What is FTP and how good is it for file transfer?

Now, this post probably won’t be of interest to the technically inclined, but for folks who are curious about some of the jargon flung about the file transfer side of the internet, this one is for you.

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FTP stands for “File Transfer Protocol”, and it is a method used to copy files from one host to another over networks like the internet - technically, over “TCP/IP” networks, which stands for “Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol”. Access to an FTP client can be either anonymous or password-protected, depending on how it’s been set up.

FTP was originally created by Abhay Bhushan in 1971, with the standard specifications having been updated twice since then (in 1980 and 1985). Let’s look at that again: the File Transfer Protocol, one of the major methods used to send files, was first written in 1971 and it’s last major update was in 1985.


25 years ago.

Moreover, ask any (honest) IT professional and they’ll tell you that FTP was never designed to be a secure method of sending data, and even with security upgrades, it’s still vulnerable to a wide variety of attacks (according to the good folks at Wikipedia). Though somewhat mitigated in modern versions, data (including user names, passwords, etc.) can often be easily accessed and read. Additionally, it tends to leave mile-wide holes in your firewall, thereby opening your computer to potential attack.

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As one would expect for such an old system, usability is not very good - even newer versions are often clunky and distinctly not user friendly. If you’ve ever had to use FTP, chances are you’ve experienced this firsthand…I know I have.

“There’s got to be a better option!” You might say. And I would respond “Yes. Yes there is.” It’s been 25 years since the advent of FTP, and a lot has changed since then, including the coding languages available to programmers and, in fact, the very structure of the internet.

This is a very good thing, because it’s given us a variety of choices, the best of which are probably online file transfer services like FilesDIRECT. I confess to being biased, but let’s look at the reasons why:

  • Password protected uploads and downloads
  • 128-bit SSL encryption
  • Easy to use - super-simple user interface
  • Send large files (2GB using your browser, or files of any size with the desktop app)
  • Send and receive multiple files simultaneously
  • There are no servers to maintain
  • Works with any operating system

And, of course, much more.

With modern, more secure options like this, I can’t think of any good reasons for using something as outdated as FTP.

It’s time to move large file transfer into the 21st century.

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