Greg Gore is Vice President of Praxis International, Inc.
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Using FTP to Upload to the Internet
by
Greg Gore

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Because downloading files from the web is so easily done with a web browser such as Microsoft Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator, it is reasonable to think uploading files would be just as easy. New web page authors quickly find, however, that uploading and managing web files can be tricky.

Web hosting services often provide several ways to upload files to your web site. For example, many web hosting services support Microsoft FrontPage, a software program that enables you to create, manage, and publish (upload) your web site. Other web hosts offer their own file management systems. Virtually all web hosting services, however, support FTP (File Transfer Protocol) uploading.

FTP is one of the earliest Internet applications and was designed for transferring files from one computer system to another computer system on the Internet. Using FTP to download files from another computer system to your computer system is very easy to do with your browser. Simply enter the URL address of the FTP server in your browser window. The browser then connects to the FTP server and you login. Many servers support "anonymous" FTP, that is, you do not have to have an account with the server to download files.  To log in as "anonymous," use "anonymous" as your ID and your e-mail address as your password. Once you are logged on, you will see the server's current directory and list of files. To download a file, you essentially just click on the file and save it to disk. (Specific instructions depend upon your operating system and browser).

As an example, to log onto the AOL server, you would enter ftp://ftp.aol.com in your browser window. To obtain US tax forms and information, you would enter ftp://ftp.irs.gov. As you may have guessed, the FTP server address for a web site is usually the domain name with the "http://www" being replaced by "ftp://ftp." You can log in to a specific directory and file by entering the directory name and file name in your browser window like this: ftp://ftp.irs.gov/directoryname/filename If you do not enter the directory name and file name, you will be connected to the top-level directory of the server.

Using FTP with your browser to upload files can be very complicated. A much better option for uploading files is to use one of the many available freeware and shareware FTP client programs available. Two of the most popular FTP client programs are WS_FTP for windows and Fetch for the Macintosh. You can use a web search engine to locate a source where you can download these programs.

Using the Bigfoot (www.bigfoot.com) search engine, I found I could download WS_FTP from http://download.cnet.com. I chose WS_FTP because it is popular and because the reviews say it is easy to use. WS_FTP can be downloaded as a free version for home and educational use. For professional or corporate use, a version is available for $39.95 that includes more features than the free version.

WS_FTP is simple and easy to install and use. After you connect to your ISP (Internet Service Provider), run the WS_FTP program by double-clicking on its icon. A dialog box will appear on your screen so that you can enter FTP server information. The program comes pre-configured to connect with over thirty servers, including AOL, Compaq, Microsoft, and the like. You can use the pre-configuration settings as a guide to configure a setting to connect to your web host server or to any other server.

To connect to your web host server, you will need to enter your user ID and password. You would probably enter ftp://youraccountname@ftp.domainname. Once connected to the FTP server, the WS_FTP window will appear. Local system (your computer) information will appear on the left side of the window and remote system (the server) information will appear on the right side of the window. For each side, you can change directories, make directories, view files, and perform other functions. Uploading or downloading files is a breeze. To upload a file from your computer to the server, select a file from your computer and then click on the right arrow in the center of the window. To download a file from the server to your computer, select a file from the server window and then click on the left arrow.

WS_FTP is ideal for uploading and managing files at your own personal web site.

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The Greg Gore Web Site on Computers and the Internet (www.GregGore.com)

This column was published in the Daily Local News, West Chester, PA on May 2, 2001. Greg Gore can be reached at gg@GregGore.com.

2009 by Greg Gore. All rights reserved.