Should I FTP files to my web server (And when should I use the WordPress File Uploader)

FTP or WP File Uploader

FTP or WP File Uploader

Recently one of my clients asked me the above question. Now that’s a good question which not many people consider. We are talking about files like audio, video, pdfs, images etc. The best way to consider this question is with an example.

Let’s take an example of a photo album. How do you organize your vacation photos? Do you add all your photos in one album? Or do you have a separate album for each set of vacation photos? But before we rush into it, let’s understand FTP and the WordPress (WP) Uploader.

What is FTP?

The File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is a standard network protocol used to transfer computer files from one host to another host over a TCP-based network, such as the Internet. Which simply means it is an easy way to transfer files from a local computer to a web server and vice versa. Read more about using FTP.

What is the WordPress (WP) File Uploader?

The WordPress Dashboard provides an easy way to upload files via the WP Dashboard. The WP Dashboard lets you upload files in the following ways:

  • Upload immediately in a Post
  • Upload immediately in a Page
  • Upload for later use through the Media Manager

So let’s now delve into the 5 questions to answer when deciding which option will work for you.

1. Do you need to control the folder structure?

With the WP file uploader, the files will be uploaded to the WP uploads directory. WordPress will create month- and year-based folders (assuming you have set this option in WordPress). So the URL of the file could end up being something like this ‘’.

If you prefer to have all the audio, video files to always be stored in a particular folder, then it’s better instead to FTP the files to the desired folder.

2. Do you need to password protect a folder?

The folder that is used to store the FTPed files can be password protected. This will prevent people from gaining access to the file even if they know the URL of the file.

3. Do you need the images to be processed and organized by WordPress?

Usually it’s better to upload images (that are displayed on the website) to WordPress. WP creates thumbnails and different image sizes. And also provides some basic image editing options which makes it easy to display the images on the website.

4. Do you want to easily view all you uploads in WordPress?

When files are uploaded with the WordPress files uploader, it is visible and searchable through the WP media manager. This is very helpful  when placing images on the website.

5. What  is your comfort level?

Sometimes it’s all about how comfortable you are in using tools like FTP. Using FTP takes a little more practice and time for the novice.

At this point you might think is FTP the only option to transfer files? The short answer is NO. There are many ways to transfer files to the web server. Another simple way is using the cPanel. Most hosting providers have cPanel. Through the cPanel it is possible to upload files to your web server.

So to summarize…

Choosing whether to upload files via the WordPress file uploader or FTP is lot like organizing your vacation photos in a photo album. Do you prefer a separate album for each vacation or just putting all photos in one album?

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