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4 FTP Services: Heavy Lifting Simplified


If you need to move large, data-dense files from point A to point B, chances are your e-mail service won’t have the capacity to ship these heavy files to their destinations – at least not as a single e-mail attachment.

Some users slice and dice video and audio files, sending them piece by piece for reconstruction by the recipient, but that’s time-consuming and, at times frustrating. In these cases, you need a quality FTP service.

FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol. Simply put, it’s a huge hard drive that enables you to upload large data files with a single click, where they can then be stored for safe keeping or downloaded by the recipient when needed.

File Transferring

FTP services also provide off-site data storage to increase the security of critical information. If your home office burns down, if your laptop is stolen or you get hacked, your off-site FTP service has all your files stored safely a thousand miles away so you can restore your data and your business with a click.

Here are some suggestions and recommendations to help you transfer and/or store data quickly and securely.

1. FileZilla delivers a free FTP solution with both client and server availability. FileZilla is OSS and distributed under the standard terms of the GNU General Public License.

There’s an active forum if you run into problems or have questions, a wiki section that provides useful tips on getting the most from this OSS data transfer system and there’s even a bug and feature request tracker supported by a growing community of developers.

For OSS, FireZilla offers a ton of useful documentation on how to compile FileZilla in the development section of the web site. There’s a x-platform and Windows-only version for free download, as well.

Free is always nice but if the data you send is sensitive, and security is an issue, I’d recommend a secure FTP service, or sFTP. This is especially true if you employ an FTP client for off-site storage.

Whenever I see the regular development of security patches, I can only assume that there’s a reason behind the development of these fixes. And while there’s no indication that FireZilla’s FTP is a target for crackers and hackers, if the data stored or transferred is business-related, you might look more closely at a full-bore sFTP service for peace of mind.

2. SmartFTP is what’s loaded on my hard drive. It’s the industry standard for the secure transmission and storage of data.

Start off with SmartFTP’s 30-day free trial. You get the robust Professional edition to use for 30 days so you can try out all the features. After the 30-day trial period, you pay a licensing fee, but the SmartFTP license is perpetual, meaning you pay once for the license and you can use the current version download forever.

And, at least in my mind, the license fees are reasonable. A single user pays $36.95 USD and that comes with a year of server maintenance so it’s a pretty good deal. SmartFTP bulk licenses are available in Home and Professional packages, and prices are set on a sliding scale – the more users, the lower the cost per user – a pretty good deal for the small business owner who requires off-site storage and the ability to securely transmit data to and from remote sites.

I also like the long menu of features that come standard with Smart FTP:

  • sFTP over SSH (lock-down security encryption)
  • An intuitive GUI that your clients can use without a long learning curve
  • Thumbnail views and a preview option, something I appreciate when we’re working on the third or fourth revision of a web site or hard-copy graphics collaterals. I don’t have to open a file to see what it contains. Sweet.
  • A highly-flexible scheduler let’s you plan up-and down-loads during off-peak hours so you make better use of network and web bandwidth during the work day and schedule data uploads or downloads for 2:00 AM when no one is in the office.
  • UTF-8 support
  • Drag and drop ease of use
  • Remote site connectivity enables your personnel to access FTP downloads and uploads from anywhere. Simply log in and go to work, wherever you are. This is a great tool when you’re collaborating face-to-face with a client. Simply download the latest rendition from Smart FTP for presentation. Your data is always secure, your hard drive always has available storage.

While not free, the cost of a SmartFTP license is so low (and it’s a perpetual license) you’ll enjoy years of data accessibility, increased network bandwidth and data security for a few bucks. To me, it’s worth it.

3. FireFTP is an OSS, cross-platform FTP client module designed to sync up with Mozilla’s popular Firefox browser.

As the use of Firefox has increased, so have the modular apps developed for this powerful surfing tool. So what do you get? A lot.

  • SSL/TLS and SFTP – the same encryption used by banks and large, on-line commercial sites (very nice)
  • Simple syncro keeps your directories in line while navigating through reams of data
  • A directory comparison feature that also compares sub-directories, enabling you to snag the latest version of whatever you’re working on
  • Full UTF8 character support for ensured encryption regardless of what language your data is created in.
  • Auto-resume – a feature that picks up the up- or down-load during interruptions so you don’t have to re-start an upload when transfer is cut-off
  • Tutorials, and plenty of them
  • Timestamp syncro
  • File compression (Mode Z standard)

In fact, this is the FTP client I recommend to friends looking for free data transfer and storage. There’s an active developers board and, as with all Mozilla products, there’s an active support community so help is usually just a click away.

Check it out. FireFTP is deep in features, is evolving constantly (check regularly for security patches, de-bugging programs and other fixes on the developers forum) and, best of all, it won’t cost you a penny, though donations are always welcomed. (Make one. It’s the nice thing to do.)

4. DriveHQ is accessible across all OS including Mac and Linux. It’s a virtual FTP client and hosting service. The free version comes with 1GB of offsite storage, which is enough for the one-person business. If you need additional storage capabilities, Drive HQ offers a premium service tier that delivers a simple file manager interface, automated online backup (for those of us who forget to backup and backup often) and full FTP services encryption.

DriveHQ is built for B2B activities and is probably too pricey for the one-person business, working out of a spare room at home. However, if your business requires a powerful off-site storage tool, DriveHQ is worth a click and a look.

What do you get in the goodie box?

  • Automated file AND email backup – very helpful when critical data resides in your email client (I have over 700 emails stored on my drive, all containing important contact and project-in-progress information.)
  • Easy website hosting (use DriveHQ as your on-ramp to the W3 and eliminate monthly hosting costs)
  • Complete access control (files are password protected and encrypted)
  • Remote site access for quick sharing (no need to carry data to a client’s office stored on a thumb drive) so you look like a pro no matter where you go
  • Group accounts and sub-accounts enable online collaboration
  • Simplified folder syncro keeps your files up-to-date so you know you’re always working on the latest version
  • The cost for off-site storage is low – 2GB is just $2.99 USD a month and that 2 gig spread covers your entire network on-site and from remote sites. 5 gig of iBackup (recommended) is only $14.95 USD a month.
  • Drag and drop downloads (ideal for clients who are unfamiliar with DriveHQ)
  • Data compression to all W3C standards speeds uploads and downloads, freeing up valuable bandwidth
  • Network syncro and real-time syncro

You never know when disaster is going to strike. And if all of your critical business data is stored on your network server or, worse, your single computer hard drive, your business data can be wiped out in the blink of an eye.

FTP services provide easy file transfer, even data-dense files, secure, encrypted off-site data storage and simple access to the web so you can become your own web host and save some money each month on those hosting fees.

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