FTP Protocol Overview

FTP (File Transfer Protocol) is a well established Internet protocol designed to transfer files (and information about files) across networks using TCP (Transmission Control Protocol).

FTP is defined in the Request For Comments 959 document (RFC 959), which can be obtained from the Internet Engineering Task Force.

FTP requires a client program (FTP client) and a server program (FTP server). The client can fetch files and file details from the server, and also upload files to the server. The server is generally password protected.

You can download a free trial of CompleteFTP, a Windows FTP server, from this link. CompleteFTP also supports various secure file transfer protocols such as SCP, SFTP and FTPS.

FTP commands are initiated by the client, which opens a TCP connection called the control connection to the server. This control connection is used for the entire duration of a session between the client and server. A session typically begins when the client logs in, and ends when the quit command is sent to the server. The control connection is used exclusively for sending FTP commands and reading server replies - it is never used to transfer files.

Transient TCP connections called data connections are set up whenever data (normally a file's contents) is to be transferred. For example, the client issues a command to retrieve a file from the server via the control channel. A data connection is then established, and the file's contents transferred to the client across it. Once the transfer is complete, the data connection is closed. Meanwhile, the control connection is maintained.

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