File Transfer Utilities

In order for other people to be able to view your web pages, they need to hosted on a publicly available web server and, to get your pages onto a server, a piece of software called an FTP client is generally used.

FTP

FTP is an abbreviation of File Transfer Protocol - this is a long standing technique for moving files across networks that predates the world wide web. It is based on a client/server architecture with separate channels for the data being transferred and the control signals used to manage the transfer.

The details of how the information needed to create a connection and transfer data will be discussed later. Here we only need to look at the different tools available.

FTP Client Software

The most basic form of FTP client is a simple command line driven tool where you have to type commands to the system. Thankfully, there are now also a wide range of FPT clients with easy to use graphical interfaces.

Such a client will usually present you with two windows, very similar to the file explorer in Microsoft Windows. One window shows the files that are on your local machine and the other window shows the files that are held on the remote server. It is usually possible to drag files from one window to the other to initiate a transfer, or, alternatively there will also be an option to synchronize the two file sets, automatically making sure that the server has the most up to date versions of all the local files.

The image below shows the interface for FileZilla displaying the local and remote files for this website - the left had side of the interface displays the local files and the right hand side displays the corresponding remote files. The top portion of each then displays the path and the lower portion displays the contents of the selected folder.

FileZilla Interface

To prevent anyone from uploading their own files to your website, FTP access should be protected with a username and password.

There are a huge number of clients available. Two that I have personally used are FileZilla, which is a free open source utility, and FTP Voyager, which is a commercial product.

The Files panel in Dreamweaver also supports the FTP functions necessary to synchronize your local files with your remote server.

There is a Wikipedia page giving a comprehensive comparison of a large number of FTP clients.

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