Transferring files to and from your hosting account is a big part of managing your website. Even though we have tools these days that reduce the need, it’s still important. For example, you can install WordPress using cPanel using the Softaculous app, but you often need to modify your .htaccess or robots.txt file to optimize the way your site functions. Even within WordPress, you might find yourself having to add manual directives to the wpconfig.php file for various things. For all these functionalities and more, it’s better to have an FTP client.
Why Not Use the cPanel File Manager?
cPanel already has a ubiquitous “file manager” that you can use without any additional software. It’s easily accessible and can do basic stuff like moving and downloading files. You can also edit text files, upload existing ones etc.
So why not just use that instead of an FTP client? The truth is that you can. If you want, there’s nothing stopping you from using the cPanel file manager for the entirety of your hosting experience. It’s just that an FTP client is easier for many reasons as shown below.
1. Consolidate All Accounts in One Place
You might not think it’s necessary, but once you have a hosting account, it’s perfectly normal to have multiple log in details on another hosting account somewhere. With the traditional cPanel file manager, you have to manually log into each individual hosting account and reach your file manager app after several clicks and passwords.
An FTP desktop client can consolidate all your accounts in one place like this:
As you can see, I not only have the FTP details for my current website, but also a whole bunch of others, including a droplet login for Digital Ocean. So regardless of where I want to login, I just need to open a single desktop client in order to access all of them.
The FTP client can also store your passwords for you, so you don’t need to enter them every time. You can also use SSH keys for an additional layer of security.
2. Additional Features with an FTP Client
As mentioned above, the default cPanel file manager is a pretty primitive tool, allowing only the most basic file operations. By virtue of its increased power, a desktop client can offer many things that the traditional web interface cannot.
For example, here’s a screenshot of my WinSCP screen showing a bunch of functions that a simple web file manager can only dream of:
Imagine having a working copy of your website on your local machine, and then automatically syncing that to a remote server! From here as you can see, you can also open a terminal/PuTTY window to issue commands directly to the server if you have the permissions to do so.
In short, an FTP client can help you with your workflow far more efficiently than what is offered by default in cPanel.
WinSCP – My Favorite FTP Client
If you’re on Windows, I can’t recommend anything better than WinSCP. It’s open-source, free, and is constantly updated. It doesn’t contain any advertisements, and supports a wide range of protocols including FTP, SFTP, SCP, S3, and more.
I’ve been using this for years, and it’s never failed me. The complete list of features is so comprehensive, that you’ll inevitably end up using only a fraction of its power. But the interface is still dead simple. It integrates wonderfully with SSH, so if you have stored PuTTY sessions, WinSCP can import them and you can start working on SSH immediately.
Bottom line: If you’re serious about web hosting, you should set yourself up with a fully-featured desktop FTP client. As the years go by, you’ll end up saving hours of your time by managing all accounts in one place, and have a seamless file editing experience on your hosting plans.
I’m a NameHero team member, and an expert on WordPress and web hosting. I’ve been in this industry since 2008. I’ve also developed apps on Android and have written extensive tutorials on managing Linux servers. You can contact me on my website WP-Tweaks.com!