What is FTP (File Transfer Protocol)? | Simplifying the Complexity of File Transfer

In today’s world of computers and the Internet, we often need to move files from one place to another. Whether it’s putting website files online or sending documents to coworkers, being able to transfer files quickly is essential. That’s where FTP (File Transfer Protocol) comes in.

File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is a common way to move files between computers over the InternetInternet. In this article, we’ll discuss FTP, how it works, and why it’s essential for building and hosting websites. We’ll also examine its history, different uses, and how it connects computers.

What is FTP?

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What is FTP, and What Does it Do?

It helps move files from a server to a person’s computer. To do this, you use a particular program on your computer called a client. The client talks to the server and gets the files you want. Lots of websites use FTP because it works with different computers and systems, making it easy to transfer files.

People often use FTP to download files from the servers where websites are located. For example, a web developer might use it to upload HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and other files to the server. Then, anyone visiting the website can download those files from the server.

FTP History

File Transfer Protocol dates back to the 1960s when the early Internet was starting. Back then, people used different ways to move files around, but they were slow and complicated. In 1971, a programmer named Ray Tomlinson created email, which helped with sharing small files, even though it had limits.

By the 1980s, people tried making new ways to transfer files, but they didn’t work well. So, they decided to create something better for the modern age.

That’s when it came along. Abhay Bhushan made the first version in 1971. It worked on many types of computers and was easy to use. It was faster and safer than other methods, making it more straightforward to share files.

In 1985, a group called the Internet Engineering Task Force made rules for FTP. After that, more people started using it because it worked on many different computers, making file transfers faster and easier.

In the 1990s, it became trendy for building and hosting websites. People could upload web pages, pictures, and other stuff to servers to make websites. Many companies made file sharing easier by offering FTP.

In the 2000s, they made it even more secure. Secure FTP (SFTP) is a safer version that keeps users’ file transfers safe.

What Do We Use FTP Protocol For?

It is a handy tool for making and hosting websites because it makes it easy to share files between a server and a user’s computer. It’s mainly used for uploading files to the server, which is essential for building a website.

When you want to make a website and put it online, you need to upload it to a server. It helps you do this smoothly by letting you upload all sorts of files, like web pages, pictures, and other types of data.

But it isn’t just for uploading files. It also helps you manage them. With this protocol, you can control and change files on the server from your computer. This means you can edit, delete, and move files around on the server, which is really handy for running a website.

And here’s another cool thing about File Transfer Protocol: it’s great for sending big files. Sending large files by email or other methods can be tricky or even impossible. Still, FTP makes it much faster and easier.

How Does FTP Work?

It works like this: one computer is the server, and another is the client. The client connects to the server device to send files.

It primarily uses TCP/IP, which is like the main road for data on the Internet. It usually connects through port 21, but it might use a different port sometimes.

This protocol has two main ways to connect: active mode and passive mode. In active mode, the client starts the game by asking the server to play, and the server quickly responds with its address and port number.

When the client first connects to the server, it does so in a passive way. Then, once they start sending files, the server takes over and gives the client an address and port number to use for the transfer. With these numbers, the client can set up a path to send files. Passive mode is often safer because it’s less risky for security.

Users can use different commands to send files. These are like requests that the client computer sends to the server. Here are some easy instructions:

  • USER: Specifies the username to connect to the server.
  • PASS: It specifies the password to use to connect to the server.
  • LIST: It shows a list of files on the server.
  • RETR: Downloads a file from the server.
  • STOR: Uploads a file to the server.
  • DELE: Deletes a file from the server.
  • MKD: Creates a new directory on the server.
  • RMD: Deletes a guide on the server.

There are two types of data connections: control and data connections. The control connection sends commands, while the data connection sends files. The data connection makes a direct link between the client and the server. It also lets you do safe transfers using SSL/TLS, which is a secure way to send data over the Internet.

What is FTP’s Port Number?

FTP connections talk using TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol) and specific port numbers.

It uses two port numbers: one for controlling the connection and another for transferring files. The control port allows the server and client to talk, while the data port allows the files to be moved.

Port 21 is where the control connection happens. This is the number you use to connect to the server, and clients always connect to the server through port 21. It’s a significant number because it’s needed to start the connection, and it’s usually not blocked.

There are two different port numbers for the data connection. The file server typically uses port 20 for data connections, but sometimes, this port is blocked. In that case, another port is chosen. The client picks a random port number for the data connection and then tells the server to use it to send data.

Firewalls and security systems can block specific port numbers, so it’s essential to make sure the ports are open when connecting. It’s also a good idea to use encryption for security. Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) or FTP over SSL/TLS (FTPS) can keep your data safe during transmission.

What are FTP Programs?

File Transfer apps work on many different systems and help move files around. They let users put files on their servers and take files off them. These apps have cool features that ensure the connection stays strong and the file transfer happens quickly.

Some of these features include making many connections at once, managing folders and files quickly, sharing files securely, and speeding up transfers. Users can also use scheduling tools to plan when files get moved.

Here are some of the most well-liked file transfer apps:

1) FileZilla

FileZilla is free to use and works on both Windows and Mac computers. It lets you make lots of connections at once, manage folders and files quickly, share files securely, and send files fast. And the best part? It’s all for free!

2) WinSCP

WinSCP is a file transfer program for Microsoft Windows PCs. It helps you send files securely using the SSH protocol. It also lets you manage files, make lots of connections at once, and send files quickly. And guess what? It’s totally free to use!

3) Cyberduck

Cyberduck is a program for Windows and Mac computers. It helps keep file transfers safe using SSL and lets you manage files, make many connections at once, and send files quickly. There’s a free version, or you can choose to pay for more features.

4) Transmit

Transmit is a program designed specifically for Mac computers. It helps keep file sharing secure using SSL/TLS. It also lets you organize files, make lots of connections at once, and send files quickly. The premium version of Transmit offers more features.

5) CuteFTP

CuteFTP is a program made for Windows computers. It helps you transfer files securely using something called the SSL/TLS protocol. It also lets you manage files, make lots of connections at once, and send files quickly. You can get more components with the premium version of CuteFTP.

6) Fetch

Fetch is a program only for Mac computers. It helps keep file transfers secure with SSL/TLS. It also allows you to organize files, make many connections at once, and send files quickly. Fetch also offers a premium version with extra features.

7) SmartFTP

SmartFTP is a program for Windows computers. It helps you transfer files securely using SSL/TLS. You can also organize files, make many connections at once, and send files quickly with it. SmartFTP offers a premium version with extra features.

Advantages and Disadvantages

FTP has the following advantages:

  • File Transfer Speed: This feature lets you move files really quickly and work on many files at once, which makes transferring big files fast.
  • Remote Access: It lets you get into servers from far away so you can put files on them or take files off them.
  • Secure File Transfer: This keeps your files safe when you send them using things like SSL/TLS.
  • File Management: It gives you an easy way to change files, such as editing, copying, deleting, or moving them around.

FTP has the following drawbacks:

  • Security Concerns: Your data isn’t protected, which could let others see, change, or delete your files, raising security worries.
  • File Size Restrictions: You can only send a file of a specific size, so you might not be able to send huge files.
  • Non-User Friendly Interface: The way it looks and works is challenging to understand, especially for people who need to get used to it.
  • Connection Issues: Sometimes, you might have trouble connecting, which can stop files from being sent or received correctly.

Usage Areas

  • Website Management: Managing a website means putting files on a server and updating them when needed. It lets you change what’s on the website and add or take away files.
  • Data Backup: This lets users save their stuff on servers so they don’t lose it.
  • Information Sharing: You can upload your files to servers and let other people see them, which is handy for sharing information between different groups, especially in big companies.
  • Game Servers: These are for online games where lots of people play together. You can put game files on them and update them.
  • Data Analysis: It helps you store and study large amounts of data on servers, which is helpful for research teams and schools.
  • E-commerce: You can send information for your online store, such as pictures of products and their costs, to servers.


FTP (File Transfer Protocol) is a handy tool for moving files between computers on the Internet. Its fascinating history dates back to the early Internet days. Nowadays, it is super famous for making and hosting websites.

It’s great for sharing files between a server and someone’s computer. Plus, it helps you organize files on a server and send big files fast. With its different modes, commands, and encryption, it is still a must-have for sending files in today’s world.

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