File Transfer Protocol, otherwise known as FTP, is a standard, out-of-band protocol which, as its name suggests, facilitates the transfer of files on the Internet.
FTP is similar to Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (a protocol which facilitates the transfer of email) in the sense that it also functions within a TCP/IP network. It is generally used for downloading files from servers to the user’s computer. It may also be used to move files to a computer that functions as a server.
FTP allows users to transfer programs as well as upload web pages. It is downloadable from a regular web browser. However, more features are available from FTP clients. This may come in handy if the user wants to build his or her own website.
Normally, a user will have to log in using his or her password to make use of FTP. However, access to information which has been made public is possible with the use of anonymous FTP. Anonymous FTP allows users to download software, as well as access information, even if their computers have not been registered for accounts. It also makes the usage of trial software possible. Downloading the latest version of Mozilla Firefox, for instance, is one way of utilizing anonymous FTP. Using one’s regular web browser to download files is another way to make use of this tool.
The use of FTP involves certain security risks, mainly because it is unable to encrypt data. Anyone who wishes to intercept data may access files and commands with relative ease, as these are all available in plain text. The use of SFTP or FTPS helps reduce these risks by adding encryption capabilities to the FTP.