FileWhopper Blog

News and Perspectives from IT Experts
September 16, 2020
Irina Lazutenkova

What Is FTP, and How Does It Differ from HTTP?

In this article, we’ll discuss what FTP is and how it differs from HTTP.

Since the advent of computers, data exchange has always been a necessity. Various data transfer methods have been devised to enable communication between computers on a network. One such method is the File Transfer Protocol (FTP). In this short piece, we are going to look at what FTP is and how it compares to the more recent HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol).

What Is the File Transfer Protocol (FTP)?

FTP is a client-server protocol that may be used for transferring files from one computer to another via TCP (Transmission Control Protocol). The client requests files, and the server provides them.

FTP is an old protocol that uses a simple command-line interface. It existed before the introduction of TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/ Internet Protocol). This means that FTP had provided a means of transferring files from one computer to another even before the internet was developed.

FTP has been in use for over 40 years and has undergone significant improvements since then. It was originally written by Abhay Bhushan and was published as RFC 114 on the 16th of April, 1971.  

In 1980, TCP/IP was created and the TCP/IP version of FTP was registered as RFC 765. The current FTP specification was registered in October 1985 as RFC 959. Amendments were later made, which added security extensions, passive modes, and support for IPv6.

Note: RFC (Request for Comments) is the formal document of the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force).

Before operating systems had a graphical user interface (GUI), FTP clients were just command-line programs. But now, GUI clients and automation utilities exist for servers, mobile devices, and desktops. FTP can now be assessed through a modern graphical interface or a command-line interface.

You can use FTP to transfer any types of files, including documents, videos, and music files. It runs in applications, such as web browsers. You may even have used it to make a download from the internet, such as downloading an app update.

FTP can serve for installing a content management system (CMS), such as WordPress, on your web hosting. You can back up your website and save a copy of it on your computer.

Does FTP Use HTTP?

FTP and HTTP are two independent protocols. HTTP uses a client-server model, just like FTP.

What’s the Difference Between HTTP and FTP?

FTP transfers files using two parallel TCP connections. The first connection sends control commands, and the other sends and receives data. This means that FTP opens a second TCP port every time it sends or receives data.

HTTP, on the other hand, sends control information in-band. This means that the request and response header lines are sent on the same TCP connection that carries the transferred files.

While FTP can only be used for transferring files, HTTP can also be used for viewing websites.

FTP vs. HTTP: Which Is Faster?

Talking about transfer speeds, which protocol is faster depends on how they are utilized.

FTP is faster for small single-shot files, except if the round-trip distance of the server is considerably long. It is still preferable to use HTTP when handling small-sized single files over a slow connection.

On the other hand, HTTP is faster when receiving multiple files in a row, especially if the files are small in size.

Many believe that if you are dealing with larger files, FTP is more efficient. For smaller files, go for HTTP.

There’s no noticeable difference between the two when handling single-shot static files.

To see the difference clearly, let’s point out the defining qualities of each one.

How FTP Is Fast for File Transfer:

  • Recoding transmitted data incurs no additional expense.
  • Sent files do not include meta-data. There’s only binary data in the transmitted stream.

How HTTP Is Fast for File Transfer:

  • Pipelining makes multiple file requests from the same server fast.
  • You get to enjoy better TCP performance since existing persistent connections are reused. HTTP does not create new connections and thus saves time.
  • The processing time is shorter because the transmission data channel has no controlling commands.
  • Traffic compression (automatic) reduces the amount of data that is sent. Thus, the speed of transmission can be increased when the client and server are fast but the connection channel is slow.

Conclusion

FTP has been in use for a long time and does not seem to be going obsolete anytime soon. It still serves its purpose although it is not used as much as HTTP. It might not be considered to be very user-friendly, but graphic user interface (GUI) programs make it more convenient. If you are looking for a fast and secure service that will help you transfer your large files and folders with no hassle at all, then look no further. FileWhopper is a user-friendly, extremely secure, and affordable tool that allows you to transfer files and folders of ANY size without committing to a monthly subscription or any other regular payment. You pay only for the amount of data you send and get to enjoy simultaneous uploads and downloads, military-grade encryption, and up to 90 days of cloud storage for the data you want to transfer. As of this writing, you can test-drive the service free of charge by performing your first transfer of up to 5GB without paying any money.

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