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Using FTP – FileZilla

When you start getting into working with WordPress more, you’ll need a good FTP client to handle your backups and file editing. My top pick is FileZilla: it’s free, easy to use, and reliable. For the purposes of this article we’ll look at specifically setting FileZilla with Godaddy hosting (if you haven’t purchased that yet, there is a GoDaddy promo code when you go here and you can follow this article), but Filezilla will work with any host that provides you with FTP access.

Here’s a good resource for GoDaddy promo codes as well:

Get & Install FileZilla

FileZilla can be downloaded for free from the projects website, you will want the ‘FileZilla Client’ option. The file downloaded is an executable file, so when you click on that it should bring up the Installer which is pretty straightforward to walk through. If you need extra guidance this is the official documentation on installation.

Connecting FileZilla to your Hosting

Now that you have FileZilla installed you need to connect it to your hosting account so that you can retrieve, backup, and upload files. You will need your ftp address and set up login credentials to achieve this. Log in to your GoDaddy account and launch your hosting control panel. Along the menu at the top of the page you will see ‘Files & FTP’, hover over that to activate the drop-down menu and then select ‘FTP Users’. There should already be a primary account setup, if not you can set one up, or you can change the password if you don’t know it.

Now open FileZilla and select the ‘Site Manager’. It’s located under the ‘File’ menu, or you can click on the icon directly below that. You will then want to select a ‘New Site’ and enter the credentials. The Host field will be whatever your domain is (ie. www.domain-example.com) you don’t need to enter anything for Port. Protocol should be ‘FTP – File Transfer Protocol’ and Encryption should be set to ‘Use plain FTP’. In the section below that Logon Type is set to ‘Normal’ and then you enter your User name and Password that you set in GoDaddy. Then you can click ‘Connect’ and a list of the files on your server should show up in the right-hand window. The window on the left is files on your local computer.

If you need more of a visual, here is a video from GoDaddy customer support that walks you through this whole process, or you can view the slides on their support site.

Backing up Files

The main reasons that you are going to want to use your FTP is to make backups of your files. I can’t stress enough how important this is, nothing is worse than upgrading the software or making a major change to your site and discovering that it’s broken everything. If you have backups then there is no need to panic, you can quickly restore the files and try again. It’s a good idea to make a full backup of all your site files before your upgrade your WordPress version or install any new plugins. Simply select all of the files in your sites folder (right window) and drag them over to a storage folder on your local computer or cloud storage device (left window). You can read more on the FileZilla wiki as well.

Sometimes you will only need to backup one file, for example if you are making changes to your theme’s CSS file. You can simply rename the file using FileZilla and then upload an updated copy. It’s best practice to date the renamed files so that you can roll back to a previous version if necessary, ie. style.css-2014-03-07. If I have multiple versions in a day they I name them as style.css-2014-03-07v2, style.css-2014-03-07v3 and so on.

You can install plugins and themes by uploading them through FTP, but I rarely do that since WordPress’ built-in installer works just fine. You can also customize your theme through the built in Editor under Appearance, but since you can’t easily make a backup of the file I would strongly caution against it.

That’s about it! FTP is a simple but important tool, I hope you find it as useful as I do.


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