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The File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is a set of rules that computers on a network use to communicate with one another.  The tool allows users to transfer files over networks such as the internet. This article explains how to;

  • Create FTP user accounts
  • Use different methods, including command line, web browser or an FTP client to connect servers or computers and transfer files.
  • Copy files between servers and local machines.
  • Copy files between two servers

To transfer files using FTP, you require to an FTP server, a user account, and an FTP client or application.  Generally, most FTP servers require a username and a password in order to make a connection. However, some servers may allow users to connect as anonymous users with no username or password.

The common methods of making an FTP connection are;

  1. Username and password Login: This is a restrictive method where only users with an account can access the server. This is common when there is a need for users to upload or download files to and from the server.
  2. Username only: Some sites only require a username to access. However, this will only allow downloads and not uploads
  3. Anonymous FTP access: This does not require the user to enter a username or password and is the easiest. The access is usually for sites where users can only download files such as forms, software, and others.

Creating FTP User Accounts

  1. Log in to the domain cPanel
  2. Navigate to Files and click FTP accounts

How to Use FTP to Transfer Files Between Servers and Local Machines

  1.  Type in the username and password for your new account in the Log In and Password boxes. If you have several domains in your cPanel account, ensure that you select the correct one where you want the FTP account
  2. Type in a directory if you want different one from the default
  3. Specify the disk space if you want something different from the default 2000MB. You can either type in the disk space, or select unlimited at the Quota section at the bottom.
  4. Click Create FTP Account

How to Use FTP to Transfer Files Between Servers and Local Machines

Once the process is complete, you will see a screen that shows the login names, path, and quota. To see the details for each FTP account, click Configure FTP client. This will show you the FTP username, server, and port.

How to Use FTP to Transfer Files Between Servers and Local Machines

Different Methods of Using FTP to Transfer FIles

The three common methods are

  • Web browser: Does not require a client and works directly from the browser, most used for downloading files from the server.
  • Command line FTP: All major operating systems have FTP client’s functionality available as a command line.
  • A GUI FTP client:  These are usually easy-to-use third party application that allows users to connect and transfer files over FTP.

Connecting to an FTP Server on a Web Browser

The web browser method works the same way as a website. However, instead of typing the HTTP at the address bar, you replace it with FTP.

With the browser access, you do not need a client. You simply type the FTP server at the address bar in this format: ftp://yourserver_name.com or ftp.yourserver_name.com

Connect to an FTP server with a username and password on a web browser

  1. Open the browser (in our case we will use Firefox)
  2. Type the FTP address of the server you wish to access. The syntax for FTP addresses is ftp://ftp.domain_name.com or ftp://domain_name.com
  3. Dismiss the error dialogs the server returns if necessary.
  4. Type the FTP username and password in the Log On As dialog prompt
  5. Click OK or Log In to access the server (depending on the type of browser)

You can also access the server by typing in your FTP username in the browser’s address bar. This will give you a password required box where you will type your password and proceed

How to Use FTP to Transfer Files Between Servers and Local Machines

Add FTP Credentials in the Browser Address Bar

Instead of waiting for the logon dialog box, you can enter the username and password in the address bar. This will open the FTP server without prompting for a password.

  1. Open the web browser
  2. In the address bar, type ftp://username:password@FTP.yourdomain_name.com

This allows you to open the FTP server and download files.

Command Line FTP

To use the command line FTP, open the DOS Prompt in Windows or Terminal in Linux and Mac.

In windows 7, click start and type command at the search programs and files. Click the Command Prompt. Alternatively, click start, programs and then the Accessories where you will find the Command Prompt.

How to Use FTP to Transfer Files Between Servers and Local Machines

  1. Type the command ftp ftp.yourdomain_name.com at the

ftpftp.yourdomain_name.com> at the C:> prompt.

  1. Enter your username and password.

Alternatively, type FTP and press Enter at the command prompt in Windows. From here, use the open command to connect to the server.

ftp> openftp.ftpserver_name.com

How to Use FTP to Transfer Files Between Servers and Local Machines

Once you login, it takes you to the default directory. You can move to the one where you want to copy files to, and open it using the command.

ftp>cd directory_name

To upload files to the active folder of the remote machine or server, use the command in the format

ftp> put filename+extension

For example  ftp> put readme.txt will upload the file readme.txt from your local folder to the remote server.

ftp> mput *.xlsx , uploads all excel files.

You can also use send instead of put.

Similarly uses get to download single files and mget for multiple

ftp> get readme.txt
ftp> mget *.pdf

Using an FTP Client to Transfer Files over FTP Connections

Moving files is much easier when using an FTP client and you may consider one if you require regular access to the FTP servers. Using these allows you to easily upload, download or transfer files much easier than a command line or web browser. For the purpose of this article, we will look at two FTP clients for Windows

Winscp FTP Client for Windows

  1. Download and install the WinSCP client here
  2. Open the application
  3. Type your FTP server name in the format ftp.server_name.com
  4. Type your Host name in the format user1@server_name.com
  5. Select port 21
  6. Click Login
  7. Click Save if you do not want the server to keep on asking you to log in every time.

How to Use FTP to Transfer Files Between Servers and Local Machines

You may choose Anonymous login if the server allows it.

A screen with two panes opens up after log successful logon. By default, the left-hand pane is the local drive while the right is the root directory of the remote FTP location.

How to Use FTP to Transfer Files Between Servers and Local Machines

To upload files

  1. Select the files on the left-hand pane. You can select one or more files or folders using the control and shift buttons.
  2. Click the Upload drop-down button to choose whether you just want to upload normally, in the background or and whether to transfer the files and then delete from the source location.

How to Use FTP to Transfer Files Between Servers and Local Machines

To download files from the server,

  1. Select folder or files on the right-hand pane
  2. Click download (use the drop-down arrow to select the option)

Alternatively, transfer and then right-click, it gives the same options as clicking on the drop-down button.

How to Use FTP to Transfer Files Between Servers and Local Machines

Use FTP Rush to Transfer Files Between Two Servers

The FTP Rush works almost the same way as the WinSCP. However, it has the option of transferring files between two remote servers.

  1. Download the FTP Rushhere
  2. Install the application on your Windows computer
  3. Open the application.

By default FTP Rush displays a local directory on the left pane and the remote on the right pane. However, you can switch these the way you want them as well as connect to two remote servers. If you want two remote servers, click on the computer /server on the icons bar under the name Local.

How to Use FTP to Transfer Files Between Servers and Local Machines

  1. To connect to remote machine, click on the (2) Remote bar.
  1. At the top of the page, enter the Host name, port, FTP Username and Password, and the Path. Click the quick connect button just before the Host, or press Enter key to connect. Alternatively, click on the drop-down button between the connect button and Host to open Quick Connect dialog box. Enter the details FTP details and click OK to connect.

How to Use FTP to Transfer Files Between Servers and Local Machines

Alternatively, click the connect/disconnect icon and enter the details.

How to Use FTP to Transfer Files Between Servers and Local Machines

To copy files between different computers or server, go to the correct pane select the files you want to upload to download and then click the Transfer button (Green arrow). Right-clicking on the highlighted files will also give you the Transfer and other options such as Delete, Make directory, Advanced Transfer, etc.

  • To upload files, select the files from your Local pane and click the transfer arrow.
  • To download files from the server to local, select the files in the Remote pane and click transfer arrow.

How to Use FTP to Transfer Files Between Servers and Local Machines

To transfer files between two remote servers,

  1. Go to the Local drive pane and click the icon to switch to remote.

How to Use FTP to Transfer Files Between Servers and Local Machines

  1. Enter the FTP username and password for the second website and click OK.
  2. Once you establish a connection to each server, select and transfer the files you want to copy to the other server.

Conclusion

FTP is a file transmission protocol that allows users to transfer files between servers or computers. To perform a transfer, upload or download, a user requires a network connection, an FTP server, and an account.

To access the FTP server, a user can use the inbuilt tools such as the command line which is available in all major operating systems, a web browser, or a free or premium third-party FTP client or application. Each of these has its benefits and limitations as well as different level of ease-of-use.

The command line can be a challenge for users who are not conversant while a browser access may have its limits. The FTP clients are much easier to use suitable for users who are not comfortable with the command lines.

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