When I’m working with a client on a custom blog design, one of the pieces of information that I always ask for is their FTP login credentials and more often than not the response I get is ‘what is that?’ or ‘is that my hosting login?’. You might be asking yourself those same questions right now, so let’s talk.
FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol. It’s really just a direct way to upload and download files directly to your database. The main reason I ask for this information is so I have direct access to your database and all of your files, not just the ones I can see on the backend of your WordPress site. You can also upload themes and plugins via FTP. Typically I attempt to use the built in theme and plugin uploader, but every once and a while a host has some security measure that won’t allow a theme or plugin to be uploaded. So if you ever get the message ‘Installation Failed’, don’t worry. There’s a Plan B that will work.
I also like having FTP information because it’s so much easier for me to update individual theme files there than on WordPress. Caching plugins and hosting settings sometimes won’t allow for you to edit your theme files from the WordPress editor or it will appear that they saved, but they actually didn’t change within the database. Again, don’t fret! Uploading those files via FTP will replace the old file in your database so that the changes show up on the front end.
For the most part, FTP is something you’ll rarely have the need for, but it’s one of those things that you should most definitely know about! Sometimes affiliate networks will ask you to upload certain files to your database for tracking purposes and you can do that from here too.
If you don’t have your FTP information on hand, you can contact your host to get it or login to your host’s cPanel and navigate to the FTP area and find your login credentials or create a new FTP user. You can typically access FTP when you’re logged into your host, but I prefer the desktop version Cyberduck when I use FTP.
Once you open your FTP client (ie, Cyberduck), it can be a little confusing if it’s your first time, so I’ll walk you through the backend a bit so you can understand where certain things are!
public_html – on my host, Bluehost, all of my files are within this folder, when I double click to open it, you can see all of the different websites that I host on my account – Bluehost allows for unlimited websites, and clearly, I have a lot.
Navigate to the folder that holds your websites files. If you’re only hosting one website on there, this will be extra easy. The name of the folder might not be the same as your website, don’t worry, that’s normal. Once you open that, you’ll see all of the WordPress core files. These are things you NEVER want to delete, change or edit! You’ll also notice three more folders there. Double click on the folder titled ‘wp_content’. Under here you might start recognizing things a bit more. There’s a folder for themes, plugins, etc. and I’m sure you can guess what’s in there. We’ll go into themes and there you’ll see all of the themes that are uploaded to your site. Open your website’s current theme to see all the theme files. That’s where you can upload new files and replace old files with their updated version. Plugins are built the same way the theme files are.
Even if you don’t end up accessing your site via FTP, it’s good information to have on hand when you’re redesigning or working on some technical issues. Feel free to ask more questions about FTP that I didn’t answer or if there’s anything you’re confused about!