Home » Internet

FTP, When You Need It And When You Don't

Dec 22, 2007
My friend's mother recently got online and he has been spending a lot of time with her helping her with this "new fangled thing" called the internet. One thing she didn't understand at first was the difference between what was on her PC and what was on the internet. It took her a while to understand her AOL emails were not stored on her local PC and she needed a connection to the internet to see them.

This can be an important concept for web site developers to understand. If you are using a web page builder tool that you installed on your computer, then the web pages you design are usually stored on your local machine. For everyone else to see your pages you will need to transfer the files to the server that is hosting your website.

This is where FTP comes in. FTP stands for "File Transfer Protocol". It's just a fancy name for a way to move files from one computer (yours) to another (the server where your website is). You might be wondering what a "protocol" is. A protocol is a set of rules that, in this case, helps the internet work across all the computers in the world. Have you ever wondered why the internet works,even though the computers that use it are not all the same? Your website might run on a Linux server but you view it on a Windows PC. You can't install programs for Windows onto Linux so why can you view your web pages on your PC even though the actual files are on a Linux computer? The answer is that all the computers follow the internet's set of rules known as TCP/IP. Just like HTTP, which moves web pages from the server to your computer, FTP is just a part of these rules.

You can invoke FTP through a command line window ("cmd" on Windows machines). However you will need to learn a few of the basic commands to open a connection and "get" and "put" files. It's not hard, but since most webpage editors have FTP built, you may never have to learn the commands at all. For example, in Dreamweaver, you set up a "site" to handle the file transfer to the server. In the site definition wizard you select "FTP" for sharing files and you give it the hostname of the site, the folder on the site where your files go, and of course your username and password. Once you have entered the information, you can point and click to move your files. However even if you never learn the actual FTP commands, it is helpful to understand the purpose and concept.

With the advent of blogging, and other site generation tools, you may be able to completely avoid the need to transfer files altogether. With the explosion of social networking, there are many ways to build an online presence without having to learn technologies like FTP. For example, you can create a page on myspace or squidoo, a blog on wordpress or blogger. Or you can even create a website that looks just like one created the "old one" way using site builder tools like Yahoo! Sitebuilder or Smart Money Websites.

What these technologies all have in common is that the user is building or generating web pages right on the server without having to first create the files on their computer and transfer them using FTP. This is a great boon to the non technical user as it eliminates a layer of confusion and complexity. In fact, it is quite likely that the concept and mechanics of file transfer will become less important to know over time.

Choosing the right "sitebuilder" really depends on what you want to do. Blogs are best if you are committed to writing frequently. A page on myspace or one of the other social networking sites is great for profiles of yourself or a hobbie that you have. While you have a lot of flexibility on choosing the theme or template of your page or blog and adding content (written, audio or video) is very easy, they are not complete substitutes for a full website, especially if you want to sell a product online or sign people up for an email list. In fact a good way to think of blogs and social networking site pages is as potential marketing tools for your or your partner's websites.

Website builders are a great way to get started on building your own websites without having to master technologies such as HTML and FTP. They often come with additional built in tools that you will need to make your online business a success. But it is important to pick the right one that is aligned with your online business. What do you want to do online? Do you want a site that promotes your business? Are you a Internet Marketer selling ebooks on Clickbank? Do you want to sell your products online? Make a list of the features you will need and compare them to what is offered. With a little planning you can fast track your way to online success.
About the Author
Kathy Alice has been in the technology industry for 20 years. She helps business owners and marketers bridge the technical gap. She loves finding innovative solutions to achieve business success.
Please Rate:
(Average: Not rated)
Views: 233
Print Email Report Share
Article Categories