Believe it or not, browsing web with Internet Explorer or Netscape is relatively new. It wasn't that long ago (ten to fifteen years) when tools you would use on internet (not web) were email, gopher (a menu based browser), archie (a file and directory locator) and FTP.
The letters FTP stand for File Transfer Protocol, and that's exactly what FTP allows you to do - transfer files from place to place. In fact, FTP is by far most efficient (the fastest) way to copy large files across internet.
Today many people use a sophisticated FTP client to get files to and from their web sites. This has several advantages over method commonly used by amateurs on free web sites. Many newbies who don't know any better use gadgets provided by their free host to edit their sites. The problems with this are many and varied.
First, gadgets are not very impressive as editors. Most users who want to create a web site of any size and complexity will find themselves constrained horribly by these tools. Probably only good thing about these editing tools is they give people a nice, easy way to start creating web sites without a huge learning curve. But take my word for it, you will outgrow them soon enough.
In addition, a major problem is editing is generally done directly on host site. This means you do not have a back up of your site on your own hard drive. If your host decides to close your account, goes bankrupt or just plain is unavailable, you lose your site. If you ever want to have a frustrating experience, just try and call your host and ask them to restore your site from one of their backups!
Other people use products such as Dreamweaver or FrontPage, which include site updating capabilities. These are often very convenient until they don't work or perform unexpected actions. For example, I spent several days trying to figure out why my CGI routines were not working, until I realized that FrontPage was uploading files incorrectly. From that moment forward, I used an FTP package to upload my files.
Most of modern FTP clients are very simple to use. You just launch program, enter some basic information (such as site address, account name and password) and connect. Once connected, you can usually just drag and drop files from your own hard drive to site.
Precisely why is it a good idea to use an FTP client over, say, FrontPage (or Dreamweaver) or direct editing on a hosts web site?
FTP is fast and efficient - As it turns out, FTP is actually one of most efficient ways to transfer large amounts of data on entire internet. Don't believe me? Try transferring a very large file, say a megabyte, using FTP. It really moves, doesn't it?