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FTP as an Email Alternative

By Tom C W Higgins

FTP has gained many more uses since it was first developed over three and a half decades ago, before TCP/IP was created. In the beginning it was only used for basic commands and was the primary method devices used to communicate with each other. NCP (Network Control Protocol), which was a very basic form of TCP was for controlling network traffic. Remember, there was no Internet as we know it in those days. The only similar thing was ARPAnet, which was minuscule and only used by a small number of developers. As FTP evolved, it was given more commands and consequently became far more useful, and became the main thing to use for uploading and doing work on web sites. Other evolutionary steps included becoming more secure and mixing FTP with other protocols like SSL and SSH, which gave birth to SFTP. SFTP is a much more secure method of transferring files between machines, but is often hard to configure because of firewalls etc.

As time went on developers came up with more and more inventive ways to use FTP and it soon became the backbone for many new concepts such as cloud storage and online collaboration. Naturally, such high profile concepts needed to be secure and that's why secure FTP is now gaining popularity and exposure.

Email is something else that can be used with FTP in a number of ways. Using one of the many available programming languages such as Pearl or Python, email attachments can be uploaded to the server immediately when the server receives a new email. This is something that would be setup on the mail server and not the user's machine. Another thing that is very popular is web based email, where the users email account is entirely online. The advantage to this is that it can be accessed from anywhere at anytime, and doesn't require the user to perform any complicated setup processes they might normally have to do.

Another role FTP can play in email is as an internal communications platform for businesses of any size. Such application would be bespoke to the client and store all the account information in a database like MySQL. This is not exactly email but more of an online message board system where users would log in, and have all their information, including new messages etc presented to them straight away. This system can be made even more secure by storing all attachments and data in encrypted archives, which eliminates the need for any kind of secure FTP. This makes the whole thing easy to setup and use, without having to configure any firewall settings etc.

Tom C W Higgins

Professional advice for web based ftp.

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