I would like to review a valuable, yet often overlooked, aspect of the Windows XP operating system, known as File Transfer Protocol.
In the Windows XP Professional Edition you can set up a login and password-protected subdirectory that is accessible from any browser anywhere in the world. A subdirectory can be setup to allow FTP requests from any browser that supports FTP protocol (which is all of the common browsers). This service gives you the ability to easily access and transfer files from any FTP-enabled site.
As an example, assume that you have some key documents that you work on at home but would like to have access to outside of the house. These may be documents that you would like others that have been granted FTP access to use. With a subdirectory setup for FTP, the remote user needs only to type the wide area network IP address of the home FTP site in the browser search field, enter the appropriate login and password information, and the directory of home-based files will appear in their browser window. These files then can be downloaded to the remote computer, or new files can be uploaded to the home computer.
To set up an FTP site, you need to follow a sequence of steps.
First, you need to create a new password protected user that will have logon privileges to the FTP server. In Windows XP Pro this can be completed with the new user setup tools found in the users icon in the control panel window.
Next you will need to add IIS (Internet Information Services) and FTP services to your Windows XP Professional Client. To complete this task you will need to go to the Add Software tab in the Control Services panel and click on Add/Remove Windows components. Once this window opens, it will show an unchecked box next to IIS and File Transfer Services. Check these boxes and place your Windows XP Pro CD in your CD tray so that the appropriate files can be transferred to the computer’s hard drive.
Use the IIS administrator tool in Windows XP Professional Edition to set up the FTP site on the home computer (these tools are located in the Windows XP control panel.) The FTP directory can be any shared subdirectory on that computer or another computer within the home.
Make sure that you specify a login and password to protect this subdirectory. For a good graphical review of these previous setup steps you can visit www.mvps.org/marksxp/WindowsXP/IIS/iis1.php.
Set the IP address of your FTP server to be a private static address, not a dynamic address. You will want to open FTP Port 21 on your router and have it forward FTP requests to the specific static IP address assigned to your home’s FTP server.
Ideally you should sign up for a DDNS service (such as www.tzo.com) that keeps track of your home’s changing dynamic wide area network IP address. If the home has a static address this is not an issue but most homes only have dynamic IP services. This becomes a problem when the home’s IP address changes and the remote user doesn’t know the new wide area network address. With a DDNS service you receive an alias name that always stays the same, and the service keeps track of the changing IP address of the home. Now you, or anyone else authorized by you to use the FTP site, can type in the alias name into the browser field to access the FTP site.
You can also use FTP sites to support your customers or your field engineers. If there is common information that you would like them to download, then they can easily access this content by logging into your FTP site. Keep in mind, however, the FTP capabilities of Windows XP Pro can only host up to 10 simultaneous users. Given the user number limitation, Windows FTP services incorporate a time-out feature that automatically logs off FTP users after 15 minutes of inactivity to allow new users to logon.
The next time you travel, don’t forget to make sure your FTP site is set up properly. You can live without your toothpaste or underwear for a few days but a file that you desperately need when you’re away from home and can’t retrieve could spoil an entire trip.