What Does FTP Mean? Demystifying FTP

What Does FTP Mean? Demystifying FTP
Page content

What does FTP mean?

FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol. This is a standard network Protocol for copying files from one computer to another. This usually happens over the Internet between a client computer and a server computer but may also be found to function very well on a local Intranet or less significantly over a single computer.

A Case For FTP

Copying of computer files and data is necessary for the realization of benefits of a computer Network. In some cases it is not practical to have for example, a website publicly residing on the computer in which it is being developed. A web developer would comfortably develop all the website content on their own development computer and thereafter use the FTP protocol to copy the files to the hosting server.

What Does FTP Need to Work?

For FTP to work you need one or more client Software applications and at least one FTP server application. The client software can either be command line or Graphical User Interface (GUI) based. These two applications must implement the FTP protocol standards to be able to communicate with each other. There are various commands that make the FTP process functional. These commands may be typed in manually using command line tools or can be triggered using events programmed into GUI widgets such as push buttons. The latter makes the use of FTP very convenient.

The FTP server is usually the link between the server’s file system and the client. The FTP server is responsible for authentication and granting access to parts of the file system deemed fit for copying of files. Check out this list of FTP clients and list of FTP Server Software.

FTP Security

Data sent through FTP channels are really not secure as the content is not encrypted and can easily be sniffed out. To solve this problem there is a more secure form of FTP called Secure FTP (FTPS) or File Transfer Protocol Secure. This is where the client software application can request that the data sent through FTP be encrypted.

Using the FTP Protocol

As mentioned above you can use FTP using the command line tools that come preinstalled on your computer or by using client GUI applications. A Web browser is an example of a GUI application that is capable of handling FTP requests. Normally FTP servers are accessed using the IP address or domain name of the server it has been installed in. Using the rules of a URI or web adress in simpler terms, you begin a FTP session in a web browser or file browser by setting the protocol in the address bar as follows:

ftp://ftp-server.extenstion/ or ftp://ip-address/

This is similar to accessing a website. It is also good to note that usually when accessing FTP using a web browser, you ony have read only access, unless you install a browser extension that caters for write access. To be able to send files to the server you need to use your file brower. If you are using the commandline tool then you would type such a command:

ftp ftp-server.extension or ftp ip-address to get started.

That is all there is to the question; what does FTP mean?


Source ietf.org, https://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc959

Screenshot by author.