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Wednesday, 18 October 2017 17:04


FTP is an acronym for File Transfer Protocol. As the name suggests, FTP is used to transfer files between computers on a network, such as the Internet. You can use FTP to exchange files between computer accounts, to transfer files between an account and a desktop computer, or to access software archives on the Internet. Keep in mind, however, that many FTP sites are heavily used and require several attempts before connecting.

Note: You need to use a client that supports secure FTP (e.g., SSH Secure Shell for Windows or MacSFTP for Macintosh) to transfer files to and from Indiana University's central systems. For more, see What is SFTP, and how do I use it?

How to use FTP
Graphical FTP clients
Using graphical FTP clients simplifies file transfers by allowing you to drag and drop file icons between windows. When you open the program, enter the name of the FTP host (e.g., ftp.empire.gov) and your username and password. If you are logging into an anonymous FTP server, you may not have to enter anything. Two common FTP programs are Transmit (for Macintosh) and Hummingbird FTP (for Windows).

Web browser
You can use a web browser to connect to FTP addresses exactly as you would to connect to HTTP addresses. Using a web browser for FTP transfers makes it easy for you to browse large directories and read and retrieve files. Your web browser will also take care of some of the details of connecting to a site and transferring files. While this method is convenient, web browsers are often slower and less reliable and have fewer features than dedicated FTP clients.

Command line FTP
You can also use FTP in a command line format from your Unix account, or your Unix or Windows workstation. For help, see What are some common FTP commands? For example, to start FTP, at the command line prompt, enter: ftp ftp.empire.gov
If you are connecting to your own account, enter your username and password. If you are connecting to an anonymous FTP site, for your username, enter anonymous . For your password, enter your email address.

Keeping track of files
Even if you are using a desktop computer to log into a Unix shell account, the files you transfer in an FTP session started from your Unix shell account will be stored in the directory of your account, not on the hard drive of your desktop computer.

If you make an Ethernet, broadband, or dial-up connection and run an FTP program (e.g., Transmit or Hummingbird) from your desktop computer, the files will usually transfer to your hard drive.

Anonymous FTP
Many universities, government agencies, companies, and private individuals have set up publicly accessible archives on the Internet. There are thousands of these sites that contain a myriad of programs, data files, and informational text. At these sites, public directories and files that may be read by the rest of the world via FTP are set aside. These directories are usually named /pub. You can usually find specific directions and information about the site in greeting messages or in files with names like README.

Remember that anonymous FTP is a privilege granted by the organization that owns the computer to which you are connecting.

Some general guidelines for using anonymous FTP are:
- Don't transfer files you don't need.
- Don't transfer an excessive amount of material.
- Restrict your transfers to off-peak hours, if possible.