How to Setup Your Own FTP Server
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If you're like me and constantly have to burn discs, package them, and then ship them or perhaps you always have to carry around a hard disk with you in case you need to access files and documents, then setting up an actual FTP server of your own is the way to go.
It's a fairly straightforward process and extremely beneficial, considering the cost of materials, time for shipping, etc. that you have to deal with now. Why take up those extra resources when you don't have to?
What is FTP?
FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol and is used to exchange files on the Internet. An FTP server allows requests for files via FTP to be accessed. As outlined by the RFC, one of the main objectives of FTP is to promote the sharing of files and to transfer data reliably and efficiently.
So even if you're just sharing music, photos, or any type of data really, an FTP server can provide access to the data quickly and efficiently.
Choosing an FTP Server Product
There are several free versions of FTP products available on the market including FileZilla, Golden FTP, Xlight FTP Server and others.
For today's demonstration, I chose Serv-U FTP because it has an easy to use interface and good reviews. It also has a free 30 day trial which allows you to test all of the features and options that they have to offer.
Even if you don't want to spend money on an FTP Server and want to use a free product instead, I would still suggest installing the Serv-U trial and taking advantage of the 30 day free trial, especially if you're new to FTP.
Trust me, it's much easier to learn how FTP servers work on a product that has a good interface and is easy to use then it is on a free option that has limited support and tricky interface. At least that was my experience.
Setting Up An FTP Server
1. Start off by downloading Serv-U FTP.
2. The installation is really straightforward but let's run through it anyway.
3. It starts off with your typical install information such as language, install location, and agreement not to sue after you computer crashes ... just kidding, it's all the usual stuff you see with any other software install.
4. Before you finish the install you have one more chance to review all of your setup info to make sure it's correct. If no changes are needed, simply click Install.
5. After the install you'll see one last message from the setup wizard that gives you the option of starting the Serv-U Management Console. Select the option if you're ready to continue and click Finish.
6. Once the install is complete you'll be prompted to answer some questions regarding your FTP server.
The first question will be regarding a domain name. If you don't have one available you can create one at DynDNS.com -- it's free. (More info on domain names and DynDNS.com below.)
7. Next are the protocol and ports selections; you can leave the settings as they are.
8. For step 3 of 4 on the Domain Wizard select All Available IP Addresses and click Next.
9. The last step is in regards to encryption, and for this I would suggest using the server settings (the first option) which is the most secure options, unless you have a reason to choose otherwise.
10. After this, your setup is complete.
Setting up a Domain
To make your FTP available on the Internet you will have to setup a domain name.
What I did was go to DynDNS.com and set up a free account with a custom address that I use for my FTP server. You have the ability to create a domain name something like:
myftp.homeftp.net. You then use this name to connect to you ftp server.
It's free and simple.
Setting Up Your Router
Now that you have a domain name for you FTP server, you will have to setup your router so that it forwards all incoming requests to the computer that is setup as your FTP server.
First thing is determining the computer's IP address. You need this so that the router knows where to send the FTP request to.
To do this, go to Start/Run and type in cmd.
In the command prompt type in ipconfig to find your IP address.
I recommend setting up your computer with FTP server with a static IP address so that it does not change. For more info on this refer to this article on configuring a static IP address in Vista.
Next, we turn our attention to the router. What you want to do is connect to your router by typing in http://192.168.1.1 into any Internet browser. I have a Linksys router, and other routers may vary slightly but the basic concept is the same.
Now, type in the username and password for your router; if you don't know it, look on your router, it should have a default one.
In the setup tab of my router, there is a setting for DNS Service where you can put in the domain name, username and password for your DynDns Domain account.
The last thing you want to do is go to port forwarding and enter the port number you are using (should be 21) and then the IP address of the machine with the FTP server.
Creating FTP Users
After your initial FTP Server install, a wizard will come up for creating FTP users.
Again, it's very straightforward; enter the username, password, directory access (what files they have access to), and finally read and read/write access.
In steps 3 and 4 you select what directory your users can access as well as read only or full access rights.
The User Wizard guides you through the easy 4 step process and explains everything along the way.
In the global settings of Serv-U you can create more users, user groups and configure a lot of options, like access and download limits, IP restrictions, you can also monitor connection, server activity and much more. in other words, Serv–U gives you a lot of flexibility.
Testing Your New FTP Server
Now let's make sure your new FTP server works.
If you have the capability to go to another computer on a different network, try it out with one of the free FTP clients like Filezilla or Fireftp. Just test out the usernames and passwords you created and make sure you are able to get to the directories you've allowed access to as well as read and write permissions.
Obviously, you will want to be careful who you give these out to as well as knowing they will have free range to the information on our computer. If the FTP server is for personal use, you should be fine but be careful in a corporate setting.
Last Thing: Security
This part is optional and beyond the scope of the article, but additional security is always a concern with FTP as well as any data transmitted over the web.
You may want to utilize Serv-U's ability to allow secure connections (SSL), which will encrypt passwords and the data that is transmitted. In the Serv-U settings under Limits and Settings you'll find the option to allow SSL and configure encryption settings.
Or if you're using a different FTP server, make sure to configure your security settings accordingly.
That's it for setting up an FTP server! Now you can sit back and enjoy the easy exchange of data from anywhere.