What is FTP, and how would I use it? I hear you ask, well FTP stands for ‘File Transfer Protocol’, and is software that can be installed on PC’s and Mac and in any operating platform such as Windows, Linux and OSX. FTP software enables the user to connect a computer to a web server in order to transfer folders and files between the two.
The transfer between your computer and your web server can be in both directions, and by that I mean you can upload folders and files from your computer to your server, and also download folders and files from your server to your computer.
Uploading Via FTP.
To be able to connect to your web server you need to have an FTP account set up. This is normally done when you purchase your hosting account and is available for you to see inside of your cPanel or Plesk. The login details for FTP are different from your WordPress login details and are normally e-mailed to you when you set up your hosting account. You should have made a note of these. If you do not have them please ask your host.
The image below shows the FileZilla interface, the top window shows the connection directory listing of the server that it is connected to. The top left window shows the folder tree of the local site or local computer (ringed), i:e the folders that are on your computer, this enables you to navigate easily to the folder that contains the files that you wish to upload to your server.
The bottom left window shows the files that are within the selected folder, here you can select as many files that you want to upload to your server by right-clicking and selecting ‘upload’. The files will always upload to the folder that has been selected in the bottom right-hand side window.
An easy way to remember is the left side is your ‘PC Side’ and the right side is ‘Server-Side’.
Downloading Via FTP.
To download from the server is a reversal of the upload process, first of all, select a folder on your PC (the left side) as a target folder for your file or files or create a new folder, then find the file or files that you want to download, select them by right-clicking and then selecting download from the menu.
You are also able to view and edit any file on the server-side by right-clicking on a file and selecting ‘edit’. It is always advisable to download a file, keep an original and edit a copy of the original just in case you make a mistake with your editing, then you can re-upload the original to return your site back to its original state.
In ‘FileZilla‘ there is a built-in site manager that will help you to manage your site and multiple sites, once populated it will remember your login details for each site, you are also able to back up these details in a file that can easily be restored should you need it.
There is also a pro version of ‘FileZilla‘ available that is aimed at professional web developers and is able to connect to a variety of cloud storage servers, but if you are running websites via cPanel or Plesk then the free version would suffice.
There are many FTP programs available, some are free and some are premium, but I have only ever used one, and that is ‘FileZilla‘. FileZilla is a free FTP program that is easy to set up and use. I am unable to speak about the other makes as I have not tried them.