Published in the June 2006 Issue (#5) Podcast User Magazine (Download)
Although this article is not strictly about podcasting, it is about one of the many things that is handy to understand, especially when transferring podcasts to your hosting provider. Many hosting services provide web pages to upload your files, but you usually donâ€™t get you any feedback as to how much of the file has been sent, and the process can be very slow.
FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol and is one of the main backbone services on the internet, the other main ones being HTTP (for accessing Web pages), Telnet (for remote computer access) and POP/SMTP (for sending and receiving email). FTP sets up a connection between two computers, allowing you to send or receive files. Most of these files will be in a binary format, such as audio, video, computer programs, and so forth, whilst the rest of the files will be in a text format, such as source code and other kinds of written text. In the old days of FTP, it used to be a requirement to tell your FTP client what kind of file you wanted to download to your computer. Most FTP clients now are pretty intelligent, so you donâ€™t have to worry about this any more… most of the time.
In order to transfer a file, such as your latest podcast, from your computer to your hosting provider, the first thing you will need is an FTP client. Most operating systems come with some form of FTP client, but it is usually very basic and not the most intuitive to use.
Iâ€™m going to cover what I consider two of the best free FTP solutions, one for Windows and one for Mac OSX. (Iâ€™m a great advocate of free and open source software.) Do not be deceived by the price: although this software is free, this does not mean it is limited or restricted in any way.
If you are using Windows, one of the best FTP clients is called FileZilla. This is a programme I have used for about four years, and in all that time, it hasnâ€™t skipped a beat. If you are a Mac OSX user, as indeed I am, too, then the FTP client you will want to download is called CyberDuck. (URLs for both programmes can be found at the end of this article.)
Here are some of the terms used with an FTP site, which will give you a general overview of how it works and how it can be used:
FTP address – This is the internet address used to access the site. Please bear in mind that just because a website is on the internet it doesnâ€™t necessarily also have an FTP site. Both Microsoft and Apple have FTP sites, and their addresses are the fairly easy to remember ftp.microsoft.com and ftp.apple.com, respectively. Both of these sites allow anonymous access, which is explained next.
Anonymous Access – This is a special kind of FTP access, which allows anyone to browse and download files. No specific user name and password is required. Sites such as Microsoft, Apple and numerous other software and hardware suppliers allow anonymous FTP access for downloading the latest patches and updates. On these types of sites, to login to the FTP server, enter â€˜anonymousâ€™ as the user name and either â€˜guestâ€™ or your email address as the password.
User name – FTP access requires you to enter a valid user name and password, usually given to you by the person or company allowing you access to their server.
Password – A special word or key phrase that allows you to enter and keeps other people out. When you enter in a password, as with many other websites and applications, what you type is usually replaced with an asterisk (*) or similar character, which prevents someone looking over your shoulder to read the password. Also, be very careful with the â€˜caps lockâ€™ and â€˜shiftâ€™ keys, as passwords are normally case sensitive; a â€˜Tâ€™ in a password is not recognized to be the same as â€˜tâ€™.
Local Path – This is where you want to send the downloaded files. If you set this within your FTP login, you usually have the option to change it by navigating through directories and folders in the usual way. Remote Path – This is the directory or folder in which you want the FTP session to start. If, for instance, you go to your hosting service to download your logs every month, you would set this to â€˜/logsâ€™ or the directory or folder where your log files are stored.
Most FTP servers and clients even have the ability to resume a file, both when uploading and downloading, should the internet connection be broken for whatever reason. Another benefit of using an FTP client is that itâ€™s easy to select many files for both downloading and uploading, which means for a group of lengthy files, you can select and click on the start button and just let it get on with its job, leaving you to do something else.
So now you know something about how to transfer files through FTP, a great and reliable tool. The internet is a vast expansive universe. The more you understand, the more youâ€™ll get out of it.