FTP is short for File Transfer Protocol and is the most common method used to move files to servers especially when you’ve signed up for a webhosting account. This protocol has been around even before the world wide web and it has its own security issues such as sending the username and password in clear text that can be easily intercepted by a packet sniffer. Hence there are more secure protocol being introduced such as SFTP, SCP and FTPS but still not very commonly available on webhosting servers. Not only FTP can be used on servers, it can also be set up on a normal desktop computer so you can access and manage your files.
As common as the FTP protocol is, some administrator on corporate company tends have a firewall that blocks multiple ports including the default 21 that is used for FTP since the employees probably only need access to emails and the web. I used to work in an environment where I maintain about 800 computers and always in constant need of downloading the latest drivers. The bad news is some of the drivers for HP desktop are located in a FTP server but thankfully there is a way around this that doesn’t involve requesting the admin to unblock the FTP port 21.
You can use Web based FTP services to access any FTP server through your web browser. This saves you the trouble of even installing a FTP client software. The reason why a web based FTP server can bypass Firewall, Router or Proxy from blocking the FTP is because web uses port 80 which is normally allowed on most network. Basically the web FTP acts as a middle man transferring files from your computer to your server. So there is always a risk that your FTP account can be misused or stolen because the credentials are transferred to a third party and not directly to your server.
To reduce the risk of using a web based FTP service, you can create a new temporary FTP account from cPanel with a restrictive directory and delete the FTP account once you’ve finished using it. Another suggestion is to install a web based FTP on your own server so that the login information doesn’t fall into other people’s hands. Here are a list of web based FTP service that are free to use.
net2ftp is probably one of the longest standing and still being maintained web based FTP client with most of the basic functions for FTP such as copy, move, delete, rename, chmod, download, zip, unzip, size, search, view, edit, open, new directory, new file, upload, java upload, install and even sending advanced custom commands. They even provide their for free script so that you can install net2ftp on your own server instead of using the live one on their website. There is an Install button that helps you to download the net2ftp script and extract it to your server, but it is not fully automated as it requires some manual configuration.
To connect to your FTP server using net2ftp, visit the net2ftp website from the link below, enter your FTP server address, port (if it is not 21), username and password. The rest of the options can be left untouched. It is important to at least tick the “SSL” checkbox to transfer data in an encrypted route via HTTPS. net2ftp is our favorite because it is fast, secure with SSL and doesn’t even have a single advertisement.
SmoothFTP is another web based FTP client that seems to have been around since year 2000. It uses CGI and also contains most of the FTP functions. It supports ZIP extension as well so you can upload ZIP files and then extract it to your server which will save time, trouble and bandwidth when uploading multiple files. I tried downloading a whole folder, hoping that SmoothFTP would offer me a single ZIP file that was compressed from the folder but failed to do so.
FTPLive is our least favorite because there are quite a number of advertisements including links to unrelated websites such as car stickers and casinos at the footer. The commands are also not so user friendly due to everything is placed in a drop down menu. FTPLive offers paid premium service where advertisements are removed, higher upload size limit and SSL.