Five excellent FTP programs / FTP clients for web hosting

The file transfer protocol, shorthand FTP, enables data to be transferred via TCP/IP networks. This method allows users to upload, download, rename, or delete files on a server. The network protocol furthermore enables two FTP servers to transfer data between each other and set up as well as edit directories. FTP programs establish the TCP connection to the port of a server; this allows data exchange to be controlled with the help of commands. Many internet browsers have an integrated FTP client, but dedicated software makes transferring data with FTP a more manageable task. 

How data transfer with the File Transfer Protocol works

In order to reach an FTP server, a connection through an FTP client first needs to be established. This FTP client creates a TCP connection to the control port of the server (normally port 21) and is then able to send commands that the server subsequently answers. Following this, the data is transferred through another port. At this point, it’s important to differentiate between two different types of transfer modes. In active mode, the client, which uses port 1023, signals its IP address through port 21 during connection buildup. This process informs the server which port the client can be reached on. In passive mode, the server does not receive an IP address from the client (due to a firewall, for example) and offers the client a port through which a connection can be established.

Those using web-hosting solutions with FTP accounts profit from the quick and easy data transmission between the device and the web server. FTP software further assists these solutions by providing a sleek user interface that browser-based clients lack. FTP programs let the user sort and manage files into the existing directory structure with speed and ease. Administrators control the access rights of users who are able to simultaneously access the FTP server.

Five FTP programs: a review

There are many FTP programs currently available on the market. Their use as well as many of their functions can also vary quite strongly from one another. Some are free, while others are fee based. Their operating systems differ as well: Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux are all available. We’ve laid out five programs for you.


It is not without reason that FileZilla is the most popular FTP application on the market. The open source software is free of charge and available for Windows 7 and beyond, Linux, and Mac OS X. As soon as a connection is established, data is then ready to be easily exchanged between client and server via a drag-and-drop feature. FileZilla also supports large data transfers (over 4 GB) and is also able to resume terminated file transfers. Users can set up upload and download speeds themselves and the server manager function allows the used FTP server, including access information, to be saved. With FileZilla, users have the option of encrypting the FTP via SSL/TLS or SSH. FileZilla at a glance:

  • compatible with Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X
  • supports SSL and SSH encryption
  • configurable transfer speeds
  • enables connection to FTP proxy servers
  • Keepalive system for network connection maintenanc


Although it requires payment, Transmit is a top-of-the-line option for Mac OS X and iOS devices. The twin turbo engine provides swift data transfer and lets the user set up a bandwidth limit should the need arise. The mac interface delivers on more than mere looks: it is also highly functional. The synchronization functions gives users the ability to easily align entire directories between the server and client. Transit supports encrypted transfer through SSL/TLS, SSH, and the online storage services Amazon S3 and WebDAV. Users can detect their respective servers by using either Quick Connect or by saving them as favorites. Below is a summary.

  • compatible with both Mac OS X and iOS
  • supports SSL and SSH encryption
  • enables connection to FTP, SFTP, WebDAV and Amazon S3
  • controllable upload and download limits
  • server to server data transfer via FXP
  • twin turbo engine
  • multiple active connections possible


Cyberduck is a free FTP program that supports all Windows operating systems from XP onward and Mac OS X starting with version 10.7. The program enables an uncomplicated connection to all FTO, SFTP, or WebDAV servers and cloud services, such as Amazon S3, Azure, or OpenStack. The user interface’s neatly arranged set-up and intuitive use makes adding new servers a task that can be completed quickly. Limiting the number of data transfers that are able to simultaneously occur is a further option, and resuming terminated transfers with the software is another feature at the user’s disposal. Bookmarks are easily organized with the Cyberduck’s drag and drop feature, which can be imported from other programs. Here are the facts of the open source application:

  • compatible with Windows and Mac OS X
  • supports SSL and SSH encryption
  • enables connection to FTP, SFTP, WebDAV, Azure, OpenStack, and Amazon S3
  • number of simultaneous transfers can be regulated
  • archiving and expanding tar/zip files through SSH 
  • supports password manager in Apple’s Keychain
  • segmented uploads for files over 5 GB


The shareware SmartFTP, which also comes in a thirty-day trial version, supports all Windows operating systems starting with XP. It also supports FTP, FTPS, and SFTP as well as services like WebDAV, Amazon S3, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive and Terminal Emulator. Additionally, the program can connect to multiple servers, hence allowing data to be moved from server to server via FXP. The integrated search function is an especially practical advantage for larger FTP servers. After the trial run is over, users have the possibility of choosing between Professional and Ultimate editions, which exhibit some variation in their corresponding range of functions. The Ultimate edition of SmartFTP includes the following features:

  • compatible with Windows
  • supports SSL and SSH encryption
  • enables connection to FTP, SFTP, WebDAV, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Terminal Emulator, and Amazon S3
  • scheduled transfers
  • resumes terminated transfers
  • simultaneous connection to multiple servers


WinSCP is an open source program for Windows starting with XP. In addition to FTP and SFTP, WinSCP also supports the encrypted file transfer protocol SCP, which is based on SSH. A connection via SSH adds the benefit of encrypting the data exchange as well as the log-in data. In addition to deleting, copying, and moving files, WinSCP can also synchronize directories. Users can choose from two different interfaces based on their tastes: the Explorer interface borrows from Windows' folder layout, while the Norton Commander interface is modelled after its namesake file manager. Frequently used connections can be saved as favorites with WinSCP. An overview of the facts:

  • compatible with Windows
  • supports SSL, and SSH encryption
  • enables connection via FTP, SFTP, and SCP
  • directory synchronization in semi or fully automatic modes
  • integrated text editor
  • optional portable version enables use without installation

Data transfer made easy

FTP enables users to transfer data between two computers. An FTP server and FTP client are the only necessary components other than an existing internet connection. This option proves especially popular for web hosting solutions. Authorized users can seamlessly upload desired files or download saved files onto their purchased web space.

Most free-of-charge FTP applications are supported by the encryption protocols SSL and TLS. Those looking to protect more sensitive data are always advised to take advantage of this form of encrypted data transfer.