Podcast Episode

472 – Manage WordPress Files with SFTP


Is there a plugin for that?

With more than 50,000 plugins in the WordPress repository, it’s hard to find the perfect one. Each week, I will highlight an interesting plugin form the repository.

For more great plugins, download my 50 Most Useful Plugins eBook.

WP Down Slack Alert is a plugin that will send automatic notifications to a Slack channel when a WordPress site is down.

Manage WordPress Files with SFTP

FTP (File Transfer Protocol) allows you to upload files from your computer to your WordPress site. In order to use FTP, you will need an FTP client which is a desktop app that connects your computer to your WordPress hosting account.

It provides an easy to use graphics user interface, so that you can perform all FTP functions such as copy, upload, delete, rename, and edit files / folders on your WordPress site.

Good options for FTP editors:

Thank You!

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Full Transcript

Business Transcription is provided by GMR Transcription.

On today’s episode, we’re going to talk about how to manage our WordPress files with an SFTP client, or sometimes just known as just an FTP client. Right here, on Your Website Engineer podcast, episode No. 472.

Hello, and welcome to another episode of Your Website Engineer podcast, my name is Dustin Hartzler, and I cannot believe it is almost the end of 2019. We’re recording this here, right in the middle of December, and lots of holiday celebrations, and what not is happening, as we’re getting closer and closer to the Christmas season. And it’s just really hard to believe that the year’s almost over, and we’re going to start a brand new calendar year with lots of new goals, and things that we want to learn, and things that we want to work on for next year, but we’ll talk about that.

And maybe in the next episode, or so, when we’re kind of planning for next year, and planning for what we should be getting ready for. And what we should want to focus on, and how we can leverage our time and learn some neat things in 2020. But before we do that, before we talk about that, because that’s going to be a different show. Today, we’re going to talk about managing Word Press Files with SFTP. And I get this question a lot and have to point people to their hosting panel into their file management system, and it’s just…it’s not the best experience. So, I want to talk a little bit about FTP today.

But before we get there, I have three announcements and one plug-in to share you. The first announcement is the WordPress 5.3.1, security and maintenance release came out. You’ve probably saw this, this happened on December 13th, so a handful of days ago, and your website, probably automatically updated to this. But it’s a security and maintenance release, it has 46 new fixes and enhancements, and it adds a number of security fixes. And there’s a whole list in the show notes, if you want to go through and see exactly everything that was updated and fixed. But if you don’t necessarily want to read all the nitty gritty things, just know update the latest version, and you will be safe and secure with your WordPress site.

Another article that was found over on the WordPress.org blog this week, was one all about the State of the Word, and the story behind the slides. I mention this, I did the State of the Word recap a few weeks ago, after Word Camp US at 2019, but Matt [Inaudible] [00:02:06] shared at the end of his presentation, all of his slides were created with Gutenberg, in a plug-in called Slides. And it talks about…the articles a fascinating read, and it talks about how there was a person that was selected to speak at JS Conf in [Inaudible] [00:02:22], Europe. And she wanted a way to create slides for her presentations, and in the past she and used…revealed that JS to create slides, and enjoy freedom to create anything using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. But she wanted to use Reveal JS again, but didn’t feel like writing the HTML by hand. And she wanted to create blocks of visually.

And this is kind of how the plug-in was created. It was prototyped, and it just kind of goes on how it came to be, and some of the team behind Matt’s presentation, and how they put it all together, and what not. So, if you’re interested in that, there is a link in the show notes for episode No. 472, or you can go and just check out the WordPress.org news blog, and it was published on December 17, 2019.

And the last news item that I want to share with you this week is an article from WP Tavern, and it talks about Gutenberg’s 7.1. And I’ve continued to test, and figure out, and see what’s going on with Gutenberg, but Gutenberg 7.1 includes a welcome model, it improves a multi-block selection, and adds drag and drop featured images. And so, those are things that happen in the last two weeks. If you are interested in seeing that, you can just go on over to the WordPress repository, install Gutenberg, and it will work right with WordPress 5.0, and all of the features that are already into Core, with the block editor, and what not. So, if you want to see the latest and greatest on what’s happening, and even test it out, you can install Gutenberg 7.1.

In the Is There a Plug-in for That Section this week? I found one that was really neat, and I think it’s going to be helpful for different folks. If you ever want to know when you’re WordPress site is down, there is a plug-in called WP Down Slack Alert. And this plug-in is meant to send automatic notifications on a Slack Team Channel that you choose. And so, if you manage hundreds of websites, or just a single one, you always want to know when your websites are up and running. And you can do this with different things, like you can use this plug-in of course, or you can use Jet Pack. It has a monitor feature, or a ton of other plug-ins have this same feature built in, but if you don’t want to use any extra plug-ins, and you just want to set this up, you can go ahead and use the WordPress Down Slack Alert plug-in.

And it’s pretty simple, you put in your Slack Team token, you say how often you want this notification to go off, you want to say which channel it’s going to go in, and you’re going to have, like if you can name the bot if you want, and you can put an avatar image for the bot. So, maybe you put a red icon, or an X, or any kind of symbol that would signal you to look at it, and say “Oh, hey my websites down. I need to check out, and check into it further.” So, that is the plug-in that I want to recommend this week. WP Down Slack Alert, and you can find a link in the show notes for episode No. 472, or as always, you can go right to the WordPress directory and search for that.

Okay, today, let’s talk about FTP clients. And I’m sure if we scroll back through the archives of the Your Website Engineer podcast, that you can probably find half a dozen articles, or half a dozen podcasts, all about SFTP, or FTP as it’s named because it is an important thing, and it is a feature, that while you may not need to ever use it, it makes this very, very handy when you are trying to manage different files upon your WordPress site. So, let’s go ahead and talk about what it is, or what an FTP client is, and how to use it, and get some basics out of the way. And then we’ll talk a little bit about when you would use it.

So, what is an FTP client? It stands for File Transfer Protocol, and it allows you to upload a file from your computer to your WordPress site. In order to use FTP, you will need an FTP client, which a desktop app that connects your computer to a WordPress hosting account. Now you also want…I’ve kind of referenced an SFTP account, and that is just a Secure File Transfer Protocol. Most web hosts have both a secure and a non-secure version. I always recommend going with the secure route, if you have that option. But if not, FTP will work for what you’re looking for.

The thing is, it provides a graphical user interface, so that you can perform FTP functions, such as copy, and uploading, deleting, renaming, editing files and folders on your WordPress site, without having to go into the dashboard of your host. And so, if you use Blue Host, or GoDaddy, all of them have a file manager that’s in there. And it’s really not very intuitive to use, but you can go in there and use it. So, for example if you wanted to delete a file, or rename a file, that all can be done via the web browser. But I also found that it takes a few clicks to get there.

So, say for Blue Host for example, you have to first log into your Blue Host account, and then you have to search for the file manager. And then once you’re in the file manager, then you have to look for the right file, so you have to go into probably public_HTML, and then look for WP-content. And then, is it a plug-in or a theme, you have to find the right path to get to where you’re wanting to go.

Now, when you use and FTP client, it is…let’s first setup the FTP client. Basically, there is some information in your host that you need to grab once to setup an FTP client. This is basically a username, password, a port number, and an address. Those are the four pieces of information that you use. And so, you’ll go in and you can create these FTP accounts based on users.

So, if you wanted to, as a main user, you can have access to everything. Or if you wanted to maybe hire a developer, or higher designer, somebody to do something on your site, and give them access. Like, for a designer, maybe they’re designing a theme, or they’re making some theme tweaks for you, then you can give them specific access, you can create their own username, and give them their own password, and only give them access to the themes directory inside your WordPress site.

But how you use an FTP client, like I said, you take those four pieces of information, the site, usually it’s called the server ID, or something along those lines. And then, which is usually your site name, but some hosts have a different string there that you can put in. Maybe it’s FTP.yourwebsiteengineer.com, sometimes SFTP.yourwebsiteengineer.com, or sometimes you just put yourwebsiteengineer.com. Then you put your username, and then the password, and then you make sure you put the correct port. If you were connecting via FTP, that port is 21. If you’re connecting via SFTP, that port is 22.

And then, you put those details in, most of them, FTP clients, you can save them, so they are already in there, and you can do a quick connect, if you will, and you save them as a bookmark. And then you can go ahead and double tap on it, or open up that connection, and then you’ll be able to see all the files that are on your server. Think of it kind of like the finder on a Mac, or the equivalent Explorer on Windows, where you can go in, you can see all the files that are in your computer, you can see the downloads folder, you can see your desktop, you can see all of the folders. That’s essentially what this FTP client is. It’s giving you that visual, graphical interface that allows you to see things that are on the server, and things that are on your local install.

So, most the time there’s two windows. You can see on the left, you can see one thing, and on the right, you can see something else. So, in general, I like to see my desktop, or my computer files, on the left, and then on the right I like to see my files that are on my server.

So, an example, I use Transmit. Transmit is a Mac application, and we’ll talk about a couple different ones that are out there that have this ability, but use Transmit, it’s the one that I use. And if I double tap on the Your Website Engineer shortcut, that takes me right to the WP/content folder, and then one more click, and I can see all of my plug-ins, my themes, my uploads, my upgrades, all that kind of stuff is there.

And so, it’s really important, and I think it’s kind of crucial just to set up this connection, even if you never do it because it gives you some advanced troubleshooting things that you can do quickly and easily without, like I said, logging in to your host accounts, to go into the file manager area, and to do certain things.

So, for example, when you are in an FTP editor, sometimes when you have access to this, sometimes you’ll load a plug-in, you’ll install a plug-in, and activate it, and all of a sudden your website goes completely white. They call it the white screen of death. You can't get into it, you can't login, you can't fix anything. The only way to fix it is to go in, and to go into the plug-ins folder, and then find the plug-in that you just installed, or just activated, and then rename that plug-in.

So, if it is the Yoast SEO plug-in that just installed, and you know everything was working until I installed Yost SEO, I would go into the WP/content folder, I would go into the plug-ins folder, and double tap that. And then I can see a list of all my plug-ins there. And then I would go into the Yost SEO plug-in, and it might have…I think it has the slug of WordPress/SEO, and then I would just rename it to something else. I typically just do…it would be WordPress/SEO, and then I put an underscore after it. I don’t know why, I just picked underscore, and that renames the file. And once the plug-in folder has been renamed, then it won't load that plug-in anymore, and then you should gain access to your site.

If you wanted to delete a plug-in directly from FTP, you can do that by just selecting it, and then right clicking and deleting. Or sometimes you can just hit the delete button on your computer, that will work.

Other things that happen regularly, we see this a lot in Will commerce support, and I’m sure that it happens with other plug-ins updated from the WordPress Repository, but if you…if somebody installs WooCommerce, and then does an update, and the update fails…basically there’s a folder that’s called WooCommerce, the folder is still in your WordPress Directory, but there’s no files there. So, when you go to try to install the plug-in again, it’s not going to be able to install because the folder is already there. It’s going to give you a destination already exists error.

And to do that, you login to your FTP, and you go in and you can delete the WooCommerce folder, and then you can go back and you can install the folder again, or the plug-in again through the WordPress dashboard. It’s also handy if you…maybe if you have an old version of a plug-in, or you’ve…I don’t know, I think that’s a good version…like a way, if I ever need to roll back to an older version of a plug-in, what I would do is I would remove it via FTP, and then I would drag in the new folder with the older plug-in. That doesn’t really make sense, but that essentially what you would do.

You would take…instead of deleting it from the WordPress admin, and then adding it back in through the WordPress admin, I would generally go into the FTP Client, I would find the plug-in that maybe was the newest version broke my website, so I’m going to delete that, and I’m going to find the working version, and then drag that in. It’s basically…you’re kind of copying things, so on the left-hand side, if there’re are files on your computer, maybe you were able to download an older version, you could take than, and then you drag that from left to right, into the right-hand side, which will then copy the files onto your server. And then you can go back into your WordPress site, you can refresh, and then you can see the number, or the plug-in version has changed. And that’s how you would manage that via FTP.

Now, there’s a couple different FTP clients that are out there. Probably the most popular couple that are out there are Cyber Duck, and it is a free plug-in for both Mac and PC, and it’s easy to use as a beginner, and it basically allows you to save your different criteria, or your accounts. And so, you guys have the Your Website Engineer shortcut, and I have one for my test site, and I have one for this site, and you can have them for all the sites that you manage. So, that’s a good one, Cyber Duck.

And then, another one that I hear a lot of people using is FileZilla. And I’ve both used these in the past, and I think I like the visuals of Cyber Duck a little better, but FileZilla will get the job done, and it’s just kind of a more ancient looking plug-in, I guess. And it does work for Lennox as well, the FileZilla works on all three platforms, Window, Mac, and Lennox.

And like I said, I do use one called Transmit. I don’t know, they claim to be faster because they can upload files faster. I don’t know, that’s just the one that I have, and that’s the one that I like. It’s a paid version for the Mac only, and it’s about $34 for the plug-in itself.

And so, those are the details about using an FTP client, or SFTP client. The other neat thing you can do with FTP clients is you can save…I have a few things saved for Amazon S3. If you have Amazon S3 accounts, especially with Transmit, you can get the details. And so, I know that I upload some Your Website Engineer resources to Amazon S3, and so I have some buckets that are there. I have website backups there, I have webinar assets, I call them, I have details for different sites, I save them on Amazon S3, and then I can access them easily right through the FTP client.

So that is Amazon S3, and then I also have…I use Back Blaze, and Back Blaze is a backup service, but I use this to backup some of my hard drives. And I have access to see…they actually have cloud storage, just like Amazon S3. And I can see everything there, via my FTP client as well. So, I can put all of my webinar assets there, I move them from Amazon S3 one time, and I put them over on Back Blaze because it’s a little cheaper than Amazon S3

And then, I have a sinology, which is completely off the topic here of WordPress, but my sinology is a hard drive, it’s a server that I run inside my house, but I want certain things, even though it is a raid server, which means that it is doubly backing up everything. So, everything that’s on there, is on the hard drive at least twice, but I wanted to make sure that I never lost pictures, or any of the Your Website Engineer content, or some of the media that I’ve ripped from my kids, like all the DVDs that we have physical DVDs for, I don’t want to ever have to rib those again. And so, I put those so that they back up to Amazon S3…or to Back Blaze, and I can see all of that stuff, and I can see everything that’s backed up from within Transmit as well.

So, there’s a lot of cool things that you can do within Transmit. If you create new ones, let’s see some of the other ones that are there. If you have a Google Drive account, or Box, you can have access to those. Or Dropbox, you can get direct access to Dropbox. A bunch of cool different integrations besides just web servers and websites.

And so, that’s what I want to share with you this week. Like I said at the top of the show, you don’t have to worry about actually using it, but if you do have an FTP client, and you have it configured, so you can get into your site, this one make it really, really easy. So, if you do run into one of those issues, where your websites not loading, or a plug-in broke it, or something has gone wrong, and then you have to spend the next 15, 20, 30 minutes getting a FTP client downloaded and setup and configured, then you lost that downtime, and people can't come to your website. But if you got it up, you got it running, you see, “Oh, I installed this plug-in, I broke it. I can go deactivate it right from FTP, and it will automatically delete it, and the site will be up. It can take you less than 30 seconds to get all that done.

So, that’s what I wanted to share today, and I do get questions all the time, how do I do this? How do I do this? And it usually needs an FTP editor, or an SFTP editor, and that is why I wanted to share on the show today.

That’s what I wanted to talk about, obviously, and that’s what we did. And if you have any questions about setting up FTP clients, let me know in the comments for this blog post, or you can send an email over at Dustin@yourwebsiteengineer.com, and if you like the show, if you’ve been listening for quite a while, and I probably do this about once a year, I just ask for a rating and review. Head on over to iTunes, or wherever your listening to your podcast, and just leave a note so other people know how you’ve been learning, and how much this podcast has helped you in your journey with WordPress. And so, that’s all I wanted to share with you this week, take care, and we’ll talk again soon. Bye-bye.