What Is an FTP Server, and How Does It Work?

ftp server

If you’re new to the world of file sharing, you might have encountered the term “FTP server” on numerous websites offering the same service. Everybody uses FTP servers—from private corporations sending top-secret emails to game sharing platforms like Steam and the Epic Games Store that transfer millions of gigabytes from their platforms to users daily.

In this brief blog post, we’re going to answer what an FTP server is, explain how it works, and help you figure out if you need one.

What Is an FTP Server?

Whether you’re looking for new hosting for your website in Canada or you’re building a private network for a small startup company, knowing how an FTP server works will make your job easier. FTP is an acronym that means File Transfer Protocol, and they don’t necessarily refer to a server.

A file transfer protocol is a programmatic way to share data between two or more computers with minimal security risk. For companies that handle sensitive information, like credit card numbers, customer addresses, and email passwords, FTP servers are essential for day-to-day operation. Many businesses share data across oceans, state lines, and cities, and a file transfer protocol has been the most reliable way to do this since the 80s.

An FTP is different from a Local Area Network or a LAN because it lives on the internet, also known as the Wide Area Network or WAN. LANs reside inside a local office space, meaning if your organization uses one, all your emails, files, and personal information lives inside a server rack that’s only a short walk from your computer. Networks that use FTPs can share files securely across the globe.

How Does It Work?

Users can access an FTP server from thousands of miles away. If your organization uses one, your emails, meeting notes, and other work files will be uploaded and downloaded from that external server, not from a local address. For example, if you were to send pictures or sound bites to your boss, they won’t go from your computer to theirs: Your machine will upload them on the server, and they will have to download it for viewing or listening.

FTP servers use TCP/IP, which is the internet’s programming language. If your company’s native applications are not automated to use FTP servers, you might need to access it with its IP address, something like 15.349.285.62, or ftp.mcgrawhill.net, which is a sample FTP address if you work for McGraw-Hill.

Why Use an FTP Server?

Heightened Security

Hackers can tap into Wi-Fi networks, internal data transfers, and crack the computers of careless employees, which is the most significant advantage of SFTP (SSH File Transfer Protocol) and FTPS (FTP Secure) over other file sharing options. File transfers over SFTP and FTPS are encrypted to protect it from possibly being intercepted by cybercriminals.

Hackers can also inject malware and viruses into your company’s file-sharing structure. FTP server vendors have security teams responsible for hunting down viruses before they spread, and their virus databases are always updated.

Also Read: How to Secure Your WordPress Site

Control Over Your Data

One of the most useful features that an FTP server will bring to your organization is granular control over data. Many startup companies today try to streamline their processes by relying on just one method of communication. However, as they scale, they hire more and more specialists that result in different teams.

Your IT team doesn’t need to receive high-level emails from your Chief of Marketing or notes from the latest meeting of HR managers.

Most FTP servers will give you the power to edit files and choose which ones to download, upload, share, or permanently delete. They also allow you to decide who gets to see what by giving you the option to set permissions.


Many applications are held back by server capacity. Have you ever shared a company video to your marketing team, or perhaps sent a working prototype of a game, and a window popped up saying your file was too large? With an FTP server, you can send unlimited amounts of data every day with zero interruptions, which is why they’re a favorite of online marketplaces, game servers, and multinational companies.

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