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September 2012  The future of FTP for website updates
Ordinary FTP has been a basic protocol for updating files on servers since before websites existed. Better protocols have existed for years, so why is it still in use?

The answer is that FTP has been replaced pretty much everywhere except for website updates. Professional programmers now use much safer and secure encrypted protocols such as ssh or scp, or avoid such simple minded processes as "file update" completely by using inter-machine version control systems such as git or mercurial.

Website updates are kept in the dark ages because non-programmers who design websites use the FTP mechanism built into their webdesign tools (such as Dreamweaver) or web browsers.

So website hosting companies have to continue to support FTP for those non-technical users. However, there is a ray of light: Heart Internet have added "timeouts" to their FTP access: restricting it to a fixed number of days or a particular list of IPv4 addresses indefinitely. This adds some security, and hopefully will be the start of a trend to wean users away from FTP eventually.[However, it has to be said that the IP address limitation is a pain to use. But then, if using FTP continued to be easy, it will never get replaced.]



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