Martin has 16 years experience in Human Resources Information Systems, has a PhD in Information Technology Management, and a degree in Information Systems Management. He is an adjunct professor of computer science and computer programming.
Better Than E-Mail
Imagine you are a small business owner, and you need to send some large payroll files to your payroll processor. Or you want to directly download a large number of tax documents from the IRS and don't want to have to go through its website. File Transfer Protocol, or FTP can be a secure way to do this. You can connect to secure sites (your payroll provider) or open/public sites (the IRS) and transfer files.
Modern operating systems (e.g., Windows 7 and later) and current Web browsers now provide simple methods for connecting to an FTP server. Some FTP clients, that is software applications, have more advanced features.
Let's walk through the major options for connecting to an FTP server.
You can connect through a web browser (which is the least secure), through a client, or through the file explorer in Windows versions 7 or later.
Many FTP servers require that you login by providing a user name and password. Open sites, such as IRS.gov, don't require this. In fact, there you are logging in as an anonymous user. However, the majority of other servers require login, especially if they have data they want to protect! All options described here allow you to enter login information.
You can connect to FTP services through a web browser much as you would access a web page. This approach is slower, however, and has fewer options than a true FTP client. In this example, we'll connect to the IRS file server to download some tax documents.
First things first: Open a web browser, such as Firefox or Chrome, and type the following into the address bar: ftp://ftp.irs.gov/. Notice that we're using ftp as the prefix instead of http. This is not your average web site!
When you click in the pub folder, you get more folders and files. These are publications, news, and instructions from the IRS.
This is a basic connection and is fairly wide-open. Some sites might ask for a login and password, but the transmission still is technically over the Internet. This means bad guys could be out there trying to steal information. Public FTP sites such as the IRS site should only have publicly available information, and you definitely shouldn't be trying to UPLOAD anything!
Because the IRS site is open to all, the site restricts uploading. That is, you are not allowed to send files to the IRS server; you can only download. When you connect to a trusted site, you often are allowed to do both.
Windows 7 and Later
In Windows 7 (and later versions), you can connect to FTP using the File Explorer.
When you are successfully connected, e.g., to IRS.gov, the file folder is available:
The strongest connection method is through a client. An FTP client is a software application that you install on your computer. You set up each connection manually and are able to connect using more secure methods (e.g., SFTP, or Secure FTP).
The small business owner (or even a large corporation) can use FTP to send (upload) and receive (download) files. In these cases, a client is the preferred method because of security.
Several clients out there are free or for purchase. These include FileZilla, Smart FTP, WinSCP, or DirectFTP. Because FileZilla is free software and many organizations use it, we'll use it for our connection examples.
To set up or change connections, click File -> Site Manager. Enter all of the information here.
Once the sites have been set up, all you have to do is pick the site from the drop-down menu, and it will connect:
Once you are connected, your files/folders will be on the left pane while the server's information is on the right. You navigate through the folders on either system as you would in a standard file explorer.
Double-click on the file or folder you want to transfer. This works either way! If you want to pull files down from the server, double click the server file to download. This assumes the owner of the FTP site has given you permission to do so.
Clients have many more features for connecting. You can connect to standard FTP or to more secure SFTP (Secure FTP). In fact, most servers now allow ONLY an SFTP connection because hackers easily can intercept standard FTP connections. Some servers only let you connect to certain Ports (entry points) or require additional settings. Although these are subjects for more advanced FTP usage, you can see in the following screen capture that many connection options are available.
You'll see that you can enter the user name and password here: This is a great feature of FTP clients. You can connect to a bunch of sites and never have to remember your password. However, if the server changes access requirements, you will be required to update.
Connecting to File Transfer Protocol (FTP) servers has become much easier than it used to be. File Transfer Protocol allows the transfer of files back and forth. FTP sites are prefixed with ftp:// instead of http://. You can connect to FTP servers through a browser or through a client. A client is software that lets you manage the sites you connect to and transfer/download files. Finally, the file explorer in Windows 10 allows for FTP connections, thus acting like a client. Some sites let you login with an anonymous account; that is, they are public. However, most sites restrict access.
To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account
Register to view this lesson
Unlock Your Education
See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com
Become a Study.com member and start learning now.Become a Member
Already a member? Log InBack