FTP (File Transfer Protocol) is a standard network protocol used to transfer files from a server to a client, such as local computer, or the other way around. The most common application of FTP is accessing, uploading or downloading files, hosted on a server, such as but not only website files. There’re basically no limits to what you can do with FTP, as it offers a fast and flexible connection, allowing you to transfer single files, groups of individual files, and whole directories with multiple folders and individual files. The only limitations are the ones, set on the server.
This post will help you configure your preferred FTP application (suggestions are included) and start using it.
Who Needs To Use FTP?
FTP can be used by all who manage files or systems on a server. However, it’s not always necessary to use FTP. In many cases, a simple file manager application is enough. It can also be a bad idea to grant too many users FTP access, as this might put your system at risk.
FTP is indeed a powerful file management tool that enables you to quickly access, modify, and delete large amounts of data. Therefore, it’s a good idea to only grant such access to your webmaster or website IT manager, responsible for maintenance and troubleshooting. Avoid granting FTP access for anybody who isn’t completely technically savvy or a key figure to website maintenance. Deletion of files, errors, system crash or data theft can be some of the outcomes of unauthorized or inappropriately given FTP access.
Getting Started: Locate FTP And Create New FTP Account
To get started, log into your cPanel on the server. Then navigate to the Files section and locate FTP Accounts. If you can’t find the icon, it might mean that your hosting provider hasn’t enabled FTP on the server. This is quite unusual but can happen. If this is the case, contact them and ask them to enable FTP first.
Click on FTP Accounts to enter the FTP Accounts screen. There, you have the opportunity to add new FTP account, get an overview of existing accounts, manage, and delete them or use the special ones. You can find the special FTP accounts in a separate list beneath the ones you created. They are linked to aspects of your hosting plan and use your credentials for logging on the server. These accounts have special permissions and cannot be deleted. It is therefore a good idea to not grant additional users access to them. Instead, create new FTP accounts and adjust the permissions accordingly.
To create a new account, you have to do the following:
- Choose a login and enter it into the Log In box.
- Enter and confirm a password to be associated with the login.
- Choose the Home directory for the new account. As long as you wish to only give access to certain subdirectory and not your website’s core, you should specify the path to the subdirectory. If your main website and not a subdomain or similar should be managed, choose the root directory for your website.
- If your hosting provider allows for it and it’s relevant for your needs, choose disc space quota to limit the amount of upload data from this account.
- Create account. Now it should be visible in the FTP account table on the page.
As long as it’s the owner of the hosting account who needs access and there aren’t any reasons to restrict their privileges, they can simply use the special FTP account that is already available on the FTP management page.
Some hosting providers give also a possibility to access raw logs or visit your data anonymously via additional special FTP accounts.
Download FTP Application
There’re different FTP applications and it’s completely up to you which one you choose. However, as long as you’re new to using FTP, you might want to follow your hosting provider’s recommendations. The reason is that such recommendations are usually followed by setup files and detailed instructions making setup very easy.
You can find the recommended FTP applications by clicking on Configure FTP Client to the right in the list of your existing FTP accounts. This task needs to be repeated for all of your FTP accounts. When you click on Configure FTP Client, a window expands under the FTP account’s line. There you can find the credentials used for manual setup of any FTP application, as well as a number FTP application suggestions, followed by Configuration Files and Instructions.In this case, Filezilla, CoreFTP, and Cyberduck are recommended to use. You can’t download them directly from cPanel, as no download link is provided, but you can do it on their respective websites: Filezilla; Core FTP; Cyberduck.
Follow the instructions on the website to download and install the application on your computer.
Configuring FTP: Example With Filezilla
Take a look at the image above. You have Manual Settings and Configuration Files, accompanied with Instructions. You can choose between FTP and SFTP. SFTP is a secure file transfer protocol, packaged with SSH. If no special restrictions apply to your case, it’s always recommended to use SFTP.
Using Configuration Files
If you choose to configure Filezilla with a configuration file, you have to follow these steps:
- Click on the link to download the file
- Save the file on your computer
- Open Filezilla
- Click on File->Import
- Select the XML file you downloaded and click OK
- Click OK on the Import Settings window
- You should get an Import Successful message
- Click on File->Site manager
- Choose your domain from the Select Entry menu
- Click on Connect
Now you’re connected to your FTP server and can start editing your files.
If you choose to configure Filezilla manually, you only need to follow these very simple steps:
- Open Filezilla
- Open cPanel and note down your FTP credentials
- Enter the value for FTP server in the Host field
- Enter your FTP username in the Username field
- Enter your FTP password in the Password field
- Enter the FTP or SFTP port value in the Port field
- Click on Quickconnect
You should now be able to access your files on the server. As long as you choose this setting when connecting, you can save your login details and log into multiple FTP accounts on different servers with one click.
Understanding The User Interface Of FTP Applications (Example: Filezilla)
FTP applications use language that is a bit specialized but easy enough to understand. Their interface shows detailed information about files on your computer, files on the server, files in chosen directories, and file transfers. Take a look at the picture.
You can see that you have a menu at the top. For the most part, you don’t really need to use that menu. Almost everything can be done from within the main window and by using the right mouse button to choose among available options.
The next line is your manual login line. You can use it as described in the paragraph above. Next, you can see the status line for the server connection and the eventual file transfers. This is only an informative window. As long as an error occurs, you should either reconnect to the server or manage file transfers accordingly (described below).
The red arrow points to the Local site window. Local site is your computer and the files and folder you see there, are your local files and folders. Whenever you choose a directory or a folder, you can see its contents in the window, marked with a purple arrow. You can select and choose to move files and folder from/to either window.
The window marked with a blue arrow, Remote site, shows the directories and files on the server. Whenever you click on a directory or folder there, its contents appear in the window, marked with a brown arrow. You can select and move files and folders from/to either window.
You can, for example, select a number of files and folders from the second Local site window, drag, and drop them into a directory in the first Remote site window, as indicated by the green arrow. However, as noted above, the transfer can go both ways and from/to either window.
When you transfer from local to remote site, you upload files. When you transfer from remote to local site, you download them.
Whenever you initiate a file transfer, you can see details about the transferred files and the transfer direction in the window, marked with a black arrow. Just below it, you can see the three tabs: Queued files, Failed transfers, and Successful transfers.
Quelled files show all the files in the transfer queue, as well as their size, transfer speed, and completion percentage. By clicking the right mouse button, you can choose among options as process queue, remove files, stop queue, action after processing the queue, etc.
Failed transfers show all the files that did not get transferred due to an error. You can always retry by clicking the right mouse button and choosing to reset and requeue all or selected files.
Successful transfers show the list of all successfully transferred files.
That’s it! Now you know how to configure and use FTP!