Why You Should Use FTP
By Richard Lowe Jr.
Believe it or not, browsing the web with Internet Explorer or Netscape is relatively new. It wasn't that long ago (ten to fifteen years) when the tools you would use on the Internet (not the Web) were email, gopher (a menu based browser), archie (a file and directory locator) and FTP.
The letters FTP stand for File Transfer Protocol, and that's exactly what FTP allows you to do - transfer files from place to place. In fact, FTP is by far the most efficient (the fastest) way to copy large files across the Internet.
Today many people use a sophisticated FTP client to get files to and from their web sites. This has several advantages over the method commonly used by amateurs on free web sites. Many newbies who don't know any better use the gadgets provided by their free host to edit their sites. The problems with this are many and varied.
First, the gadgets are not very impressive as editors. Most users who want to create a web site of any size and complexity will find themselves horribly constrained by these tools. Probably the only good thing about these editing tools is that they give people a nice, easy way to start creating web sites without a huge learning curve. But take my word for it, you will outgrow them soon enough.
In addition, a major problem is that the editing is generally done directly on the host site. This means you do not have a back up of your site on your own hard drive. If your host decides to close your account, goes bankrupt or is just plain unavailable, you lose your site. If you ever want to have a frustrating experience, just try and call your host and ask them to restore your site from one of their backups!
Other people use products such as Dreamweaver or FrontPage, which include site updating capabilities. These are often very convenient until they don't work or perform unexpected actions. For example, I spent several days trying to figure out why my CGI routines were not working, until I realized that FrontPage was uploading the files incorrectly. From that moment forward, I used an FTP package to upload my files.
Most of the modern FTP clients are very simple to use. You just launch the program, enter some basic information (such as the site address, account name and password) and connect. Once connected, you can usually just drag and drop files from your own hard drive to the site.
Precisely why is it a good idea to use an FTP client over, say, FrontPage (or Dreamweaver) or direct editing on a host's web site?
FTP is fast and efficient - As it turns out, FTP is actually one of the most efficient ways to transfer large amounts of data on the entire Internet. Don't believe me? Try transferring a very large file, say a megabyte, using FTP. It really moves, doesn't it?
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By using FTP, you have an automatic backup - If you use FTP, you will be editing your files locally on your own computer. As you make changes you will copy the files up to your host's computer. This means no matter what happens to your host, even if their computer is totally destroyed, you've got a copy of your site on your own disk. The reverse is also true - if your computer is trashed you can recover your site from your host's system.
FTP gives you control - You can choose whether to transfer in binary (executables and compressed files) or ASCII (text files) as needed. This is an advantage over FrontPage, which does not give you the choice and cannot be used to upload your site if, for example, you use CGI routines.
Some good FTP programs include the following:
This FTP client has the ability to do multiple tasks at the same time. This means you can start a long copy, look at the site and copy some smaller files all at the same time.
Has the ability to schedule transfers for selected times. The template feature allows you to create a pattern which can make future transfers much easier.
This is the product that I like to use. It is very easy to use, with a simple interface that allows drag and drop.
Internet Neighborhood maps an FTP site as a drive letter, which integrates it directly into your desktop and adds it directly to your network neighborhood.
WebDrive is a Windows 95/98/NT FTP software client that allows you to map an Internet FTP site to a local drive utilizing the standard FTP protocol. This enables you to connect to an FTP site and perform familiar file operations like copy, xcopy, and directory functions with the Windows explorer, a DOS box, or any other application like Microsoft Word, Excel, etc. WebDrive instantly FTP enables any application that reads or writes files by allowing the application to read files from or write files to the FTP site.
Another very nice FTP client with scheduling, speed and integration into the browser. This allows you to enter ftp:// in the address bar of the browser to call up the program.
About The Author
Richard Lowe Jr. is the webmaster of Internet Tips And Secrets. Visit his website any time to read over 1,000 complete FREE articles about how to improve your internet profits, enjoyment and knowledge.