Sharing files around between your home computers can be annoying. Having to find an old USB stick, only to then have to wait for the data to transfer incredibly slowly. Setting up an FTP server allows you to transfer files reliably over the network at much higher speeds.
To run an FTP server, you first need to download the software, a good free example is FileZilla. FileZilla has both server and client software available for download from their website.
The install process of the server is pretty simple with sensible defaults being suggested throughout. The only settings you may want to change are if the FTP server should be installed as a service that is launched when windows boots up and if the server interface should start automatically when any user logs in. These options both default to automatically starting and are likely most useful for computers that are generally left alone. It means if the computer restarts you don’t need to manually sign in and restart the FTP server, it will just start automatically.
Once the server installation is complete open the administration interface if it doesn’t open automatically. The pre-loaded details of “localhost” “14147” and no password should let you log in. You may need to change the port number if you configured that during the setup.
Tip: You should set a password for the admin interface, this setting is only available after the first time set up. Without an admin interface password, you cannot remotely manage the server. This doesn’t affect normal remote usage; you can still remotely read and write files without an admin interface password.
The next step is to create a user account, to do this go to Edit > Users in the top left corner of the administration window.
In the General tab, click “Add” on the right-hand side of the window and enter a username. Once the account is created, be sure to configure a password.
The next step is to configure what folders the FTP account can access. To do so, move to the “Shared folders” tab, click “Add”, and then browse to whichever folder or folders you want to be available. Be sure to configure the permissions for each folder. By default, only “read”, “directory listings” and “include subdirectories” are selected. If you want to be able to upload files you need to select the write permission too.
Once you’ve finished configuring user accounts and folder permissions, your server is ready to go. You can remotely connect to upload and download files at will.
There are some other settings available, such as an IP filter, if you want to block certain devices. There’s also a rate limiter, this can be useful if you notice the network usage of the FTP server is affecting the usability of other devices. But these settings are entirely optional.
If you want to configure your FTP server to be available to computers outside your local network, you should be aware that the entire FTP protocol is unencrypted. This means that any documents and even account details are transmitted in plain text and could be viewed and used by hackers.
Should you really need to access the server remotely, you would need to configure port forwarding on your router. You should also either require a VPN connection or configure FTPS (FTP over TLS) to add a layer of encryption as a protection against hackers.