Apple OS X Server: File Transfer Protocol

Find out how to set up the FTP service on your OS X Server.


Apple OS X Server with FTP

File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is a network protocol used to transfer data from one host to another. It’s typically used in a client-server environment, such as when uploading site content to a web server.

The protocol itself predates TCP/IP and has seen amendments throughout the years to add extensions for securing login credentials and adoption into IPv6. FTP is found in many different configurations -- from computers and mobile devices to productivity and web design applications. Because of its ubiquity, FTP is still in use today and included by OS X Server as a means of transferring data.

Let’s take a closer look at FTP on OS X Server.

Configuring the FTP service

Follow these steps to set up the FTP service on your OS X Server:

  1. Launch from the Applications folder and select the server you wish to manage.
  2. Login with Administrative credentials.
  3. Click FTP from the Services pane (Figure A).
    Figure A
    Figure A
  4. OS X Server allows for only one directory to be selected as the FTP share. By default, this share is the Websites Root folder. However, it can be changed to either an existing share or a new folder by selecting Custom from the drop-down menu (Figure B).
    Figure B
    Figure B
  5. A new Finder window will open to select the path to the desired folder share. Click Choose to make your selection (Figure C).
    Figure C
    Figure C
  6. Once the location has changed next to Share, the permissions for user accounts will appear and may be modified as needed under Access (Figure D).
    Figure D
    Figure D
  7. After reviewing the changes, click the slider from Off to On to start the service. 
While Apple has had a bit of back and forth with FTP over the years, specifically how it’s implemented in OS X Server, it's readily available for use once it's configured properly. A few things to consider with regards to FTP privileges for user accounts are as follows: 

  • The user account cannot be a service account
  • A home directory must exist for the account
  • Administrator accounts cannot use FTP

For information on using FTP through, check out the Apple KB article with helpful commands and arguments to assist in transferring data to and from clients and servers.