What is FTP and what are the types of file transfer protocol?

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Transferring data throughout the internet requires some networking protocol. Take this as an example, you had an important call in the morning, and you’re supposed to share some data with whoever requested it. At this point, you may want to upload data, and the other person downloads it on their computer.

So, how do you actually do this? That’s it. FTP does this for you! In today’s post, we will learn about what FTP is and how to use FTP in transferring files on the internet. Also, you should know that there are two types of file transfer protocol that we will get to that too.

What Is FTP?

FTP stands for “File Transfer Protocol” and is a means of uploading and downloading files from a server. In other words, it’s about sending data between a server and a computer.

FTP Client is a type of software that allows you to connect to a remote server to upload files. You can upload files to your host from your computer or download files from your remote WordPress dashboard to your computer. You can also directly open them in your text editor for fast editing.

You’re primarily going to do three things with FTP:

  • Upload files to your website
  • Download files from your website
  • Delete files from your website
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What are the types of file transfer protocol?

types of file transfer protocol

There are two types of file transfer protocol. We talked about FTP, and the second one is called SFTP. SFTP (SSH File Transfer Protocol) is a secure file transfer protocol that runs over the SSH protocol. It secures the function and authentication of the SSH.

This extra layer of protection ensures that the connection is authenticated with certificates so that the client and the server can form a stable and reliable connection. This offers a reasonable degree of security as long as the appropriate certificates are in order.

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The difference between SFTP and FTP

ftp vs sftp

It is always recommended that you have a certificate on your site to inform visitors of its validity and ensure a connection, but if this is not practical, for example, if you are uploading files to a new site that you are currently working on, SFTP could be the best choice.

If you connect to a server that uses SFTP after you’ve been a faithful FTP user for several years, you may be slightly surprised at the speed drop compared to what you’re used to.

This is because there is a lot of extra packet and encryption taking place during an SFTP transfer that is not present while using FTP. There are a few things worth sacrificing for speed, but safety is probably not one of them.

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How does FTP work?

FTP facilitates file transmission through a client-server protocol. It means that FTP is based on two channels for communication between clients and the server.

That said, you can then either upload or download files on the server. In all the normal ways, a user retains data through FTP by uploading them and can transfer them to their computer from the server by downloading them right away.

FTP uses TCP/IP to transfer files. TCP/IP or Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol is the most widely used protocol that allows computers to send and receive data by virtue of the internet.

With the type of FTP in mind, a user must use their username and password to get a hold of the server, whereas some FTP servers approve anonymous connections regardless of having a username or password.

Once you’ve connected to an FTP server, whether standard or anonymous FTP,  you’re free to upload, download, copy, delete, rename, and move files.

Also Read: 301 Redirects in WordPress

Why Do You Need to Use FTP?

You should never have to use FTP in normal circumstances. But there are quite a few situations where FTP is useful.

In the following situations, you can use FTP:

  • Due to an error or a hack, you are locked out of your wp-admin dashboard. You might try accessing your files via FTP to repair them and retrieve access to them.
  • Add plugins and themes directly when they cannot be uploaded to the dashboard.
  • Manually disable plugins and themes if they have created issues on your site and you cannot disable them from the dashboard.
  • Download media files in bulk instead of one at a time.
  • Make changes to WordPress core files, such as the .htaccess or wp-config file.
  • Identification and correction of common errors, such as internal server errors, compatibility problems, etc.
  • Find out your username and password for the database.
  • Take a manual backup of your WordPress website.
  • Allow or deactivate WordPress features such as XML-RPC.

If you want to explore FTP to learn more about it, we recommend that you use a staging site. This is a mirror of your website where you can make any improvements you need without impacting your live site.

Staging environments (sometimes called testing environments) can also be used to solve problems. A problem found on your original website (also known as a live site) would be present on your staging site since it is a replication.

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How to use FTP?

To bring FTP into play, you should apparently have an FTP server, account, and therefore an application. As mentioned above, having a username and password is not required due to some types of FTP servers. However, they’re mostly secure with a username and password.

The following are some FTP methods to gain access:

  • Anonymous FTP: Most of the time you download something on the web, you’re using the anonymous FTP. It allows you to enter without having a username or password. It’s the easiest way to connect to an FTP server.
  • Username only: You may have also experienced this type of FTP. This kind of FTP only allows you to download from the server. For downloading a file on some websites, you should purchase a membership account, and it then lets you download.
  • Username and password: With this type of FTP server, only users with a username and password can enter the server and download and upload files.
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FTP Upload vs CPanel in Table

CPanel File Manager is a web interface where all information on your site, including photos, documents, 404 pages, is organized into folders. It’s a fast and simple way to monitor, search, and edit your files.

Both cPanel File Manager and FTP have similar features in their ability to move files from one place to another. It’s what distinguishes FTP from the File Manager:

The cPanel

  • does not use an external client to transfer files
  • can quickly edit file names
  • easily arranges the directory
  • transfers files over HTTP
  • the file transfer is disconnected once your browser closes
  • transfers files at a slower rate
  • transfers a single file at a time

The FTP

  • uses an external program to run such as FileZilla or WinSCP Transfers files over FTP
  • the files continue to be transferred in the background
  • transfers files at a higher speed
  • is able to move the whole folder at once

Also Read: How to fix cannot read license error on Cpanel/WHM?

Connect to your WordPress account using FTP (FTP in WordPress)

Step 1: Back Up the Site

It’s important to consider the risks inherent in using FTP before you get started. You’ll make permanent adjustments directly to your site files, which if you’re not careful, might cause irreversible changes. It is also important to make sure that you have a recent backup in place so that you can recover your website if something goes wrong.

Step 2: Install FileZilla

When you have a backup of your site, install FileZilla by visiting the FileZilla website and clicking on the button to download the client:

Install FileZilla

Find and download the right version for your device, and then run the .exe file to install it. After that, you can simply start the client and no special configuration is needed.

Step 3: Connect to the Host Using FTP

You should see a screen similar to this when you open FileZilla:

FTP interface

There are four empty fields near the top: Host, Username, Password, and Port. The last field will be filled automatically. However, the first three show your special FTP credential.

You will need the FTP address of your web host, as well as your personal FTP username and password to access your site using FTP. All this data is provided by your hosting provider. How you find it may differ depending on the organization.

In general, you will need to log in to your hosting control panel and access your personal account details. Most hosts have documentation that tells you exactly where to look. If they don’t, your best option is to contact them directly.

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If you have your credentials, simply enter them in FileZilla and press the QuickConnect button. Allow it a couple of moments to operate. Soon, you should see a message that lets you know the connection has been created.

It’s worth noticing that any time you want to access your site, you don’t have to re-enter your credentials. Instead, simply navigate to Server > Reconnect, and FileZilla will sign back to your host.

Alternatively, press the drop-down arrow next to the QuickConnect button, and then pick your server from there.

Step 4: Manage Your WordPress Files

Now that FileZilla is connected to your web server, you can see the files and folders in each of the four major quadrants:

FileZilla connected to a web server

The two quadrants on the left will show the files on your local machine, while the quadrants on the right will display the files on your website. All you need to do is drag and drop files between the two places.

On the right, you should see a folder named after the domain of your website (although it may also be called public HTML or WWW.) This is where all the data on your site is kept. Opening this will open a few more folders.

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Most of the time, what you’re searching for is in the wp-content folder. This folder contains subfolders for your themes and plugins. This means that you can open your current theme to make changes, uninstall a theme, or add a new theme by copying and pasting it to your theme folder (or dragging it from your computer’s files).

You now know how to connect to your site using FTP and find the files of your website. If you spend some time exploring these files now, you’ll be well qualified whenever you need to use FTP in the future.

4 Top FTP Clients

As described earlier, an FTP client is a type of software that allows you to securely connect to your server and upload or download files.

There are several different options to choose from, with varying features and price tags, but we’ll only list four of the most common ones.

  1. WinSCP: popular SFTP and FTP client, Microsoft Windows
  2. Cyberduck: free, Mac & Windows
  3. Filezilla: free, Mac & Windows
  4. Transmit: paid, Mac only

Transmit is not free, and is only available for Mac OS, but is a very popular option for Mac users. Both Cyberduck and Filezilla are free and available on Mac & Windows, making them great options.

The process of installation and use of Cyberduck and Filezilla (and several other choices, for that matter) will be very similar, so feel free to choose whatever piece of software you like most.

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Conclusion

In summary, File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is a communication protocol that gives access to computers to download and upload files on a server. In this article, we introduced the two types of file transfer protocol, and we learned about some advantages of FTP in WordPress, such as a secure method for file transmission.

FAQ

What happens if part of the FTP message is not sent to the destination?

The message is lost because FTP does not use a secure method of distribution. The FTP source host sends a query to the host destination. The part of the FTP message that was lost will be re-sent. The whole FTP message will be re-sent.

What is the difference between FTP and SFTP?

SFTP (SSH File Transfer Protocol) is a secure file transfer protocol that runs over the SSH protocol. It secures the function and authentication of the SSH.

This extra layer of protection ensures that the connection is authenticated with certificates so that the client and the server can form a stable and reliable connection. This offers a reasonable degree of security as long as the appropriate certificates are in order.

What Is FTP Used for?

You’re primarily going to do three things with FTP:

  • Upload files to your website
  • Download files from your website
  • Delete files from your website

What Are the Top FTP Clients?

There are several different choices to choose from, with varying features and price tags, but we’ll only list four of the most common ones.

  1. WinSCP: popular SFTP and FTP client, Microsoft Windows
  2. Cyberduck: free, Mac & Windows
  3. Filezilla: free, Mac & Windows
  4. Transmit: paid, Mac only
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A Web designer, with Experience in digital marketing , Totally fueled by passion to understand and learn different aspects of digital marketing.

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