What Is FTP? File Transfer Protocol Explained

FTP Explained

Whether you’re working for a business online or creating one of your own, there are a lot of things that you need to know about.

One of the main things is about the different types of hosting that exist today.

While you may feel that you know what hosting is and how it’s used, there’s one type of hosting that a lot of people typically haven’t heard of and if they have, they don’t know much about it.

This is what this guide here is for: To tell you everything you need to know about this hosting so you can decide if it’s right for you.

What Is FTP?

This is a protocol that’s used for transferring files online. With it, you can exchange data and commands between a computer and a server (a.k.a., FTP host).

FTP Servers

The host acts as a remote directory for your website’s data and applications. It allows you to easily put these things online where they can be shared.

FTP is used for establishing a link between the server and the client via a command channel. Here you can use command lines (e.g., “get” for getting a file, “close” for closing the current session) to save yourself time.

To make these commands you’ll need to use FTP client software programs. There are several different FTP clients to use for making this connection (e.g., Cyberduck, FileZilla open source software).

What Is An FTP Hosting Account?

An FTP host is a URL that you connect to. Once connected you can use the internet to manage your files that are located elsewhere.

To do this you’ll need an FTP program (e.g., FileZilla, WinSCP) and the FTP host’s username and password. (Sometimes anonymous access is possible when you’re using a public host or one that’s been misconfigured).

The reason these hosts work is that there’s a remote computer with “server” software running on it. This shares part of its storage system with those online.

FTP or a method of accessing the files is necessary to view and copy the files back and forth.

There are several reasons why you may want to use this hosting option, including:

  • You can use your FTP server to transfer data from one computer to your FTP accounts
  • Create an intranet so that you can share files or offer secure FTP access
  • Free up disk space on a physical server by hosting data on a shared server
  • Either create a website or move content to new domain names
  • Back up important information
  • Have a central location for storing information that several websites use

How Does FTP Work?

To establish a connection with your one FTP account you need two communication channels (the command channel that initiates the response and the data channel which is responsible for distributing data).

How FTP Works

To establish an FTP connection users must have permission to communicate on the network. This requires that you provide them with credentials to the FTP server.

Some public FTP servers don’t require credentials. It’s also common with anonymous FTPs.

To transfer or receive something you’ll create changes in the server. When you do so, the server will grant you this access. This is what’s known as “active connection mode.”

active connection mode

These servers facilitate transfers across the internet. When you send files via FTP they’re transferred from you to the server. This is what’s known as “uploading files.”

On the other hand, when you’re “downloading,” the uploaded files are transferred from the server to you.

The internet uses a special language for executing these commands which are known as Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP).

Sometimes if there’s a firewall in place to protect the user’s machine, there may be a problem with the distribution in active mode.

This is because firewalls typically don’t allow external parties to host unauthorized sessions.

When this happens passive mode is used. It allows a user to establish both a command and data channel. It asks the server to listen instead of attempting to create a connection back to the user.

What Information Do I Use For My FTP?

You’ll need the name of your web hosting service account, your username and password, and the domain names of the live web directories so you can use them for your FTP.

FTP Details

Typically, your FTP username and password are the same ones you use for your cPanel. The hostname is typically your domain name with FTP at the beginning.

What is the Difference Between FTP, FTPS, and SFTP?

There are a few different ways that you can transfer files via FTP. You should familiarize yourself with these in case you want to restrict the FTP at either the user level or the listener level


This is the standard method that’s used for transmitting data between an FTP client and server. With it, you can create a username and password so you can regulate user access.


Although the link between the client and server is secure, the data transmission isn’t since the information that’s sent via FTP standards isn’t encrypted.

This places it at risk of being intercepted by malicious third parties. For this reason, other secure protocols were developed.


This is the secure version of FTP. With it, you have an additional level to your FTP server and website. Therefore data is protected while it passes between the client and the FTP.


SSH File Transfer Protocol (a.k.a., Secure File Transfer Protocol, SFTP) is similar to FTPS in that it uses encryption to secure data as it flows between you and the FTP server.


This encryption is what’s known as a “secure tunnel.” You can make this even stronger by creating an authentication system that requires an SSH key.

When SFTP transmits data through the tunnel and synchronizes it in folders the information can’t be read. This prevents fraudulent access to any files found on the FTP server.

This isIt’s why SFTP is the most secure protocol for you to use to upload data to your server.

How Do You Use FTP?

FTP servers are the midpoint between a file’s sender and its recipient. These servers need an FTP host address (e.g., ftp.examplecompany.net, 12.345.678.90).


You may also need a username and password depending on the type of FTP server and its security.

Once you have this information you can establish an FTP connection either by using a command-line FTP (typically used for transferring files) or using a web browser to communicate with it (a user may find this more convenient, especially when accessing large directories).

Many people will tell you that there are several reasons why they prefer to use an FTP client. Not only is an FTP client easier to manage, but it’s also more powerful, and it offers you more freedom.

There are also more features available (e.g., the ability to transfer large files, synchronizing utility) with it.

How Do You Configure FTP Clients for an FTP Server?

To connect to the FTP server you’ll need to use your FTP client. Popular software clients are Filezilla and Cyberduck.


Once installed, the software displays an FTP login for your FTP accounts you can enter your information (e.g., username, login credentials) so you can access the web service web hosting plan provider.

Regardless of which FTP client software you use to connect to your FTP account.

To create a website you’ll need to either copy or drag and drop the documents you want to import. You can then make them live online.


Before you select a web hosting provider there are a lot of things you need to know.

How to upload to your hosting account via FTP and where to find the best host are just a few examples of these things.

Once you have a better understanding of this hosting you’re ready to use it for yourself.

The first step you’ll need to take is spending some time reading through this guide about everything you need to know about web hosting you’ll be ready to select your hosting service. So, take some time to check it out today.


Article by

Matt Diggity

Matt is the founder of Diggity Marketing, LeadSpring, The Search Initiative, The Affiliate Lab, and the Chiang Mai SEO Conference. He actually does SEO too.

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