The concept of FTP, or File Transfer Protocol, is quite simple. Files are shared via an FTP server--which can be any computer--and then accessed using an FTP client that allows one to get or put files depending on levels of access. Setting up an FTP server has become a simple process. As a matter of fact, just like Web servers, you can take any computer and make it into a file sharing station using FTP Server software. There are many uses for this, from allowing students to put and get, or upload and download respectively, files from a central location. You can restrict their access to one folder, but then later get all the folders for viewing purposes. I imagine its use in Web design classes and other places where a network drive has not been set up for you or your students.
On the Windows side, there are a variety of programs. One such program is FileZilla Server (http://sourceforge.net/projects/filezilla/). Another free, Windows possibility is GuildFTPd (http://www.mrbass.org/leech/). Now, both of these are flexible, free FTP Server programs that you can use. Regardless of which one you choose, you will still need an FTP client. While many still use WS-FTP LE (http://www.ipswitch.com/), which is the free, academic version of the popular FTP client, others may want to take advantage of the more powerful, yet easy to use--and also free-- FileZilla FTP Client (http://sourceforge.net/projects/filezilla/).
While you don't have to use FileZilla FTP client to interact with FileZilla Server or GuildFTPd, the client is so easy to use you would do well to consider it. Another popular FTP client is SmartFTP (http://www.smartftp.com/), also free for academic use.
On the Macintosh side, you can use Fetch or one of the others available at FTP client (http://www.pure-mac.com/ftp.html). For educational, non-profit use, Fetch is available at no charge provided you register it. Transmit (http://www.panic.com/transmit/), a shareware alternative, has the more traditional split screen window...but as shareware, it is not free. A recommended, completely open source, free alternative FTP client for the Mac is Cyberduck (http://cyberduck.ch/) .Unfortunately, as far as I know, for the Mac platform, no free FTP Server software exists--with the exception of the Built-in FTP features of Mac OS X (http://www.creativemac.com/2002/09_sep/tutorials/ftposx020924.htm). Still, you might consider 3 FTP servers. I'll start with the most expensive:
- Rumpus FTP Server (http://www.maxum.com/Rumpus/) for the Macintosh is a quality program but is expensive at $249 (possibly less with academic discount). It is definitely industrial strength for education settings.
- By contrast, CrushFTP (http://www.crushftp.com/index.html) Server, which costs $25 for 10 concurrent users, works well for certain settings) is amazingly inexpensive but, unlike Rumpus, has many features that may be confusing to the novice user. However, CrushFTP server is initially easier to set up, handling command line edits in Terminal mode.
- Another shareware option is to get FTP-Config (http://gritsch.themac.de/ftp-config_web/manual/index.html), $20 for unlimited users. It is a program that installs a free FTP program on your MacOS X, Pure-FTPd, and provides a graphical user interface with "many of Pure-FTPd's features." Setup is simple and online help is detailed but not too detailed--a relief when you want to get things working quickly. This is the option this author recommends for low-cost entry into setting up a Mac FTP server.