Website, address except it uses the prefix ftp:// instead of http://.
Example Website address: http://www.yourdomain.com
Example FTP site address: ftp://ftp.yourdomain.com
Most often, a computer with an FTP address is dedicated to receive an FTP connection. Just as a computer that is setup to host Web pages is referred to as a Web server or Website, a computer dedicated to receiving an FTP connection is referred to as an FTP server or FTP site.
What is an FTP Site?
An FTP site is like a large filing cabinet. With a traditional filing cabinet, the person who does the filing has the option to label and organize the files how ever they see fit. They also decide which files to keep locked and which remain public. It is the same with an FTP site.
The virtual 'key' to get into an FTP site is the UserID and Password. If the creator of the FTP site is willing to give everyone access to the files, the UserID is 'anonymous' and the Password is your e-mail address (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org). If the FTP site is not public, there will be a unique UserID and Password for each person who is granted access.
When connecting to an FTP site that allows anonymous logins, you're frequently not prompted for a name and password. Hence, when downloading from the Internet, you most likely are using an anonymous FTP login and you don't even know it.
To make an FTP connection you can use a standard Web browser (Internet Explorer, Netscape, etc.) or a dedicated FTP software program, referred to as an FTP 'Client'.
When using a Web browser for an FTP connection, FTP uploads are difficult, or sometimes impossible, and downloads are not protected (not recommended for uploading or downloading large files).
When connecting with an FTP Client, uploads and downloads couldn't be easier, and you have added security and additional features. For one, you're able to to resume a download that did not successfully finish, which is a very nice feature for people using dial-up connections who frequently loose their Internet connection.
What is an FTP Client?
An FTP Client is software that is designed to transfer files back-and-forth between two computers over the Internet. It needs to be installed on your computer and can only be used with a live connection to the Internet.
The classic FTP Client look is a two-pane design. The pane on the left displays the files on your computer and the pane on the right displays the files on the remote computer.
Additional features of the FTP Client include: multiple file transfer; the auto re-get or resuming feature; a queuing utility; the scheduling feature; an FTP find utility; a synchronize utility; and for the advanced user, a scripting utility.