For those who don’t yet know much about it, FTP is a way to send files between storage repositories. In the context of server administration, FTP’s full name, File Transfer Protocol, reveals a great deal of what it is and does.
For those who are already familiar with FTP and its 40-year history, you may wonder why we are still talking about this “archaic” technology. The simple truth is that, even in our current times, when the cloud is king and storage solutions abound, FTP and FTPS (Secure FTP) still deliver, especially in tedious tasks involving data transfer.
It is tempting to compare FTP’s unwelcoming interface with the sprawling business of online storage. But the first thing that needs clarification is that FTP is not a product or a service. It is a protocol: a language and a set of conventions about how two storage systems work together over a network. This makes comparisons in the form of “FTP v X” somewhat disingenuous. The question of why they don’t offer FTP compatibility still lingers.
Among Moodlers, particularly those who deal with managing large Moodle Sites and Courses, FTP is a no-brainer. Despite the alluring solutions out there, no one seems to match FTP when it comes to transferring Moodle data. FTP’s critical features include:
- Uploading large volumes or a large number of files to use on one or several Moodle Courses. If you pause the transfer or the connection breaks down, you can resume without losing progress.
- Exporting and importing large Moodle Courses, several Moodle Courses, or even complete Moodle sites. You can move entire directories, keeping hierarchies and organization intact. You can also queue transfer tasks to prevent clogging the network. You can also upload several plugins and themes packages in one go to have them ready to install.
- Independence from one system or vendor. You can use FTP using commands on a console, or choose any FTP application. Unlike the online storage services of today, you can switch apps if you don’t like the way it looks or how it works while keeping your files in place.
- The ability to automate and schedule file transfer tasks. Regular backups are FTP’s bread and butter.
- For advanced users, the ability to create customizations and settings for later use, for the same or a completely different pair of repositories, and even tweak and optimize the algorithms involved in the transfer.
FTP is not perfect. But most of its pitfalls—such as security, its unsophisticated interface, or version control—have remedies at hand, usually for free. Perhaps the biggest issue with FTP is that it has no workarounds for its learning curve. This can make it unfeasible for team projects. But, if you repeatedly deal with long and tedious file transfer tasks, learning FTP might be well worth it.
If you do, just make sure your Moodle Site host offers FTP and choose an application that works for you, because it seems that for the time being, FTP lives on.