What Is FTP? File Transfer Protocol Explained

Aaron Paul updated on Feb 22, 2023 to Knowledge Center

The Internet has many protocols that allow us to use websites and navigate/browse through the Internet. These protocols regulate how websites operate and how data is transferred from one end to the other.

One important method in all this is FTP. So, what exactly is it, and how does it work? Today, we're going to understand the key elements of FTP and why it's important. And we'll also explore its basic features. So, let's get started.

What Is FTP?

FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol and is a standard network protocol used to transfer files between two nodes on a computer network. It is one of the most widely used protocols to transfer web pages, other types of files, and programs from one host to another over the Internet.

Since FTP is a protocol for transferring files between two nodes on a singular network, it's essential to understand its basics. For instance, FTP is a protocol used to transfer files between computers.

Another explanation is that FTP is the key file transfer protocol used to transfer files across the Internet. FTP uses TCP/IP connections to transmit data. An FTP Transaction consists of three steps:

Step 1. The client sends a command to the server, requesting a connection.

Step 2. The server responds with an acknowledgment message and establishes a connection.

Step 3. The client sends one or more commands to the server, requesting files or directories be transferred.

While today's standard is HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol), it's important to understand that some websites still use a reliable FTP system to conduct the same operations.

How Does FTP Work?

FTP is based on a client-server protocol that allows two computers to conduct communication with one another. In other words, it relies on two-sided communications to send files from the server to the client.

Therefore, it also uses two channels, one for data and the other for conversation. So, here's how it actually works:

  • A user would log into an FTP server with credentials/login username and password. Although, some FTP servers may have free access and do not require entering passwords or credentials of any sort. This identifies the user as anonymous FTP.
  • The client (PC) initiates the transfer by engaging in a conversation with the mainframe (server). Then, the request is sent to download files required by the client's PC.
  • Once access is granted, a user can upload, delete, download, rename, copy and cut files from a server.

Besides that, FTP works in active or passive modes. The user initiates the conversation with specific commands from the channel in active mode. Whereas passive mode is when the server uses the same command to transfer files to the client.

Why Is FTP Important?

FTP is one of the oldest and premier network protocols that's still used extensively in many facets of the Internet. If FTP didn't exist, it would be impossible to conduct data transfer without immense hassle or issues.

In other words, it's a necessary network protocol for file transfer. And with the help of FTP, a user can do many things, such as:

  • FTP is used extensively in backup services to upload content such as important documents, images, videos, or all sorts of data into server storage. These servers employ FTP services, and that's what makes them rapid in upload and download.
  • When used correctly, FTP is an ideal platform for data replication. In other words, you can duplicate data from one PC to another with high reliability and speed.
  • FTP plays a vital role in web hosting and cloud services. Therefore, it's necessary to employ it in remote systems in today's world.

Besides all these, various FTP types, such as anonymous FTP, password-protected FTP, and FTPS, are vital in how the internet works and data is transferred from one point to another. So, it's not only important, it's essential for all sorts of browsing and data transfer today.


These are some of the key aspects of FTP and why it's important in today's world. It's an essential factor in sending data from one point to another and one of the most secure ones. Besides, its quick and rapid nature allows a lot more efficiency and time-saving.

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