The FTP Protocol (File Transfer Protocol) is one of the oldest and most widely adopted for transferring files over networks.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore everything you need to know about FTP. We will discuss its operation, advantages, disadvantages and use cases. We will also cover security issues and safer alternatives to traditional FTP.
Get ready to learn how to use this powerful tool and simplify your file sharing needs!
What is FTP protocol?
The FTP protocol, or File Transfer Protocol in Portuguese, is a tool that allows files to be shared between computers connected to each other, from a local network to the internet. In short, it offers a direct way of exchanging information between two computers, allowing access to the other’s folders.
In this way, together with the DHCP protocol , it allows better functioning for the digital world.
The transfer of information between computers connected via a network had its origins in the 1971 protocol, which uses the client/server model, in which the first accesses data and the second stores it.
Cloud storage also fits into the client/server model, just like FTP, but the data is not concentrated on a single machine.
How it works?
To access files hosted on the server, the FTP protocol requires authentication using a username and password. The computer on which the files are located is accessible via an IP address, which also brings security efficiency along with the SSL certificate .
All computers can serve as FTP servers, although it is most often used by web professionals to store data on websites. There are several third-party tools, such as FileZilla — known to be one of the most efficient and affordable programs — to manage these connections.
But is it safe?
FTP dates back almost half a century and therefore lacks certain security standards accepted by newer browsers. However, the SSL protocol (FTPS) can be implemented to make connections more secure .
Currently, both Google and Mozilla are looking to discontinue support for the protocol in Chrome and Firefox, which means that users who still use the protocol to manage websites or access files will have to turn to third-party provided applications instead. using browsers.
What is the difference between passive and active FTP?
Many are not aware of the different ways in which File Transfer Protocol (FTP) works, which have the potential to significantly change how it works and the security of the network. These modes define whether it is the FTP server or the client that initiates the TCP connection necessary to transfer data from the server to the client.
The FTP protocol allows operations in the following two modes: Normal Mode, more often called Active Mode, and Passive Mode. Both are very common. Understand in detail about each one.
Active FTP operation
In this procedure, the client is able to establish a connection with the server by sending a command titled PORT, using a randomly chosen port to send a packet directed to port 21, in order to transfer its files.
Additionally, the client initiates the command channel through port 1500. It then sends the PORT command to port 21 on the server, which then acknowledges the connection. Therefore, the data channel is opened on port 20 to the client on port 1501. The connection over the data channel is then confirmed by the user. Finally, the command and data channels are open and ready for use.
Passive FTP operation
Thus, the client still contacts port 21 of the FTP server, but this time through a command known as PASV. Instead of establishing a connection directly, the server informs that the client can only connect to a second port, different from the previous one.
After this, the client starts the command channel through port 1500, sending the PASV command to the server located on port 21. This causes the transmission to switch to passive mode.
As a result, the server provides the client with the port that will listen to the data channel, such as 2345. The client, in turn, opens the data channel on port 1501, directing it to the server’s port 2345. When the data channel connection is confirmed, both the command and data channels are ready to be used.
Is it worth using the FTP protocol?
As we well know, when using your computer with internet access, you are able to access a server that hosts the website and perform the operation of downloading a file. FTP, however, goes further and offers even more: it allows you to transfer and share files containing large amounts of data, securely and very conveniently.
Therefore, when it comes to complex projects that require a lot of data, or even to store several files, FTP is a very useful and efficient solution.
Therefore, the FTP protocol allows the simultaneous and simplified sending of numerous files. Instead of sending one image file at a time, you can send them all at once. To provide more detail on the subject, we have separated the main advantages.
Possibility of sending multiple directories at the same time
Of course, File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is the means through which data is transferred from one computer to another. However, it is important to highlight that data takes a long way to reach the user.
When we use social networks, for example, we have a clear example of this protocol in action, as they present enormous amounts of information provided by the provider/developer.
Sending each data individually is unnecessary when using FTP technology. A large amount of data can be sent to an FTP server, making it available for the customer to access whenever they need it.
The FTP configuration is another advantage that contributes to its excellent performance. Although programming can be intimidating, FTP provides a very easy way to manage.
Installing and/or configuring an FTP protocol is very easy. You won’t need to do it again every time you finish using it, as the configuration data will be saved and can be reused in different situations, just adapting some details here and there if you wish.
The FTP feature is extremely simple to use, so you don’t need advanced technical knowledge to work with it. Furthermore, anyone who takes a basic course on the protocol will be prepared to perform tasks in the cloud. After all, it is an accessible and practical method, as it integrates with several tools.
Management made easy
Thanks to its TCP support, the File Transfer Protocol makes handling its resources simple and accessible. This is due to its interaction interface, which facilitates access to an FTP file sharing service instead of using hypertext.
Progress always being saved
Try Google Docs, for example! When creating content, all information is recorded automatically. Furthermore, the FTP protocol uses the internet to send files to a server, so everything that was transmitted ends up being saved in the cloud.
What are the main FTP transfer programs?
This is a very common question that may arise while reading this guide. Therefore, we have separated the main ones for you to take note of!
Finding affordable suppliers is very beneficial in meeting customer needs and increasing profits. Therefore, having free suppliers is almost a dream come true! Filezilla proves to be a great ally in this sense, as it is a free solution for both the server and the client.
Furthermore, it is open source software, with extensive support available on its forum, allowing you to request bugs and features.
Classic FTP is considered the most secure and intuitive Folder Transfer Protocol that exists, being easy to use. Downloading and uploading folders is fast and efficient, in addition to having the security of FTP SSL technology. It is fully compatible with all the most famous FTP servers.
Contrary to popular belief, Classic FTP was created to make the tool easier to use. It has a design that makes the user experience simpler and more intuitive.
The software offers not only basic features but also access to more sophisticated functionality. Security is one of its main pillars, making it reliable and effective. Compatible with Windows 11, it offers the ability to edit text with spelling and grammar correction, as well as supporting Google Cloud Storage, Microsoft Onedrive and Google Drive.
SmartFTP has advanced features and proves to be a great FTP client for those who need to make transfers between computers and servers. In addition, it has improvements and enhancements.
What is the difference between FTP protocol and the others?
In general, the most common protocols besides FTP are FTPS and SFTP. So, to clarify in the best way, check out how each one works.
FTP – File Transfer Protocol
The main feature of the FTP protocol establishes a connection between your computer and the server that hosts your website, allowing you to transfer information and make changes to your content.
Given the popularity and widespread use of WordPress among websites, consider what would happen if, while editing, you accidentally deleted a significant line of code. Without the ability to access the WordPress dashboard, fixing errors becomes complicated. And now, how to deal with this situation?
One of the alternatives to resolve this problem is to access FTP. There you can explore everything hosted, even the folder containing the WordPress files. From there, either identify the problem, fix the code or, ultimately, eliminate the template and start all over again.
If you are not using the WordPress CMS, FTP access can help improve the file transfer process. This makes it possible to edit and send applications and data directly to hosting. Of course, this doesn’t mean everything needs to be done via FTP, but this option greatly speeds up the process and makes troubleshooting easier, like WordPress .
At any time, you have the possibility of accessing FTP through an address and access established by the hosting provider, or even downloading any of the different software available on the market.
FTPS – File Transfer Protocol over SSL
FTPS is a type of FTP that offers more security thanks to the SSL layer, ensuring that data transmitted between your computer and the server is completely protected.
In FTPS, your computer “encrypts” data using SSL (Secure Socket Layer) technology. In other words, the information is transformed into indecipherable codes before reaching the server. This means that if someone tries to capture the traffic, they will be unable to read and steal the information.
There are two ways to use FTPS: Implicit Secure Connection and Explicit Secure Connection. The first is mandatory: all data must be encrypted and the server refuses any information that is not in SSL. In the second, the customer has the freedom to determine which data should be encrypted.
In this other option, you have the possibility of transferring data that does not require protection without the SSL resource and encrypting confidential data, such as your customers’ credit card numbers and access passwords.
SFTP – Secure File Transfer Protocol
SFTP and FTPS have something in common: they both offer extra security for files and modifications being made on the server. Meanwhile, to establish a secure connection between computers, SFTP relies on SSH Encryption technology for better website security .
SSH is a cryptographic network protocol that provides security in data transmission. It is widely used for remote access to computer systems.
When using SFTP for data transfer, information is not sent directly, but packaged in SSH format. The user has the option of configuring private keys to maximize security when sending data from their computer to the server.
How to use the FTP protocol in practice?
In general, we will explain how to put the FTP protocol into practice with these basic steps.
- FTP Server Setup : First, you need to have an FTP server set up. This involves installing and configuring FTP server software, such as FileZilla Server, on a computer that will act as the server.
- Connect to FTP Server: On the client side, you need FTP client software such as FileZilla (available for Windows, Mac, and Linux) to connect to the FTP server. Download and install the FTP client software on your computer.
- Open FTP client: Open the FTP client software (e.g. FileZilla).
- Connect to server: In the FTP client, you will see fields to enter connection details such as hostname, port number, username and password. Enter this information provided by the FTP server administrator. The hostname is usually an IP address (for example, 192.168.0.1) or a domain name (for example, ftp.example.com).
- Establish the connection: Click the “Connect” button or similar button to establish the connection with the FTP server.
- Browse directories: Once you are logged in, you will see two panels on the FTP client software interface. The left pane represents the local directory on your computer, while the right pane shows the remote directory on the FTP server. Browse the directories to find the files you want to transfer.
- Transfer files: Select the file (or files) in the local pane and drag it to the remote pane (or vice versa) to start the transfer. The FTP client software will display the transfer progress.
- Manage files on the server : You can do various operations with the files on the FTP server, such as renaming, deleting, copying, moving and creating directories. Use the options provided by the FTP client software to perform these operations.
- Close the connection: When you are finished using FTP, disconnect from the server by clicking the “Disconnect” button or similar option in the FTP client.
It is important to remember that the FTP protocol sends authentication information in plain text, which makes the connection insecure. If you need a more secure server connection , you can consider using FTPS (Secure FTP) or SFTP (SSH File Transfer Protocol).
What are the problems with using FTP?
Although File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is widely used, it also has some limitations and problems. Here are some of the main problems associated with using FTP:
Lack of security
FTP sends authentication information, including username and password, in plain text, which makes the connection vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks and data theft. This is especially concerning when transferring sensitive or confidential information.
No built-in encryption
FTP does not have built-in encryption , which means that transferred files are not protected during transit. This exposes the data to possible unauthorized access.
Firewall and NAT issues
The FTP protocol uses multiple connections, which can be problematic in environments with firewalls or Network Address Translation (NAT). These technologies can block or make it difficult to properly configure FTP connections.
Complexity in configuration
Properly configuring an FTP server can be a complex process, requiring opening ports, configuring permissions, and managing users. This can make initial setup and ongoing maintenance difficult.
The FTP protocol may have problems with unstable or slow connections. Network outages can lead to interrupted or incomplete file transfers.
Due to these issues, many organizations are moving to more secure alternatives, such as FTPS (Secure FTP) or SFTP (SSH File Transfer Protocol), which offer stronger encryption and authentication.
What are the types of FTP protocol?
You can find SFTP (SSH File Transfer Protocol), which is a different option than FTP. SFTP is not an extension of FTP, but a separate protocol that uses the SSH transport layer for security and authentication. SFTP is also known to be more secure and reliable compared to traditional FTP.
It’s important to keep in mind that although FTP is widely used, FTPS and SFTP are considered more secure and offer advanced encryption and authentication features. When choosing a file transfer protocol, consider the security requirements and features needed for your specific application.
How does the transfer via FTP occur?
The data transfer procedure via FTP is quite similar to obtaining files from an online storage service, however it is carried out through a specific interface that is more connected to the system.
After providing access credentials (login and password) to a computer that is connected to the network (client), the user has the possibility of using programs to fetch data from the FTP server. In some simpler versions, the files are organized on a web page, where links to download are listed.
The fact is that with the emergence of more robust and secure protocols, such as FTPS, the use of FTP has plummeted over the years. The protocol is no longer fully supported since version 88 was released last year, and in April Firefox retired it along with the release of version 90.
Currently, FTP (or FTPS) is widely used by website hosting services to assist in the process of transferring files to the remote server.
We hope this comprehensive guide has provided you with a comprehensive understanding of the FTP Protocol and its nuances. Now, you are equipped with the necessary knowledge to use it effectively regarding file transfer.
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