How to FTP from Chromebook

By August 29, 2016How-To

Why would you need to FTP from your Chromebook? What are the benefits of Chromebook FTP? For that matter, what is FTP? Let’s start there. (Or go to the next heading for the tutorial.)

FTP Background

FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol, and along with its partner, SFTP (Secure File Transfer Protocol), is a common language computers share. It allows them to send information back and forth. Just as you can’t communicate with a stranger unless you share a common language, computers attempting to “talk” must share a common vocabulary (or “protocol”) to do so.

That’s where FTP and SFTP come in. As the names indicate, the biggest difference between FTP and SFTP has to do with the security of the files in transit. SFTP was developed in the 90s as IT architects sought a more secure method of utilizing FTP principles for transmitting data. This is an essential part of the framework for the entire internet, so it’s sort of a big deal.

Many website designers use FTP to sync up their work on their local computer with the web server.

People who are comfortable on Linux tend to use SSH, but that’s a story for another day.

Common uses of FTP / SFTP include:

  • Transferring large files that aren’t permitted by many email services.
  • Syncing files to your web server or hosting provider.
  • Transferring folders all at once, rather than as individual files.
  • Efficient transfer of large volumes of data from one computer to another (such as music or games).

Chrome FTP Tutorial

To follow this tutorial, you’ll need the following:

  • A Chromebook (obviously)
  • An FTP (or SFTP) server. If you have a hosting provider that allows FTP syncing of your files, you can use that. Find the IP address and your username and password in your hosting company’s control panel. For today, I chose hostedftp.com, which offers a free 21-day trial.
  • An FTP (or SFTP) client on your machine. For today, I chose SFTPClientV2 from the Chrome Web store, which offers 120 free minutes of file transfer to get you started. SFTP File System is a good alternative.

PHASE ONE: Establish a Connection with an FTP Server

We’re going to go through the browser first, since you’re probably most familiar with that. (We could upload our trial file directly from the FTP client, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet.)

Go to hostedftp.com and set up a trial personal account. It is free for 21 days, and they won’t ask for a credit card up front.

After your trial account is set up at hostedftp.com, you’ll want to upload a file through the browser. This is the file you’ll later download via FTP during our trial run. That part is simple. Just click the giant “Click here to send files” in the middle of the screen:

Chrome FTP

I chose an image file. It’s a previous version of a logo from my website, and I named the folder “Babalu” simply because it struck my fancy:

Hosted FTP

PHASE TWO: Set Up Your FTP Client on the Computer

  • First, from the Chrome Web Store, download sFTP Client v2. It is free, and offers 120 minutes of free file transfer time up front.
  • It will look like this:

sftp client, chromebook ftp

  • Next, see up top, where it says “Connect”? That’s where you’ll put in the credentials you set up at hostedftp.com. This username and password is what your local computer and the file server in the cloud will use to shake hands, introduce, and agree to swap files and folders back and forth.
  • You’ll need to make sure you have the host FTP address correct. If you log in to your hostedftp.com files page, you’ll see it in the browser bar. For me, it’s us2.hostedftp.com. That is what I type in the field for “Host / IP Address.” (And note that I could also use simply the IP address, if I happened to know that.)
  • You don’t need to worry about port number. That field can be left blank, as FTP typically uses port 21. Because FTP is a standard, your computer already knows this, unless you’re making changes. But if you’re that far ahead, you don’t need this tutorial anyway.

PHASE THREE: Go Get Your File

  • Once I input my credentials and the computer connects with the server, I get this screen:

sftp client tutorial

  • On the left you have the “Local Folder,” which is the folder I’ve chosen to receive and send from on my machine. On the right you see “Remote,” which is the folder we created at the FTP server. You see my “Babalu” folder sitting right there? Our trial file is right there, waiting for us.

FTP Files

  • Now that I’ve clicked “Babalu,” you can see the file icon and “new…log…” on the right. And as you can see, when I clicked there, it downloaded to my Local Folder on the left side.
  • Note that it works both ways: if I select something from my Local Folder on the left side, I can send it via upload to my FTP server on the right side. Try it, and you’ll see.
  • Remember, you’re using a cloud-based service, so by definition anything you send isn’t staying on your device. (To keep all your data in your hands, you’d need to configure a computer you own as a personal FTP server, which is a complex topic for another day.)

You Know How to Use Chromebook FTP!

If all you’re after is a simple way to access large files from anywhere, sending them from Chrome using FTP would accomplish that goal. If you needed to make those files available to others, you could add contacts under the “Contacts” tab at hostedftp.com, and anyone with appropriate credentials could access those same files.

Did you enjoy the tutorial? I hope so. I find FTP to be a great way to work around the attachment size limits of my email service (particularly for large music files).

Be sure to ask any questions in the comments. Take the opportunity to tell us about an alternative FTP server or client. There are multiple options for each, so be sure to chime in and tell the audience which you use and why.

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