Wednesday, December 2, 2009

How to FTP a Web Site

Author: Amy Armitage
Once you have finished building your Web site, whether two pages or 2000, it has to be made available to people browsing the World Wide Web. To accomplish that, it must be placed on a Web server, a computer that has been properly configured to deliver Web pages, images and files over the Internet. If you have your own server, you already know what to do. If you are like most people, however, you need to transfer the files that make up your site to that server.
When you established an account with your hosting company, they gave you a server address (which includes your domain name), a password and probably a user name, too. With these, you can use a technology called File Transfer Protocol (FTP) to send your site's files to your server. After you perform this step, which involves using an FTP application, your site will be viewable by anyone in the world with an Internet connection and a browser.
FTP software
There are all kinds of FTP applications, even free ones. In fact, some of the leading Web site design tools, like Adobe Dreamweaver, have FTP functions built in. Some commercial FTP programs are very slick, and simple to use, but many people do just fine with low- or no-cost shareware and freeware. All of these are available at many online locations if you simply search for “FTP software.”
Despite some mostly cosmetic differences, FTP software programs use the same basic procedures. You will need to have the URL (Unique Resource Locator) of the server, your user name or ID, the password and your FTP program. With this information, the program will connect you to the right place on the right server and allow you to add (and delete) files.
First things first
The first time you use your FTP program, you will likely make a new “profile” for your Web account, while allows you to log in and upload, download and edit/delete files. If you enter all the information now—user ID, password, URL—you can save it and not have to type it in every time. Of course, you would not want to do this on any public computer. Guard your sensitive data!
After entering the information and connecting to the server, you are ready to "FTP” your site (or individual files) to the server. Again, some interface elements may differ, but most FTP programs will show you the files on your local computer on the left, and your server space on the right. It may be the other way around, but not often, or "top and bottom,” but it should be immediately apparent to you where "here” and "there” are located in the program display.
Uploading and viewing files
In general, you will click to highlight the file(s) that you want to transfer and drag to the other side of the window, or wherever the destination server is displayed. Sometimes there are arrows or other indicators on screen that are used for transferring files from your computer to the server, and vice versa.
You will also have the ability to make new directories on the server, move files around, rename them, delete them and so on. Of course, after you make a change you need to refresh your view with the onscreen or menu command so that you are always working with a correct, updated view—on both sides of the equation.
Some file management
Following some fundamental rules of smart file management will save a good deal of time, and more than a little grief, too. The best way to avoid mistakes is to proceed carefully, double-check what you are doing, use notes until you've "got it wired" and otherwise keep your "Web wits" about you. For instance, file names should be short and descriptive. If you update files a lot—new articles, time-sensitive stories, etc.—then incorporating a date in the name can be very helpful ("article_Nov09," "news_110409" or similar).
Also remember to use lowercase—and only lowercase. By default most people type out URLs in lowercase, and changing your file names' case can confuse someone trying to find you online. By all means, avoid symbols in file names. Although hyphens (-) and underscores (_) are "Web permissible," they are sometimes hard to read when underlined and can lead to errors. Other common symbols like @, #, %, & and $ should never be used, period.
Final reminders: All the elements of your Web site, including all the images and media (audio/video) files, must be transferred to your server via FTP for your pages to display correctly on web browsers. As with other files, remember to make at least one complete backup of all your site files. You should have copies of everything you ever put on your server.
About the Author:
Amy Armitage is the head of Business Development for Lunarpages. Lunarpages provides quality web hosting from their US-based hosting facility. They offer a wide-range of services from linux virtual private servers and managed solutions to shared and reseller hosting plans. Visit online for more information.
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