Mini How To: Host an FTP Server

Alan Fackler

One of the oldest ways to send and receive files on the Internet is FTP, and although almost everyone has connected to an FTP server at some point or another, most people have never set one up.  While there are several options for FTP server software, we prefer FileZilla, which offers a streamlined interface, and most importantly, is completely free (most other companies only offer a trial period before charging you).  Here's how to use it.

Install the Server

First, you'll need to download the FileZilla server software at www.filezilla-project.org.  After you've finished the quick download, install the server software.  The first time you run the server program, you will be provided with your own server address and port number.  Write these down, you'll need them later.

As you’ll see, a server by itself is pretty unremarkable, but that’s kind of the point. The client is what allows you to manipulate the server’s storage capabilities. But before you open your client, you'll need to configure a user account to connect with.

Create a User Account

Scroll over the Edit tab located up top, and select Users.  In the top-right corner of the newly opened window will be (surprise) a tab called Users.  Click the Add button to create a user name and a password.  Be aware that FTP is an unsecure connection--files and passwords are sent as plaintext and are therefore vulnerable to interception.

That's why we don't recommend using FTP to transfer sensitive files, and why you should not use a password for an FTP account that you use for anything else.  The Users  tab will also give you the ability to create a home directory for each user account.  Do this, and point to a directory somewhere on your system.  These will be the files that anyone connecting with that user account can interact with.

The Files settings box contains file permissions.  By setting these you could, for instance, create a read-only account that can access your music collection from other computers, but can't make any changes to it.

Connect To Your Server

Now it's time to begin using your client.  Installation is as quick and painless as with the server, but once open, you're going to need to enter the information you received and configured previously--host name, username, and password.  The host name is the IP address of your server.  If you have a dynamic IP, you can use a service like DymDNS.org to create a good-as-static hostname for your server.  Enter your information and hit the Quickconnect button to access your server.

Once in, you now have the ability to drag and drop items from your local computer (displayed on the left side of the server screen) to your remote site (displayed on the right).  You can now access your files from wherever you need them.

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