As in anything, there are terms often bandied about under the presumption that we all know what the term means, what it refers to, and how to do it! Living with such blinders on is often dangerous and I fell victim to it recently when I gave someone an answer about hosting their photos online that referenced FTP. I presumed they knew what I meant, knew what FTP was, and had their own method for using FTP, when the truth is – FTP can be very confusing, especially if all you do is take pictures.
So, in the interests of helping people get a clearer picture of what FTP is, how it relates to being a photographer, and how to use it to share your images online – keep on reading! For the rest of you – keep on reading anyway, as I might get something wrong, and I need a lot of people to double-check me and keep me on the straight and narrow! 🙂
FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol and it’s really just a fancy name for moving your files and photos from a local storage device (like your computer) to a remote storage device (like a website). You can run FTP through your browser, (think uploading images to places like Flickr or MPix), but this is slower, and more clunky – a dedicated application can do it much faster, and handle more files! These are called FTP clients.
So, which FTP client should you use? It depends on a couple things – first off, what type of computer you are running. Windows and Apple have different systems and some applications (like FTP clients) aren’t universally designed for both. So, your OS matters. I look at 2 on each system in a companion article I will attach to this post. Pick whichever one works best for your budget and work flow.
There’s only one more point I can think of regarding FTP that you should probably consider – security. Some applications allow you to store your FTP site connection details – the web address, your logon credentials, within the client. While this may make connecting easier for you – now anyone can do it. So watch out where you save this stuff. if it’s on a computer that you have constant control over that is one thing, but if you are portable, or using a web-based client, that could be dangerous. My recommendation there is not to save these credentials. Doing so just opens a security risk – and your website being compromised could be a serious problem.
Security of the client application should not be confused with the security of the protocol – remember, FTP stands for file transfer protocol, and it’s an open format. Depending on how your website is hosted, you might be able to transmit content over a secure connection (it’s called SSH, but you can think of it as a “secure file transfer protocol” or SFTP if that makes it easier), and while this is the preferred method, some hosting companies don’t like it. So, before you decide on a host – shop around and ask if they have port 22 access (the number specifically associated with SSH). Another thing to consider – even if you don’t think you need to know now – down the road is another story!
That’s it for today. What are your favorite clients that you use for website content? Share your own thoughts in the comments, and feel free to download my article on “Choosing an FTP Client” that goes into all the details! Happy shooting and we’ll see you back here again tomorrow.
As always, don’t forget about the monthly contest series. This month, be sure to post your best Height shot to the Flickr Community thread