FTP or File Transfer protocol refers to rules or protocols that are used to transfer files from one computer to another. The files are transferred from a remote computer to another computer connected to a web server or internet. The transfer of the files happens through the aid of transmission Control Protocol/internet protocol (TCP/IP).
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TCP is a set of communication rules that breaks data into packets in a bid to transfer each packet through its own root. These data packets emerge to form a complete file at the receiving computer. Therefore, file transfer protocols are able to send files through the aid of TCP.
FTP qualifies to be the most efficient and fastest method of transferring data or files compared to others like the Hypertext transmission protocol (HTTP).
There are various aims of the file transfer protocol including elevating document allotment such as computer programs and information, boosting inherent or circuitous use of computers at their distant areas, protecting users for any probable fluctuations, and heightening a consistent and proficient conveyance of documents between two distant areas.
FTP has revolutionalised thus enhancing the transfer of files from one remote computer to another or others that are in separate locations. FTP has enabled the transfer of larger files and software from the internet. With FTP, one can download and copy files to the remote computer.
They can be transferred to a distant shared folder, which channels them from the central processor to another over the internet. FTP functions with the aid of a transmission control protocol that enables transfer of files to the other computer.
The users of this protocol may authenticate or gain access to the files through established sign protocols including usernames and passwords (Entwistle, 2011, p. 192). However, there is also the possibility for the users to connect to the FTP anonymously in the case where the server configuration allows.
Security of files transmitted through this platform is not efficient. However, FIPS serves to secure files that are transmitted through the platform. For efficient application of FTP, one has to meet a number of issues.
One of them is to ensure that the FTP runs on faster networks, which have an approximate of a single frame of 200Kbps or multiple frames of 2 Mbps. The sending computer should be connected to a Daemon or FTP server to allow transfer of information.
There is also the need to put in place sufficient measures to ensure that there is security when sending the files on the server. The files should be scanned before sending and or downloading them from the receiving computer to guarantee security of the information.
There are viruses or malfunctions that may be a threat to the files and even to the computer. Therefore, care should be ensured to the later. FTP nowadays comes in various programs that can be used to transfer files.
Examples of these programs include WSFTP LE and CuteFTP. Some of these programs are free downloads while others are bought from authorised dealers.
History of FTP
The far the FTP protocol has reached has its roots in the early 1970s when the Request For Comments (RFC) 14 standards were published in 1971. This development proceeded with the transmission control protocol and internet protocol that were developed in early 1980.
These early standards provided a description of the basic command of the rules, which was an insight on how communication of devises in the internet occurred. During this time of development, the network control protocol, which later came to be the transmission control protocol was used to convey network traffic.
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During this tie, the internet was not able to relay information back since Arpanet was small. Hence, few development computers were available. Any development went on as new standards arose thus overtaking the former versions of the FTP (Brian, 2010, p. 419).
For instance, the publication of RFC 172 happened in June 1971. Other standards referred to as RFC 265 came in to being in November 1971 (Yosef & Brian, 2010, p. 419). However, a major transformation was evident in July 1972 following the publishing of the RC 354.
These standards contained the overall communication model that is currently in use by the modern transmission control protocol. Furthermore, more features of the protocol were evident in these standards. The standards have kept on improving with more user-friendly application being invented.
This has seen the emergence of the modem FTP protocol used to transfer large files effectively as opposed to the earlier FTP protocol. It is also evident that security has also been improved through the application of password, username, encryptions, and many other security measures.
FTP has many features that have enabled it transfer files besides ensuring security of the systems. One of the features of FTP is that they have ports that help in communication. For instance, port 21 helps the client computer to communicate/send files and data from one computer to the other.
This, otherwise called the control connection, is always open during the duration that transferring of a computer happens. It also has a port 20 also referred to as data connection. This port can be “opened by an active mode to its negotiated client or through a passive mode using an arbitrary port, which is linked to the negotiated server port” (Kurose & Ross, 2010, p. 5: Harvey, 2009, p. 24).
FTP has an application layer on which it operates. This layer is used to transfer files using the transmission control protocol or the internet protocol. For this to be achieved, the FTP server needs to run continuously besides waiting the incoming files sent by various remote computers on the internet.
FTP server is another feature of the file transfers. The server acts as the transmission medium. It stores information or data awaiting relay to the other host computer.
Therefore, without these servers the FTP cannot run function smoothly. FTP also has features that allow download and transfer of multimedia files such as video files, images, game demos, software, patches, and music.
It also has features that are able to integrate the hypertext media language editor that enables the user to edit files on the host’s web without having to download them.
Due to the advancement of technology, more features have been added to the file transfer protocol to improve its capabilities to send and receive information on the internet. Social media has contributed significantly towards the improvement of the FTP protocol such as FTP client podcast manager.
This feature is used to update podcasts RSS to allow for automatic downloads of preference. More features have improved the requirements and the needs of back office users. Other FTPs have features such as event triggers used to update users on new issues that have happened.
This happens automatically the moment a user opens the client computer served with a server. A good example is the updates on viruses or any information concerning a threat to the computer or alert message to scan the client computer for any viruses.
Others have back up features that allow data or information to be stored on a server in an event of power outage or a virus attack that shuts the system abruptly.
FTP also has sophisticated features that cater for larger businesses that use the websites for multiple purposes. Therefore, such FTPs require a heavy security to protect the system from outsiders. They also have to meet the requirements set by the regulatory bodies.
Therefore, they should know who receives the message, in what amounts, and the internal protocols that can be blocked. They also have features that enable reporting and auditing module that keeps records of all users that log into the system to ensure security and privacy.
Over the years, other forms of file transfers have been invented. However, the file transfer protocol is still the fastest method of data and information transfer in relation to the hypertext transfer protocol. The file transfer protocol has undergone a number of changes since the first standards were developed in 1971.
Early developers categorised the FTP networks into two namely direct and indirect networks. In the direct network, the user of a remote computer is able to download and upload files with a mindset that there is no network (Sheu et al., 2010, p. 285).
The user interface creates an illusion of no network between the host user and the sender computer. On the other hand, indirect network allows users to get and use resources from the host computer, which they can then transfer back to the host computer.
The two methods serve as the backbone on the networking applications for the transmission control protocol with telnet being used for direct access and FTP in the indirect network. The development of FTP began in 1971 with the publication of RFC 114.
These FTPs contained standards that described the communication aspects of the protocol, which was the first communication model that could be used with TCP-RFC 354 published in 1972. These standards had some features that could be used by the protocol.
The FTP ran on the network control protocol, which came to be known as the transmission control protocol (Dean, 2010, p. 168). Further changes have been done since then. In 1985, RFC 959 FTP was published with revisions being done on RFC 765.
The revisions saw the additions of new commands, which laid the foundation of the current FTP specifications. Many other new changes and additions have been done relating to security measures and other important features (Clark, 2003, p 14).
Another important development to the FTP is the application layer that helps to provide network services. This layer is important, as it helps in transmission of files and data using the transmission control protocol. The application provides user interfaces as well as other management functions (FedBisOpps (USA), 2012, p. 2)
File transfer protocol has many advantages. One of the advantages that file transfer protocol has brought is that bigger files can be transferred from one computer to another within the shortest time possible.
Users can download and upload files without difficulties both locally and internationally. The only requirement is that the FTP file server has to support the transmission control protocol or internet protocol.
FTP is also a proficient and an authentic way of channeling files. Many files can be transferred with ease without going through many operations.
This has made FTP the most preferred over other methods of transferring files. Many of the FTP servers have security measures in place that help in securing the information transmitted over the internet.
Before logging in, users are supposed to enter their user names and passwords. This ensures that only authorised users get access to certain information and data. FTP enables one to send and receive information on the same server. This has made it easier for companies or users to exchange files and conversations with ease.
For instance, an employer can communicate with the employees by sending messages and receiving their responses with ease and at low costs. FTP has an inbuilt capability of an automatic back up. One can download and or edit them in the local system.
Therefore, incase a system crashes or is stolen, the lost data can be retrieved by tracking a copy of the same file in the local system. This is also possible in the other way round. It is also possible for the user of FTP to edit and update files in the local system through copying a copy in the local system.
This serves as an advantage over other forms of file transfer protocols that are in use like HTTP (Lynch & Brownrigg, 1986, p. 41). Control over the mode of transfer is at the discretion of the user of the FTP. The mode in which the user prefers to use or send a file over the internet to the other computer is at the discretion of the user.
For instance, a binary mode can be used, which involves sending of compressed and executable files. Otherwise, one can adopt an ASCII code, which is conducive for text files.
The user of FTP is able to work on directories at the remote computers while at the same time deleting, renaming, and or making other changes to the files while transferring them to another host computer.
This is an advantage since it allows multitasking and flexibility while transferring files across different people (Lovell & Selover, 1994 p. 713). Tools like macros can be used while using FTP at the same time to make the work easier and efficient. The FTP also has the capability of adding more items on the queue when sending or uploading other files.
This capability is unique among other methods of sending information to other host computers. Clients are able to schedule their transfers giving them ample time to organise and send their information.
FTP has a number of disadvantages. One of the disadvantages of FTP is that it is not designed as a secure protocol. It has many flaws in its security systems.
The FTP is prone to virus attacks that may corrupt files that are sent through it. This is risky because the virus can be transmitted to another host computer thus affecting the files and programs of the system. Therefore, it poses a threat to security (Moore, 2001, p. 38).
During transfer of files or data using FTP, many attacks may happen. These include bounce attacks, spoof attacks, brute force attacks, packet sniffing, port sealing, and user name protection amongst others.
For example, unauthorised persons may gain access to the accounts of another person gaining access to confidential information or data. This occurs due to some of the pitfalls evident in its security.
Another disadvantage of using the file transfer protocol is that data sent through it cannot be encrypted. This is a disadvantage, as it hinders the protection of files from virus attacks besides transmitting information in a safe and secure mode (Forouzan, 2000, p. 36).
Even though firewalls are helpful in preventing unauthorised users from accessing on to the network, they can also prevent legitimate users from gaining access to their company or individual resources. Therefore, to alleviate this problem, it requires the network administrator to modify the firewall to help manage the FTP.
Another disadvantage of FTP is that it is error-prone in terms of its communication modes. For instance, when the administrators do not manage appropriately the network, it may lead to disruptions, which may affect the free flow of communication.
For instance, when the main server faces a mechanic problem, it may inconvenience many users of the network, as many people nowadays rely on this form of file transfer to send and receive their files (Matthews, 2005, p. 56).
Managing the network may also be costly in terms of paying for network administrators who may be called upon to provide assistance when the servers have encountered a problem.
The cost of maintaining and even buying software is high. Even though some of the software gadgets are free, many users prefer buying their own software because of safety. A back up using FTP has some disadvantages. These include high costs of buying a disk space on the server.
The storage space is limited. Therefore, it comes with high charges per every MB stored. There are no automatic back ups, therefore, requiring everyday remembrance to continuously back up files. Management of multiple files is also a responsibility of an individual.
Another disadvantage is the failure of most servers to employ data mirroring, which posses a threat to the data. Furthermore, there is no free technical support that operates on a 24/7 basis to fix various communication and technical errors that occur.
Another disadvantage is that the FTP has a wide range of command components of data and a very long development process. Therefore, this is a problem when it comes to remembering all the commands during file transfers that may hinder effective application of the FTP.
Commands are a very important component in the FTP protocol. They help to trigger certain actions during the process of transferring files. Many commands used in the FTP are standardised in RFC 959 while others are in other RFCs such as RFC 2228 amongst many others. “Command Line FTP clients have their own sets of commands used by their users” (Entwistle, 2011, p. 192).
Examples of commands used in the FTP include ABOR, meaning/or standing for abortion of active file transfer; ACCT, meaning account information; DELE, meaning to delete a file; HELP, meaning help; Lang, meaning language negotiation; XSEN, meaning send to terminal; and STOU, meaning to store a file in a unique way among many other commands.
The list is endless. These commands explain why the process of developing new File Transfer protocol is tedious and involving.
The expectation of the FTP is still high among its users due to the advancement of technology and the evolution of a more sophisticated technology. One of the types of FTP is the FTP voyager, which has continuously experienced new changes.
For instance, the latest version of the FTP voyager 188.8.131.52 that was released on November 2011 has been upgraded to include more features that can enable improved services (FTP Voyager, 2012, Para. 2).
One of the areas that were upgraded or fixed includes the correction of servers that had problems that led to the closure of data channels that caused delays in the file transfers and directory listings. SFTP bugs were also corrected especially the symbolic links that were not earlier corrected.
However, users still have higher expectations in the FTP. For example, they yearn to have a FTP experience where files will be encrypted. They also wish to see any security threats associated with transfer of file using the FTP managed or contained.
FTP is one of the networks that have brought changes in the way users send and receive their files across the world. FTP has made it easier and convenient for users to exchange and share their messages.
Companies have benefited from this platform. Even though the development of FTP went through various challenges, it has recorded a significant success. FTP has various advantages that have assisted positively in making it easier for people to share their information.
Even though, it has a number of advantages, there are some challenges associated with the network. One of the challenges is security threat and poor back up system.
However, efforts are underway to make it more convenient, efficient, and reliable. The future of FTP seems bright, as more initiative is underway to achieve people’s expectations.
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