How to Use the FileZilla FTP Client at UMD

Table of Contents:

Purpose of this Handout

This course handout was developed for FMIS 2201 "Information Technology in Business" to help students use FileZilla to upload and manage their first web page files on the UMD web server.

It has been classroom tested, but is continually updated to help meet three ongoing challenges.
1) It is specific to the current UMD web server requirements and evolving UMD computing infrastructure.
2) It is written at a very basic level for introductory IT students who are still learning file management as well as using FileZilla to manage their first web site.
3) It includes troubleshooting advice and user tips to deal with a wide variety of observed mistakes made by introductory students.

Hopefully this handout will help reduce precious class time that is spent on using FileZilla at UMD, and hold down the many help request messages and face-time needed to provide friendly and effective support for students during their learning processes in a large introductory course.
Feedback to Dr. Person at email: hperson@d.umn.edu from UMD faculty, staff, and students for continuous improvement of this handout is sincerely appreciated.

Introduction to FTP at UMD

File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is a communication standard for establishing a connection over the Internet between two computers and then transferring files back and forth between them.
“Transferring a file” usually means to copy a file from one computer to another.
FTP software typically includes commands to delete a file on either computer, so it also usually possible to move a file from one machine to another by copying the original file from the sending computer to the receiving computer, and then delete the original file from the sending computer.

FTP uses client/server software architecture.
The FTP client software runs on your own personal computer, which is called the “local” computer.
The FTP server software runs on the “remote” computer, which is typically the UMD web server for this discussion.
The two separate, client and server programs work together to transfer files back and forth over the connection established between the two machines.

The FTP communication with the UMD web server must take place over a secure connection, which implies two basic requirements.
1) If you are on campus using a wireless connection
you must log in using “UMD Wireless” (which is recommended) or “UMD Wireless – secure”.
“Wireless – guest” is not secure and will not work to connect to the UMD web server.
If you are off campus needing a secure connection, see "UMD ITSS: Network Access which describes Virtual Private Network (VPN) software for setting up a secure remote connection.
2) The FTP client must support Secure FTP protocol (SFTP) protocol which is a FileZilla option presented below.

Some file management vocabulary.
Because file transfer can occur in either direction between two computers we need terminology to be more specific about the direction of file transfer, and the handling of the file that is being transferred.
Think of the UMD web server as being “up there” in the Internet cloud and your own computer as being “down here” on your lap or on your work desk.
An "upload" transfers a file from your personal “local” computer (the client) up to a “remote” computer (the server).
A "download" transfers a file down from the “remote” computer (the server) to your personal “local” computer (the client).
In FileZilla you can right click a file name and see a shortcut menu that presents the upload or download choice of action.
The "source file" is the file name that is selected for a file transfer on the sending computer. (either the client or the server)
The "target file" has a name that exactly matches the source file name and is being written on the receiving computer.
The "target file" may be a new file that you want to create on the receiving computer.
The "target file" may be an old filename that you may or may not want to replace on the receiving computer.

Introduction to the UMD Web Server

The UMD web server has the fully qualified domain name www.d.umn.edu

UMD ITSS provides each student a personal (unofficial) space on the UMD web server.
To see a student's web site run a browser and go to URL
http://www.d.umn.edu/~username
where username is replaced by the 8-character Internet ID that is also used for UMD email.

Note that the path to a student web site does not contain the www name of the actual folder on the UMD web server.
The www folder is simply assumed because of the http protocol specified in the URL.
This also means that a web page file must be in the www folder on the UMD Web server to be displayed by a browser.

In order to create your new website on the UMD web server you typically make a web page file on your own cmputer and upload it into the www folder in your account on the UMD web server.

The first web page file uploaded to a new web site is usually a “home page” with filename that is typically either index.html, index.htm, home.html, or home.htm.

If the browser URL to go to a web site does not specify a particular web page filename
http://www.d.umn.edu/~userid (where userid is replaced by your own 8-character Internet (email) ID)
the UMD web server looks in the www folder on the server for any file with one of these four possible home page file names (index.html, index.htm, home.html, or home.htm) and by default displays the first that it finds.

In order to update an existing website, the usual process is to download a web page file from your www folder on the UMD web server, make changes to it on your own computer, and upload the changed file back into your www folder on the UMD web server.

It is recommended that you create a web pages folder on your own computer to "mirror" your published web site on the server.
This makes file management and web site management easier, especially for more extensive web sites.

Requirements for a Filezilla Connection at UMD

The FTP program you run must fulfill two requirements.
1) The FTP client must work on operating system of your personal computer.
2) The FTP Client must provide the connection type (protocol) expected by the server you connect to.
For example, to connect to the UMD web server you must run an FTP client that supports the “Secure FTP” (SFTP) protocol.

One UMD ITSS recommended software solution for file transfer is the FileZilla Client.
FileZilla is a free, open-source program that is available for several computer platforms, including Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.
Current versions of FileZilla also support the SFTP protocol required by the UMD web server.

Many other FTP clients are available and the FTP client of your choice can be used as long as it supports the server’s required connection types.

How to Get Started

Here are steps to get the FileZilla Client up and running:

1. Download and install the FileZilla FTP client software on your personal computer.
Do not click the “Download Filezilla Server, Windows Only” button on the right.

The FTP server software is already installed on the UMD web server.

2. Set up a “site profile” for the UMD web server.

3. Run the FTP client and connect to the UMD web server using the “site profile”

4. Upload or download files to or from the UMD web server.

Note: Once the FileZilla FTP Client program is set up and working, you only need to perform the last two steps.

How to Download and Install the FileZilla FTP Client

1. Run a browser and go to the Filezilla project.

2. On the left, click the Download Filezilla Client, All Platforms button.
Do not click the “Download Filezilla Server, Windows Only” button on the right.

3. Locate your operating system (Windows, Linux, Mac, etc) and click the appropriate/recommended link to download the FTP Client software.

4. When prompted to choose between “Run, Save, or Cancel” click Run.

5. Follow the FileZilla installation instructions that appear.
If you are unsure about settings, it is recommended that you agree to the default settings.

How to Set up a FileZilla “Site Profile” for the UMD Web Server

After you install the FileZilla FTP client, set it up to connect to the UMD web server as follows:

1. Run FileZilla on your computer from the Start button or from a Desktop shortcut.

2. In Filezilla on the main menu, select File…, and choose Site Manager...

3. Make sure the General tab is selected, and do the following:

FileZilla Site Mgr Window
a. In the “Site Manager” window on the lower left, click the New Site button.

b. On the left, rename the “New site” folder to something like UMD Web Server.

c. Host: www.d.umn.edu

d. Protocol: SFTP – SSH File Transfer Protocol

e. Logon Type: Ask for password
(When you are prompted for a password later on use your 8-character UMD Internet (email) password.)

Do not choose Logon Type: “Normal”
which would cause the UMD Web Server to display a connection error message
“FileZilla is running in kiosk mode.”

f. User: Enter your own 8-character UMD Internet (email) ID

g. Click the OK button to save the site profile,
or the Connect button to save the site profile and connect now.

How to Connect to the UMD Web Server using the “Site Profile”

Run FileZilla whenever you want to connect using the site profile you have set up.

Choose File… Site Manager...

Select the UMD Web Server and click the Connect button to connect to the server.

For the UMD Web server, you may see an “unknown host” warning message.
Check the checkbox for “always trust this server,” and
click OK to make the connection.

When prompted for your password enter your 8-character UMD Internet (email) password.

How to Transfer Files

After a connection is established the main FileZilla window divides the screen into two sides, left and right, that correspond to the two computer systems that are connected.

The “Local site:” on the left displays folders and files on your own computer.

The “Remote site:” on the right displays folders and files on the UMD Web Server.

Practice reallocating FileZilla screen real estate for better file management: click and drag the vertical split bar to the left and right.

FileZilla Transfer Window

Files can be transferred (copied) back and forth between the two currently active folders which are selected in the upper panes.

The “Local site” pane on the upper left displays the currently active directory on your own computer.

The “Remote site” panel on the upper right displays the currently active directory on the server.

The specific file being transferred (copied) between the two currently active folders is selected in the lower panes.

The “File Name” pane on the lower left displays the folders/files located inside the currently active folder on your own computer.

The “File Name” pane on the lower right displays the folders/files located inside the currently active folder on the UMD Web Server.

1. Resize the upper right pane to see a complete list of folders on your account.
To do this drag the horizontal split bar down to expose your username and the www folder immediately under your username.

In the “Remote Site” upper right panel click the + character next to your username to expand the folder list.

Immediately under your username click the ? or + character to select www as the currently active folder on the UMD web server.

For a new web site, with no web pages in it yet the lower right pane will be empty.
If you have already published web pages at UMD you will see those files listed in the lower right pane.
(The folder icon .. in the lower pane can be clicked to navigate back up to the "parent" folder selected in the upper pane.)
Drag the vertical file name column divider far enough left or right so that you can see the complete name of each file in your www folder.

2. Next make sure you that select the currently active “Local site” folder correctly.
For example, if you want to publish a new home page to your web site the file name (e.g. home.html) should be selected in the “File Names” pane on the lower left.

As your web site becomes more elaborate it is often useful to create a local www folder on your own computer as a complete copy (a “mirror”) of your published web site.
That way you can develop and view web pages on your own computer, test them by browsing directly to the web page file on your local computer, and then publish them on the web server when you are ready.
To create a new www folder on your local computer, navigate to the place where you would like to create the new folder in your computer’s folder/file view on the left. Next, right-click a folder in the lower left pane, choose “Create directory," and enter www.

3. There are several methods by which to transfer files and folders.
One way to transfer a single file is to double-click the file name of the file you want to send.
The file will then be copied to the opposite window and computer folder.

Another method is to right click the file name and choose upload or download as appropriate.
A quick way to transfer multiple files or a folder is to select the desired files/folders, then click and drag them to the opposite window and computer folder.

If you make a mistake it is easy to right click a file name and choose delete.
You can also right click a file name and rename the file on either computer.
In fact as students become more familiar with FileZilla it becomes a handy tool for managing folders and files both on your own web site as well as on your personal computer.

4. If you see a warning Target file already exists dialog box and if you intend to replace an old file with a new version of the file with the same file name,
then make sure that the radio button "overwrite" is selected and click OK.

FileZilla Site Mgr Window

5. Depending on the number and size of the folders and files you selected and the speed of your Internet connection, you may need to wait for the transfer(s) to complete.

6. Check your work:

Glance at the bottom of the FileZilla window to see how many transfers were counted as "successful" or "unsuccessful."

If you are changing files on the server, check the web server file names listing to ensure that your intended changes appear.

Open a web browser, and go to the new web page as a test.
In your browser window, don’t forget to click refresh/reload to see the most recent version of the web page.

When using FileZilla you can leave FileZilla running at the same time that you have a web browser running and pointed at your web site to test a recently uploaded web page.
You can also leave your HTML editor running to develop a web page on your own machine.
Rapidly switch between the three running applications (HTML editor, FTP, and browser) to change, upload, and test your web pages.

Troubleshooting: How to See the Uploaded Web Page in a Browser

After working so intently to upload a Web page for the first time some students need this reminder of how to get to their new web site with a browser.
Run any Web browser (e.g. click the Windows Start button and run Internet Explorer).
In the browser address enter the URL: http://www.d.umn.edu/~userid/filename
where userid is replaced by your 8-character UMD Internet (email) ID
and filename is replaced by the name of the uploaded web page file (e.g. home.html).

Be careful to spell the web page file name correctly.
Pay particular attention to upper and lower case lettering because in the URL the filename is case sensitive and must exactly match the name of the web page file you uploaded.

Troubleshooting: FileZilla does not connect to the UMD Web Server

a) On campus make sure that you have logged in to UMD.
Run a web browser and try to go to a new web page (not an old web page in the browser cache).
If you are not logged in the UMD network will prompt you for your Internet ID and password.

b) Check your network wireless connection status.
On campus use "UMD Wireless" or "UMD Wireless - secure," not "UMD - guest."
The two recommended connections are both secure, and just use different encryption methods.
There is some confusion arising from the fact that the “UMD Wireless – secure” connection has an upper limit on the number of simultaneous connections, and the number of connected users changes moment to moment.
Off campus you must use a secure connection to UMD.

c) In FileZilla check File... Site Manager... for the proper UMD Web server settings.

Troubleshooting: FileZilla does not upload the intended web page file


Resources to learn more about FileZilla and FTP



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Page Last Updated: Sunday, 05-May-2013 10:01:37 CDT