An acronym for File Transfer Protocol — a very common method of transferring one or more files from one computer to another.
FTP is a specific way to connect to another Internet site to retrieve and send files. It is commonly used to upload content from your computer to your website hosting provider.
FTP was developed in the early days of the Internet to copy files from computer to computer. With the advent of the World Wide Web, and web browser software, you no longer need to know arcane FTP commands to copy to and from other computers. In your browser, you can use FTP by typing the URL into the location box at the top of your screen. Many FTP sites will list a directory of their contents, and clicking on a file will allow you to download that file to your computer.
If your web browser doesn’t have built-in FTP capability, if you need to download multiple files at one time, or if you want to upload files to a remote computer, you will need to use an FTP client program to transfer files.
Frequently Asked Questions
What information do I need in order to use FTP?
To use FTP you need to know the address of the computer or server you wish to access and the location of the file on the machine. Most FTP sites also require a login name and password, though some sites may be available via an Anonymous FTP, which does not require a password.
FTP used to be one of the easiest and most secure methods for sharing files on the Internet; however, new technologies have made FTP sharing far less common. In particularly, secure file storage sites like Dropbox have become the preferred method for sharing files, because you can easily set unique file permissions, share the files with friends or co-workers, and even edit files simultaneously with others. That is not to say there isn’t still plenty of good uses for FTP. It remains one of the best methods for moving files to and from a web host. For sharing large amounts of files publicly, Anonymous FTP is still the preferred method used by many organizations, including much of the open source software community.
How secure is FTP?
Depending on the setup, FTP can be a highly secure method of transferring files. Along with restricting access by user name and password, you can also limit access to specific IP addresses, restrict access to specific times of the day, and log all traffic. If you need additional security, consider using Secure FTP, or SFTP, which encrypts the files being transferred to and from the server.