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What is FTP and which ftp client to use to upload your web files on a hosting server?

FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol. Essentially, it is a simple tool to move files from one computer to another computer. Three forms of the FTP protocol, viz. FTP, FTPS & SFTP are most commonly used for transferring files across the Internet.

How would FTP work for you?

Let us assume that you have created a website for yourself, and you have 50 web pages that you want to display to people. Some of these web pages may have embedded images and hence associated image files. Plus, there could be other files such as CSS and Javascript. So, for a 50 page website you may have more than 50 files stored in your local disk which are to be placed on your web server so that people around the world can view your website.

To do this, you can open an FTP client and establish a connection with your web server using the ftp credentials provided to you by your hosting provider. Once you have established the connection, you will see the folders (directories) on your web server. Navigate to the directory where you need to place the files, and then upload the files with the help of the ftp client software. FTP can also be used to download your web files from the server to your local disk.

The FTP protocol uses two communication channels while transferring files to-and-fro a ftp client and a ftp server. One channel is used for communicating commands and the second one is used for transferring the data files. A standard communication port (port no. 21) is used for communicating the commands. For the data channel a temporary arbitrary port is created for each ftp connection.

FTP client software are usually available free and you can download any one and install on your local computer. Few FTP Clients are listed below:

FTP ClientDownload Link URL
4Core FTPhttp://www.coreftp.com/download.html

You can also use your Windows explorer or any web browser to upload files on the web server via FTP.

In a plain FTP connection, both command and data channels are unencrypted. Therefore, any data sent over these channels is unsecure and can be intercepted and read. Hence other/secure modes of FTP are also available.


FTPS (also known as FTP Secure or FTP-SSL) is an extension to the commonly used File Transfer Protocol (FTP) that adds support for the Transport Layer Security (TLS) and the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) cryptographic protocols. In FTPS mode, the ftp client first establishes an unencrypted connection to the ftp server. However, before sending login credentials, the client requests that the server switch the command and data channels to secure encrypted channels. Once the secure channels are established, the ftp client sends login credentials, gets verified and begins the file transfer over the encrypted channel.

There are two modes in which FTPS works - Explicit and Implicit. The two modes differ only by the manner in which the ftp client connects with the ftp server and the mechanism adopted for encryption of communication data. Most FTP clients support both FTPS modes, viz. Explicit and Implicit, though the Implicit mode is obsolete now. You need to check with your hosting provider which mode will work in your case.

FTP clients that support FTPS
  1. WinSCP
  2. FileZilla
  3. CuteFTP
  4. Core FTP
  5. SmartFTP


SFTP, or secure FTP, is a program that uses an entirely different mechanism, viz. the SSH (Secure Shell) Protocol to transfer files. It is functionally similar to FTP. However, unlike standard FTP, it uses a single secure communication channel for both commands and data.

Note: While FTP & FTPS usually work on port 21, SFTP usually works on port 22.

FTP clients that support SFTP
  1. WinSCP
  2. FileZilla
  3. CuteFTP
  4. Core FTP
  5. SmartFTP


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About the Author

Rajeev Kumar
CEO, Computer Solutions
Jamshedpur, India

Rajeev Kumar is the primary author of How2Lab. He is a B.Tech. from IIT Kanpur with several years of experience in IT education and Software development. He has taught a wide spectrum of people including fresh young talents, students of XLRI, industry professionals, and govt. officials.

Rajeev has founded Computer Solutions & WebServicesWorldwide.com, and has hands-on experience of building variety of web applications and portals, that include - SAAS based ERP & e-commerce systems, independent B2B, B2C, Matrimonial & Job portals, and many more.

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