FTP is now the central part of many web hosting packages since it allows users to upload files amongst almost anything to their web space when they want meaning that they can change the contents of their website from any location where FTP is allowed and they are able to access the internet. FTP is now a common feature with most web hosting accounts and many people take it for granted that they will be provided with FTP access to their web hosting account with their chosen package; in some cases people may choose to use alternative solutions such as the file manager that is part of their web hosting control panel. FTP is incredibly important for some people as it is important for them to be able to update the contents of their website whilst on the move for example, and with the use of a laptop and 3G broadband it makes it easy for many people to use FTP on the move. As a VPS or dedicated server user you may need to setup your own FTP server since most servers come with nothing installed on them, which therefore means that you are able to install the applications that you want and know you are going to use; as a VPS or dedicated server is yours then you can be more flexible with your FTP server configuration.
How FTP Works
FTP basically works in the way that a direct connection is established between your local computer and your web hosting server via the internet using the FTP protocol. The connection is normally made on port 21 as this is seen as the standard port for FTP. You can then make use of FTP to upload and download files from your web space, and in the case that you are using an advanced FTP client then you will also be able to carry out advanced tasks such as the setting of permissions. The connection is two-way to allow you the best flexiblity in manage your web space.
Advantages of Using FTP
There are many advantages of using FTP since it is a technology that is able to make the management of your website much more versatile as it provides you with a way to upload new or updates files to your web space in a few seconds without the need for anything else apart from the FTP password for the account which you wish to use to upload files from your local computer. Being able to upload important files to your web space is something that you will probably look for in any web hosting package, since at the end of the day, what is the purpose of a web hosting package if you aren’t able to upload what you need to? As a VPS or dedicated server user you will find that FTP is incredibly useful when it comes to uploading files to any part of your server, however it is recommended that you only allow FTP access to your web directories instead of your entire server since this could cause problems if your server is hacked. Other advantages include:
- remote access – unless you have specified that you a specific IP address can access your web space using FTP you will be able to access your web hosting account via FTP from any computer which has access to the internet, so long as the computer concerned isn’t behind a firewall which has prohibited outbound connections on port 21 (the default port used for standard FTP connections) – in the case that you forget your username and password then you can also make remote use off your control panel access to change your FTP username and password or to setup a new account if needs be
- versatility – with FTP you can upload any files you with to into your web space, but in some cases you or your web hosting provider may have put restricitions on which file types can be uploaded which may stop you in your tracks if you are trying to upload a file of a prohibited type – you can also upload files of any size although after a time FTP servers do tend to drop connections in which a large file upload is involved, in this case you should try doing your upload in parts as this will help you when it comes to ensuring that all the files that you need are successfully uploaded into your web space
- expandability – FTP gives you the ability to easily expand your website since you can make use of it to upload only the files which you have changed within your website, and once you have done that you can make use of the control panel that you have access to so that you can setup any databases or permissions which you may need to set in order to ensure that the modified or new files that you have uploaded to your web space are able to function correctly without the need for any manual intervention in the future – it should be noted that ‘777’ permissions shoulkd only be used if necessary.
The advantages of using FTP allow you to make the best use of the protocol to ensure that your web space can be managed from any computer that will allow you access to FTP. If you have a web hosting package then using FTP is made even easier by the fact that most web hosting control panels, such as cPanel, allow you to manage your FTP accounts from them and will allow you to impose certain restrictions on certain FTP accounts if appropriate.
Disadvantages of Using FTP
Although using FTP can provide most users with the advantages that they need to ensure that their web space is manageable from any remote location, it can come with its downsides for some users, especially for those who may be using web hosting services for the first time. Although FTP may seem like a good solution for the management of your website at no extra cost, you do require a client program in order to be able to upload and download files from your web space – depending on the operating system that you are using, you may have to purchase a client program in order to be able to interact with your web hosting account via FTP. FTP is something which you need to install yourself on your VPS or your dedicated server, and the use of it on a shared web hosting package is under the guidelines which your web hosting provider has set out; but in either situation it is up to you to ensure that you use your FTP access responsibly and that it doesn’t become a security risk. In summary, the main disadvantages are:
- restrictions – as a shared hosting customer you will probably find that your FTP usage is limited to strict guidelines set out by your web hosting provider to ensure that the service is always usable by those who are hosted on a given server and that it doesn’t become a security risk if an FTP account becomes compromised – you may also find that you have forgotten your password and you have several failed logins from your IP address that you are being automatically blocked by your web hosting provider’s firewall, and although this may be an annoyance for you in the short term, it keeps hackers at bay for the long term
- client programs – although with Windows you can use the Windows Explorer to connect to your web hosting account via FTP to upload and download files from your account as well as to delete any ones which you no longer need, this operating does lack several things which you may find useful when it comes to the management of your web hosting such as the ability to set permissions on individual files and folders as well as the dual window setup that is provided with most FTP clients – in most cases this will mean you will have to purchase an FTP client so that you are able to interact with your web hosting account via FTP properly, and to many this is very off-putting
- security risk – if an FTP account is compromised then it can become a security risk on any web hosting server since it means that if a hacker gets access to the server via FTP they will be able to upload any files they wish to – these files can then go on to infect the server concerned or even the visitors to a particular website if the files are injected into an existing website which receives a lot of visitors – this is why many web hosting providers tend to apply strict security measures to FTP accounts to ensure that accounts are uncompromisable as they don’t want entire web hosting servers to be compromised by a single FTP account.
Since FTP is the only way to transfer files from your local computer to your web space, bar the use of your control panel’s file manager, the disadvantages that are attributed to FTP are discounted by many. Since it is an easy to use system, it has been adopted by millions of people all over the world meaning that despite its disadvantages, it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
In conclusion, it is very easy to make use of the FTP protocol on any web hosting package that you may have; it is included as standard with shared web hosting services whilst you can easily install it yourself onto a VPS or dedicated server that you may have. FTP is now the standard used for online file transfer, but if you are in a rush then you can easily make use of the file manager that is provided with your control panel to upload and download files from your web space.