File Transfer Protocol, or FTP, has been around for a while. Despite that, it’s still considered the fastest way to transfer large files.
What is FTP and who uses it? You might be surprised by the answers.
An FTP server could actually benefit your business. It may be more compatible with your other file storage and moving solutions than you think.
What Is File Transfer Protocol?
FTP is a computer protocol that allows users to move files between machines. It’s like hypertext transfer protocol, or HTTP, which powers the Internet. At its core, it’s a set of instructions for moving files.
FTP has been around for quite some time. People have almost always needed to move files around. While moving small files through email is easy today, that wasn’t always the case.
FTP is designed to ease the movement of files across connections.
FTP is still the fastest way to move large files. To use it, you’ll need to connect to an FTP server using an FTP client. Most websites have FTP servers, which enables webmasters to upload large files faster.
Who Uses FTP?
With the advent of 25MB email attachment limits and uploader tools, you might think FTP has gone the way of the dinosaur.
There are still plenty of applications for FTP. Those in architecture and engineering may use FTP to transfer large AutoCAD files to their colleagues.
IT professionals also make ample use of FTP, especially when they’re moving large files. The same is true of those in web design and graphic design. If you need to move many videos and images, FTP is the way to go.
It’s faster and it doesn’t have the same limitations that most simple uploader tools have. Gmail, for example, has a 25MB attachment limit. If your file is larger than that, you can’t send it via Gmail.
There are workarounds for these limitations, such as compression or dividing up files. Each of these solutions has its own set of complications. Depending on your project, none of them may be appropriate.
If you’ve ever downloaded software, you’ve likely used FTP.
Using FTP for Disaster Recovery
One of the reasons people consider setting up FTP servers is for disaster recovery. The speed of FTP allows faster backups, especially for large files. Remote servers protect your business files and most sensitive data in the event of a disaster.
FTP may also make it easier to manage data. That can help businesses meet their compliance requirements under the CCPA and the GDPR.
How to Use FTP
Using FTP can seem overwhelming to someone who has never done it before. In most cases, you’ll need four things:
- The name of the FTP server you want to upload to
- Any login credentials
- An FTP client
- An internet connection
In some cases, you may be able to connect directly to an FTP server through your web browser. You may not need an FTP client in those situations.
Generally speaking, though, you’ll need an FTP client. You can download one from several reputable publishers. Some will cost you, while others are free to use.
Once you have an FTP client installed, it’s time to connect to your desired FTP server. You’ll need the name of the server, as well as any login credentials needed to access the server.
Using your login credentials, you’ll connect to the server. Once you’re connected, you can start uploading and downloading files.
You may also be able to manage files on the server through the client. This can include arranging them in folders or deleting them.
The Drawbacks of FTP
The biggest drawback of FTP has been security. The protocol was not designed to be secure. There have been reports of people hacking into FTP servers.
FTP creates a direct line between the user’s machine and the server. Originally, FTP wasn’t even encrypted. Files can be intercepted during transfer, and unencrypted files can easily be read.
Today’s FTP has evolved somewhat. There are more secure versions of FTP you can use, such as FTPS, SFTP, and SSH. Encryption has been introduced to some FTP measures.
Many FTP servers today allow more control over how much security is built in to your transfers. You may also have more granular access to permissions, especially if you’re using business servers.
That means you have more control than ever when it comes to who can access your server and the files on it. While this doesn’t solve all the security concerns with FTP, it does make this speedy file transport method safer.
What About the Cloud?
The advent of cloud computing has seemingly taken over from FTP. Depending on the cloud software you’re using, you may be able to drag and drop large files to upload, download, and share.
In some ways, then, the cloud is like a supercharged version of FTP. It simplifies FTP by eliminating the need for a client. You can simply login to the cloud by accessing your provider’s website in your web browser.
Next, the cloud addresses those concerns about FTP security. Cloud providers offer better security to keep unwanted entities out. They also offer better tracking of who has accessed your files and records of what’s been done to those files.
Some cloud providers have actually married cloud hosting solutions and FTP services. These services are usually known as “FTP Cloud.”
Combining the cloud with FTP is one way of securing FTP servers. In essence, the cloud’s superior security infrastructure is added to FTP functionality.
Share With Ease
As file sizes get ever-larger, it’s necessary to look for speedy ways to transfer them. File Transfer Protocol is tried and true. It continues to evolve to provide better service for today’s business demands.
Looking for more tech tips for your business? Check out our archives. We have more on everything from website design to choosing a CMS.