What is FTP?

There are many ways of installing a WordPress blog, and some providers make this easier for their customers by offering tools that take care of this.

Even updates and plug-ins can be installed on most systems from within the administrator’s dashboard.

But at some point, most WordPress users will be confronted with FTP.  And a lot of them then ask “what’s that?”

FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol and was originally published in 1971.  Over the years some changes have been made and some  extensions have been added, but at the end of the day it is just a way of transferring files from one system to another.

One system being your computer, the other being your web server.

FTP uses a series of commands to copy the files, eg. “PUT” to copy a file to the remote server, and “GET” to download one.  There are commands to create directories, to delete files, and even to move multiple files at once.

When I first started designing web pages, I used those commands in simple FTP programs, eg. in DOS or Unix.  I still do if there is no other alternative!

But thankfully there are now programs called “FTP clients”, one example of which being Filezilla.

Filezilla

Filezilla

Such programs simplify the task of copying files, because they usually allow you to drag files across from one window to another, and automatically recognise what type of files they are (ASCII or BINARY).

They cope with different file versions, so that only newer files are copied.  And they often offer a way of storing the login details of multiple servers – a blessing to web designers who access many different sites during the course of one day.

So why would bloggers need to know about it?  Here are some examples:

  1. Because your blog doesn’t work and you need to replace a file manually, or re-install WordPress without overwriting the wp-content directory
  2. You want to backup the photos that you have uploaded into articles
  3. A plug-in does not auto-update, or causes problems after an update and needs to be downgraded to a previous version

Of course, you may prefer to avoid FTP altogether and hire someone instead.

About Graham Tappenden

Graham Tappenden is a blogger from Germany. He has written code for WordPress themes since 2006 and been creating websites since 1994.
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