File Transfer Protocol (FTP) & Publishers

All the design work can be done on your computer off-line. Once the web site is ready to be published you will need to place your finished web documents on the website. File transfer protocol or FTP is one method used to place your documents on the website server. There are a number of FTP programs available from the most basic command line program, to the freeware and shareware programs that can be downloaded off the Internet, to commercial software.

Most web design tools have an option to Publish your page or web site. The full path to where the web site is located, a username and password is required to publish the site. Ask your server administrator or ISP what that path is.

What FTP does is allow the website manager to connect their computer (the local computer) to the server (the remote computer) and view/modify/delete the files on the remote computer.

The address of the service's FTP server is needed in order to connect to it. During the connection process the username and a password assigned to the account is required to complete the connection. Once connected the FTP program will display the files with their name, size, permission/ownership and date information and allow the user to replace, modify or delete these files as needed. Most ftp programs will display the contents of the remote computer's directory beside the local computer's directory. This allows the developer to compare the files on the local computer with the ones on the website.

When transferring your website files be sure to upload them to the public folder on the server. To serve web pages to people visiting the website, documents must be in a folder that is available to the public. Not all the folders on the server are available to the public; the mail folder for instance. Contact the server administrator to determine which folder is the public folder.

Sending a file to the server or placing the file on the website is called uploading and getting a file from the server is called downloading. Modern ftp programs allow you to drag & drop files from one computer to the other. Different programs have different warning systems about overwriting files to make sure that a file isn't overwritten by accident.

When more than one person is updating the website it is a good policy to download the file (the remote copy) from the server before making changes to it. This way changes are made to the latest version of the file rather than editing an older version and overwriting changes made by someone else. Consider the copy on the website as the original.

Even with an automatic Publishing program an ftp program is usually needed. FTP programs provide many more features than a simple Publish program such as interacting with the server to change file permissions, view different directories and even run server commands. How much control you have over your web site server is determined by the type of server your website is on and the services that comes with the account type.

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