Using FTP: Guidelines and Options


File Transfer Protocol, or FTP, is a standard network protocol that is used to transfer files and folders from one computer to another. FTP, in practice, treats a file directory on another computer (or server) as if it is another directory on your machine, allowing you to move and transfer files from one location to another. It is common to upload and download files to your computer from a web server when developing websites, pages, and applications, such as maps, and can also be used to send files and materials that might be too large for email or other file transfer methods.

sftp

FTP and SFTP

FTP was not designed to be a secure protocol and does not encrypt traffic, which might make it insecure for sensitive files. Another file management and transfer method is SFTP, an abbreviation for Secure File Transfer Protocol or SSH File Transfer Protocol. It is an extension of the Secure Shell Protocol (SSH), which allows you to use the terminal on a remote machine, and is designed in a manner that securely encode files and data and provides extra security for users. Use SFTP when working with sensitive files or on a connection that must remain secure.

FTP/SFTP Clients

FTP Clients are software programs that allow you to connect to file directories on other computers or servers and move files. You can add, remove, change, and modify files in your website directories using an FTP client and setting up a connection. Most FTP clients treat your server as if it were another folder on your computer, so it is very easy to move files around. See below for some recommended clients.

Connecting an FTP Client to a server-side file structure is easy, but requires knowledge of a couple of items. Most importantly, you need to know the web address and have a valid username and password.

Working with FTP/SFTP on WebFaction

WebFaction supports FTP and SFTP. SFTP stands for Secured File Transfer Protocol and encrypts files so as to increase security on your site. SFTP is much more secure than FTP and is what we will use for our connections to WebFaction.

To connect an FTP client to your web folder using SFTP you use the following connection information:

  • Server: webXXX.webfaction.com, where server is your server’s name (such as web310 or dweb89). If your account is only associated with one server, you can also connect to username.webfactional.com, where username is your WebFaction account name. You can find your server name in the WebFaction Control Panel under Web Server.
  • Connection type: SFTP
  • Port: 22
  • Username: your SFTP username (your WebFaction username), or the username of an additional SFTP account you have created.
  • Password: your SFTP account’s password (your WebFaction password).

When the FTP client opens, you will find the following file structure. You can upload and download files freely from here within the file explorer on your machine. Your website, pages, content, and maps will all be in the webapps folder.

webfactional

Note the location of the webapps folder in this directory. Here you can find your installations and static HTML pages, organized by application.

Using Cyberduck for SFTP

To connect to SFTP in Cyberduck, click on Open Connection in the main Cyberduck UI. Your connection screen for Cyberduck, to connect to SFTP, will look like the following. Use your WebFaction credentials and server address!

Cyberduck SFTP

Using SecureFX for SFTP

To connect to SFTP in SecureFX, click on Quick Connect on load, or navigate to File -> Quick Connect. The Quick Connect screen, to connect to SFTP, will look like the following. Use your WebFaction credentials and server address!

quickconnect

Credits

Questions, comments, connection troubles? Email Mike at mjfoster@mit.edu.


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