You know about the cloud and that basically it’s your files on a server somewhere else. But how do these files get there? One way is to use File Transfer Protocol or FTP.
If you’re running a website on a Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress, SquareSpace, or Wix, you’ve probably uploaded images using their built-in tools. Or you can use an FTP client to upload files to your site.
Why use FTP?
The built-in upload tools in something like WordPress use the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP). This method is suitable for most situations. In fact, downloading files this way is often the best way. But if you have a slow internet connection or need to download a lot of files, FTP may be better for you.
With a good FTP client, you can start uploading files and walk away. If at some point the connection is interrupted, you can continue where you left off. You don’t need to queue all files again.
Let’s take a look at some FTP tools for uploading files to your websites.
Best FTP Software
Our criteria for this is that the program must be available free of charge, run on Windows, and support Secure Shell FTP (SFTP), which is a protocol that encrypts your transmissions for secure transmission over unsecured networks. All programs support drag and drop transfer for ease of use and have the ability to save FTP connection data.
You’ll find FileZilla on most listings of FTP tools, and there is a good reason for that. Some of its features include:
- Support for FTP, FTP over TLS (FTPS) and SFTP.
- Works on Windows, Linux and Mac.
- Multi-language support.
- Compare Directories
- Synchronized Directory Browsing
Comparing directories is very handy to make sure the content on your website matches what is on your computer. Synchronized directory browsing also makes life easier. If your local and remote directories are the same, navigating to one of them will do the same in the other.
Please note when installing FileZilla, it comes with Avast Free Antivirus and McAfee WebAdvisor. It’s not bad, you just might not want to install it. Just uncheck the boxes before clicking Next.
As a bonus, you can also set up a Filezilla FTP server on your computer so you can transfer files to and from it wherever you are.
The strangely named Cyberduck is another free FTP client for Windows and Mac.
The free version of Cyberduck has as many features as the paid one. Some of its most interesting features include:
- You can also directly connect to Windows Azure, Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox, Google Drive, Amazon S3, and other cloud services.
- Can integrate with other programs used to edit files. Depending on the file extension, Cyberduck will open the default program for it if desired.
- Connect to Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) such as Amazon CloudFront and Akamai.
- Synchronize files between your local computer and the web server.
Cyberduck File Sync can be useful to ensure that your local files match your remote files and vice versa. Keeping them unchanged makes your site much easier to manage.
Integration with other editing programs comes in handy when you can quickly make changes to a file. This simply eliminates the need to open the editor with conventional means by a few steps.
A direct connection to cloud storage services comes in handy when you want to make a complete backup of your files. You can start uploading or downloading and walk away knowing that if something doesn’t work in the middle, it will be easy to start again from where you left off.
It’s free, but the developers would be grateful if you could contribute to help them keep going. You can deposit at least $ 10 into Cyberduck and receive a registration key that will turn off the screen that appears when you close the application.
You can also buy it directly from the Mac App Store or Windows Store for around $ 25. These versions also lack the grunt screen.
Another great choice is the free open source FTP program WinSCP. Unfortunately, this is only available on Windows. The WinSCP developers would also appreciate it if you could contribute to the continued development of the program, but you don’t have a screen to keep asking you.
Unlike other FTP clients, WinSCP uses SFTP by default, so make sure you have the correct connection information from your host. This is often as simple as connecting to a specific port number other than the default port 21 for FTP.
Let’s take a look at some of the best features of WinSCP:
- Scripting and task automation.
- Customizable user interfaces. You can switch between the classic Commander interface, which is very similar to Windows Explorer.
- Portable program option. You can get a version that you can use as a portable application.
- Add to Send to context menu in Windows Explorer. Right click on the file and upload it via FTP directly from Windows Explorer.
- Master password. If you manage multiple sites, you must have multiple passwords. The built-in WinSCP password manager will store them encrypted. Just enter your Master Password and WinSCP will automatically use the correct saved password for each site.
The ability to create scripts for repetitive processes can be a significant time-saver. Let’s say you have a folder where all your images are saved and you want to upload them to your site on a weekly basis. It can be written and automated, so it just happens.
With the ability to add to the Windows Explorer context menu, you can simply right-click a file or group of files and load them with one click. This is a very convenient way to get things done.
The master password is probably the best feature. This allows you to use many complex passwords for your FTP sites without having to memorize them all or search for them. You just remember one master password, local to your computer. This will not affect your site in any way.
Which FTP program is the best?
This will depend on your needs. If you want something simple and fast then check out FileZilla If you know how to write scripts and want to automate FTP work, then WinSCP is best for you. If you need to be able to upload files to all kinds of services, not just FTP, Cyberduck is the best option.
Whichever you choose, with these three FTP programs, you will get a free secure FTP program with more features than you are likely to ever use.