IN THIS CHAPTER
Once the foremost method of transferring files from one point in the Internet to another, the File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is now becoming eclipsed by the more glamorous and versatile HTTP.
However, although FTP is a very rudimentary protocol, and lacking in features generally considered critical in the modern era (such as SSL encryption), it is designed more specifically for large file transfers than HTTP is and therefore is able to do a number of things that HTTP cannotincluding easy uploading as well as downloading, and greater speed and efficiency. FTP's prevalence is fading, but it will always have a place in the Internet, as long as such services as authenticated downloads and two-way transfers are needed.
FreeBSD comes with an FTP server built in, and you can replace it with a different server if you desire. The built-in FTP server is quite complete and free from known exploits; it allows you to transfer files to and from your FreeBSD machine without any additional setup. This chapter discusses some of the details of the File Transfer Protocol and how it works. The default configuration of the FTP server is quite basic, but the information you learn in this chapter will help you take advantage of the more advanced features available to you.
FTP is a clear-text protocol, meaning that the information packets that comprise it can be intercepted and sensitive data such as passwords extracted from them. Secure FTP, or sftp, is becoming more widespread and supported by most popular FTP client programs. You'll learn more about how to secure FTP (by replacing the default server with an encryption-capable one) at the end of this chapter and in Chapter 30, "Network Security."