FTP (File Transfer Protocol) is the simplest and most secure way to exchange files over the Internet. Whether you know it or not, you most likely use FTP all the time. An FTP client is software that is designed to transfer files back-and-forth between two computers over the Internet. It needs to be installed on your computer and can only be used with a live connection to the Internet. While there are a gazillion free FTP applications, the number of ‘quality’ paid-for titles with proper support channels can be counted on one hand.

A good quality program like Ipswitch’s FTP_Professional lets you upload and download Web pages from your hard drive to your Web hosting server quickly and safely. It can also automatically update your site, create mirrored sites, and allow you to make quick changes directly on your host. This quality client offers a million other different features that extend its appeal beyond an FTP freebie.

WS_FTP Pro maintains its classic two-pane design, which is a good thing because it works a treat. The pane on the left displays the files on your computer and the pane on the right displays the files on the remote computer (i.e. Web server). To move files from one location to another you simply drag and drop between the two windows. You can also highlight files and then hit the transfer icon, but this method is more time consuming. Other notable features include e-mail notification, scheduling of file/folder backups to a network directory (or anywhere else), synchronisation, compression, and post-transfer events.

While not the most glamorous of applications (how ugly can one interface be?), WS_FTP Pro keeps your data in safe hands. One the most secure FTP clients on the market, WS_FTP Pro has built-in local OpenPGP file encryption using up to RSA 4,096 bit keys, SSH key management and enhanced SSH capabilities, as well as enhanced SSL certificate management capabilities. You can also take comfort that you data is secure thanks to Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) 140-2 Validated Cryptography and file non-repudiation and automatic compression with MOVEit DMZ servers.

The latest version adds a few improvements, but it isn’t a compelling upgrade for WS_FTP Pro 2007 users. There’s improved performance for faster connection, re-connection and transfer times, along with post-transfer file automation for moving, deleting and renaming integrated with synchronising, scripting, command line and backup. Universal Naming Convention (UNC) mapped network drive access has been added, as has Microsoft IIS and Apache Web Servers full file listing and folder navigation and Microsoft Windows 2008 support. But that’s it!

WS_FTP Pro is one of the most popular Windows FTP clients around. It offers standard FTP functionality with added features like 256-bit AES encryption, SSL support, mirroring capabilities, and even scripting and scheduling. You can even develop your own applications to go along with it with the Development Kit. Unfortunately, the latest release is a big disappointment. The interface is in dire need of an overhaul and barely any new adequate features have been added. Nonetheless, if you’re looking for a FTP client that’s robust, reliable and well supported, it’s a solid choice.

Furthermore, the ease of use and seamless integration into the Windows environment makes WS_FTP ideal for beginners who are used to Windows but don’t want to have to learn a new program interface. Having said that, newbies should check out the leaner and cheaper WS_FTP Home edition. WS_FTP Pro 12 is worth purchasing if you’re a new customer with a sudden need for an FTP client, but existing users should wait for the next release (or two) if Ipswitch maintains this laxidasical approach to software updates.