FTP accounts are given with all web hosting accounts, so that users can upload, download, transfer and modify files in their hosting account. But contemporary web hosting control panels like cPanel, Plesk, HSphere etc. also offer a web based file manager which works through the browser. The web based file manager does not need any additional software to be downloaded, but an FTP client is need for accessing the files through FTP. Then why use FTP rather than the file manager? We list a couple of points in favour of using FTP over your browser based file manager. This article advocates for the use of FTP over your web based file manager in certain circumstances.
When transferring multiple files to or from your website, FTP is definitely your best bet. FTP clients allow multiple connections to the server, thereby allowing you to start multiple file transfers simultaneously. This can drastically increase your file transfer speed and same a lot of your time. This is especially useful when dealing with a large website with lots of files spread across a large number of files and folders. Web based file transfer interfaces usually do not allow multiple file handling and only allow you to transfer files one by one. This can be a headache and make it difficult to transfer many files quickly. FTP clients put files into a mail queue and allow you to set priority for file downloads. You can set a “Very High” priority on small files and set a “Low Priority” on Large files which will take time.
FTP clients like FileZilla allow you to restrict the amount of bandwidth that the file transfers should take. This prevents donkey work like file transfer to take up a major chunk of your internet speed and allow you to use the network simultaneously for other important purposes. This can also be important if your ISP throttles your connection and gives you a slower speed at different times of the day. An online file manager rarely has such an option, especially because it is supposed to be rudimentary.
FTP clients allow you to automate many tasks. Some software allow you to batch edit documents in your account on the fly. Other FTP services allow you to perform certain functions or execute commands based on file downloads or uploads. For example some FTP clients allow you to shut down or restart the system when a file queue completes downloading. This can be especially useful for unattended systems where you have left the files to download over a long period of time and don’t want to monitor the progress. You can also open up programs or pass on information to software on your machine about the file downloads.
FTP systems allow you to use an encrypted connection to transfer files. Using multiple methods of encryption, FTP allows more security than conventional browser based file managers, due to the multiple failure points in them. SFTP, FTPeS, FTP over SSH etc. are some common options that you can use when using FTP. These options need to be enabled by your FTP server in order to use them. Browser based file managers can also be accessed over a secure https connection, but the main cause for concern is browsers which are needed to access the files. An added security measure is that FTP clients can provide you a log of the files that were transferred so that you know exactly what is going on.
FTP clients allow you to quickly change file permissions, file ownership, file locations and even allow you to edit files directly in the FTP client. This saves you time in uploading the file again. Some FTP clients also allow you to open a new connection in the same window so that you can copy or move files to and from each account. This can be especially useful when you are migrating a website from one server to another.
When in a hurry, you can always use a web file manager to make small changes or upload / download a couple of files. However, for mass file management, FTP clients become indispensable.