FTP, or File Transfer Protocol is the method used to get a file from your computer on your desk to the file server that your website is hosted on. To do this you need two things:
- An FTP account with your hosting providor.
- An FTP program.
The FTP account will come as part of your hosting account with your service providor. You’ll be given an address something like
ftp.yourdomain.com and a username and password to access it. This will give you access to the directories on the server where your website files are stored.
An FTP program is a piece of software that is used to actually do the transfer of files between your computer and the server. There are many different options available from the very simple to the quite complex and you can choose one depending on what you need. Your hosting providor will usually have a web based version built into your control panel which can be handy for a quick and dirty update but an actual desktop program is probably best. Some of the popular ones are:
- WinSCP for Windows. This is my personal choice. It’s a bit complex because it handles secure files and encryption. Most people start with something simpler.
- CoreFTP. Is a popular choice but not one I’ve used.
- Cyberduck. Famous on the Mac but also has a Windows version
There are many other options to consider and you’ll go through a few until you find one you like. A quick Google of FTP software comparison will find you plenty of articles about the pro’s and cons of the ones on the market. For a more in depth look at how FTP works then this WikiPedia article is a good start.
Thankfully if you use a CMS such as WordPress, Ghost, Drupal or any of the others you’ll find that they have file transfer built in so you may never have to use it. It’s handy to know how though.