Many businesses still rely on FTP. Why not? It’s reliable, it’s flexible, and in many cases it’s easier than deploying cloud services. In fact, an FTP server can be set up on a standard desktop with not much effort and not a lot of time.

However, sometimes the most basic of FTP servers isn’t enough; there may be a need to offer virtual FTP servers so that more than one FTP server can be started and different users can be assigned to groups and given access to specific folders. All of this is possible with the easy to use Xlight FTP Server.

There are three versions of Xlight available:

  • Personal edition: Free for personal use only.
  • Standard edition: Limited to 50 online users, includes secure SSL, Anti Leech Protection, and UNC Path Impersonation support. $39.95.
  • Professional edition: No online users limitation and supports all functions except the optional SFTP(SSH2) feature. $129.95.

Even if you go for the Professional edition, you’re still looking at a cheaper solution than a full-fledged server. With Xlight, you’ll get features you’d see on far more costly solutions. One of those features is virtual FTP servers; this piece alone is worth paying the full-blown Professional edition price. Here’s how you can make the best use out of virtual FTP servers on Xlight to give you the most flexible FTP server available for a Windows desktop or server machine.


The installation of Xlight is simple. Follow these steps:

  1. Download the setup.exe file.
  2. Double-click the downloaded file.
  3. Walk though the installation wizard.

After Xflight is installed, you can start the application by going to File | All Programs | Xlight FTP Server | Xlight FTP Server. Once you have the application window open, it’s time to get those virtual servers up and running.

Creating the virtual server

We’re going to create multiple virtual servers on a machine with a single IP address that is handed out via DHCP. We’ll create one virtual server on port 2121 and one on port 2122. Each server will be created using a dynamic IP address. Here’s how to create the server.

Step 1: Create a new virtual server
Open Xlight and, from the Main Window (Figure A), click on the + button to create a new virtual server.
Figure A

The main window with two virtual servers already running. (Click the image to enlarge.)
  1. From the New Virtual Server window, you can only select how the IP address is assigned, the port, add a note, and select a protocol (Figure B).
  2. Select Dynamic IP (IPv4) and configure the port so the server will work on your network.
  3. If you already have an FTP server running, you need to select a non-standard port.
  4. Click OK.

Figure B

You’ll most likely select Dynamic IP (IPv4) for this server. (Click the image to enlarge.)

Step 2: Users and groups

In order to get the most out of this setup, it’s best to take advantage of users and groups. Let’s create two groups: Designers and Writers; we’ll add users to those groups in a moment. Follow these steps to create groups:

  1. Select the virtual server you created in the main window.
  2. Click the Groups icon in the main window (the fifth icon from the left).
  3. In the new window (Figure C), click the + button.
  4. Give the group a name and click OK.

Figure C

You see the two groups already set up. (Click the image to enlarge.)

After you create the group, you must go back in and edit the group. From the group edit window (Figure D) you can set the group path as well as the permissions. To add a Group Path, do the following:

  1. Click the Group Path section.
  2. Click the + button.
  3. Give the Group Path a virtual name and then locate the real path by clicking the Browse button.
  4. Set up the proper permissions for the path.
  5. Click OK.

Figure D

The virtual path name will be reflected in the FTP client directory listing, not on the server. (Click the image to enlarge.)

Create all of the groups you need and, then once you have them created, it’s time to create users and assign them to groups. To create a new user, follow these steps:

1. Click the User icon in the main window (the fourth icon from the left).

2. In the User List window, click the + icon to open the New User window (Figure E).

3. After you create the user, select the user in the User List and click the Modify button.

Figure E

You don’t have to set a home directory if the user will be assigned a group and only needs access to that group’s directory. (Click the image to enlarge.)

4. In this new window (Figure F) click the Setup button in the Account Basic Option section.

5. From the new window, select the group the user is supposed to belong to in the Groupname drop-down.

6. Click OK.

Figure F

You can also give the individual user their own private path from within this same window (click User Path). (Click the image to enlarge.)

Step 3: Start the server

To start the server, click the Global Options button in the main window. In the resulting window, click the Setup button associated with the System Service section. There are two buttons in the System Service window: Install Service and Uninstall Service. If the Xlight FTP Server daemon is running, the only button you can click is Uninstall Service. If the Install Service button is clickable, that means the service is not running. Start the service by clicking Install Service.

Step 4: Start the virtual server

Back in the main window, select the virtual server you want to start and then click the Start button (the right-pointing arrow). The virtual server should quickly switch the status to Running, at which point you can access that virtual FTP server from a client.

Serve up your clients

Your virtual server is ready to serve up your clients! Give the free version a try (the 30-day trial will have all features enabled until it times out), and see if it doesn’t fill a void in your small business. Xlight FTP is one of the easiest and most flexible FTP servers I’ve used in a while.