File transfer protocol is the way files are transferred from the server to the client across the network.
As good as Browsers are at reading web pages they are not so good when it comes to transferring large files over the Internet. For this FTP or File Transfer Protocol is needed.
FTP has its origins in the dark days before Browsers came along. In those days, when the Internet was used only by academics, universities stored massive amounts of research material on their computers so it could be read by all. And they still do. The only difference is, now the range of research subjects has vastly increased. That and the fact that free software is also available.
To gain access to an FTP site first look at a Browser showing an ordinary website. There, the address line will be something like: http:\\www.website.com. Gaining access to an FTP site calls for no more than changing that address line to ftp:\\www.ftpsite.com. It is literally that easy. All it needs is the address of an FTP site which, believe it or not, can be found on the website of any organization which also hosts an FTP site. Just search the Internet for information in the usual way. The website will hold details of whatever can be found on the FTP site.
Using FTP is slightly more involved than that as, before the site can be entered, a username and password will have to be given. Do not be put off by this. For username just enter the word 'Anonymous' and for the password enter your own email address. Assuming the site is open to the public, and most of them are, that is all it takes. A screen will appear, looking exactly like the files and folders arrangement of a computer hard drive, on which will be a folder called pub. As this is short for public select it and every file there is available for download. Welcome to the world of information commonly referred to as anonymous FTP.
FTP also has one more, very useful, function. It is used to transfer files between the companies who create websites and those who host them. Any web hosting company will give its clients an FTP address and it is to this that any files are sent. Be they an entire, brand new, website or just changes to an existing website the files will go by FTP.
However, anyone who has the need to send files this way would be well advised to use a dedicated FTP program. They are free, they can be found easily (on the Internet) and they will do a better job than an all-purpose Browser. No matter what the job it is always easier when the right tools are used.
There are two types of file transfer protocols:
- Trivial File Transfer Protocol (TFTP) There is occasions when we need to simply copy a file without the need for all of the functionalities of the FIP Protocol. For example, when a diskless workstation or a router is booted, we need to download the bootstrap and configuration files. Here we do not need all of the sophistication provided in FTP. We just need a protocol that quickly copies the files.
Trivial File Transfer Protocol (TFTP) is designed for these types of file transfer. It is so simple that the software package can fit into the read-only memory of a diskless workstation. It can be used at bootstrap time. TFTP can read or write a file for the client. Reading means copying a file from the server site to the client site. Writing means copying a file from the client site to the server site.
- File Transfer Protocol (FTP) True File Transfer Protocol transfers are both secure and reliable. The FTP message is encapsulated within TCP. FTP creates two virtual circuits between the two hosts, one for data transfer and the other for control information.
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