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File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is a standard network protocol used to copy a file from one host to another over a TCP/IP-based network, such as the Internet. FTP is built on a client-server architecture and utilizes separate control and data connections between the client and server applications, which solves the problem of different end host configurations (i.e., Operating System, file names). FTP is used with user-based password authentication or with anonymous user access.

The protocol is specified in RFC 959. A client makes a connection to the server on TCP port 21. This connection, called the control connection, remains open for the duration of the session, with a second connection, called the data connection, on port 20 opened as required to transfer file data. The control connection is used to send administrative data (i.e., commands, identification, passwords). Commands are sent by the client over the control connection in ASCII and terminated by a carriage return and line feed. For example "RETR filename" would transfer the specified file from the server to the client. Due to this two port structure, FTP is considered out-of-band, as opposed to an in-band protocol such as HTTP.

Most operating systems and communication programs now include some form of an FTP utility program, but the commands differ slightly between them. The following explanations and alphabetical list of commands refers to the common FTP utility program as provided on a UNIX machine. Check the documentation for your own machine to determine the comparable commands. 

Most computers today include a windows-based type FTP program that is more PC-oriented and does not require full knowledge of these commands. You can also perform FTP through a browser. For example, bring up Internet Explorer and type in  ftp://example.com  or  ftp://www.example.com

At times you may wish to copy files from a remote machine on which you do not have a login & password. This can be done using anonymous FTP. When the remote machine asks for your login, you should type in the word anonymous. Instead of a password, you should enter your own electronic mail address. This allows the remote site to keep records of the anonymous FTP requests. Once you have been logged in, you are in the anonymous directory for the remote machine. This usually contains a number of public files and directories. Again you should be able to move around in these directories. However, you are only able to copy the files from the remote machine to your own local machine; you are not able to write on the remote machine or to delete any files there.

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