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Using FTP: What is FTP? and How to Use It?

written by: Joli Ballew•edited by: Christian Cawley•updated: 9/5/2008

FTP or File Transfer Protocol offers a way to send large files over the Internet without using e-mail. It is quicker, more secure and resilient. And all you need is an FTP client and FTP server. Lets take a closer look.

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    FTP it!

    E-mail is so easy to use and so accessible that most users I know fall into the habit of trying to send everything by e-mail—huge photos, video clips, presentations, big projects for clients, and so on. Knowing this, most ISPs have size limits for how large an attachment can be, thus limiting our use of this technology. Many users I know would try to send something as big as a car if they could via e-mail! But e-mail was really intended to be a system for sending short, text-based notes, not huge files and folders.

    You can do yourself a big service (and a service for all of your friends and business associates) if you get in the habit of transferring your files by using FTP instead of by e-mail. FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol and it provides a very simple system for transferring files to other users who use the Internet. With the power and flexibility of FTP, you can send and store files just as if your computer is connected to a network right inside your home or office.

    To use FTP, you’ll need an FTP client and an FTP server. The FTP client is software that runs on your computer. The FTP server on the other hand is a server (a computer with a very big hard drive) that is connected to the Internet at all times. The FTP client I recommend (as does the ME for Windows) is CuteFTP ( It is fast, powerful, and easy to use. To transfer a file, you simply run the FTP client and upload the file (or set of files) to an FTP server. You can then give the address of the FTP server to your friends and business associates and they can log into the FTP server and retrieve the files that you have uploaded. This might sound like a big deal, but it is very easy to do.

    If the company you work for has an FTP server set up, you’ll simply need to find out the address and add it to the appropriate field in your FTP client. If you don’t have direct access to an FTP server, you can sign up for a service and use someone else’s FTP server There are various companies that offer FTP services like this. To find a service you can use Google and search for “ftp service” or “ftp hosting”. You can find a range of services to work with; some are free or very inexpensive and others charge a little more but provide a few professional-level services.