What is 'FTP (File Transfer Protocol)'

FTP, or file transfer protocol, is a set of rules that computers follow for the transferring of files from one system to another over the Internet.

BREAKING DOWN 'FTP (File Transfer Protocol)'

File transfer protocol is one of many different protocols that dictate how computers behave on the Internet. Other such protocols include the Hypertext Transfer Protocol, or HTTP, the Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP), and Network Time Protocol (NTP).  FTP enables computers on the Internet to transfer files back and forth, and is an essential tool for those building and maintaining websites today. 

In order to use FTP, you have to download an FTP client or access an FTP client through your web browsers. Most web browsers, like Internet Explorer or Firefox, come with FTP clients that enable you to transfer files from your computer to a server and vice versa, but you may want to use a third-party FTP client, because many offer extra features to improve your experience. Examples of FTP clients that are free to download include FileZilla Client, FTP Voyager, WinSCP, CoffeeCup Free FTP and Core FTP LE

Transfering Files Using FTP Clients and Servers

You have probably used FTP before without even noticing it. If you have ever downloaded a file from a web page, chances are that you used File Transfer Protocol in the process. The first step for access an FTP server to download a file is to login, which may occur automatically or by manually inputting a username and password. FTP will also require you to access an FTP server through a specific port number. 

Once you have accessed the FTP server through your FTP client, you can now transfer files. Note that not all public FTP servers require you to sign in, as some servers enable you to access them anonymously. Depending on the FTP client you use, there will be different features available so that you can modify the manner in which you upload and download files. For instance, if you use the free FTP client FileZilla Client, the program will enable you to set bandwidth limits for files, enabling you to control the speed at which you download or upload files. This can be helpful if you are managing multiple file transfers at once. Other features you may want to look for in an FTP client include public key authentication, the ability to set file compression levels or tools that enable you to search a server using file masks.

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