FTP is utterly incompetent when it comes to preserving timestamps. It gets confused by time zones and DST (Daylight Saving Time). It was designed before the global Internet. Rsync fixes these problems.
rsync is clever. If the source and target files are similar but not identical it arranges to send just the differences. Further, it compresses the transmissions.
The problems with rsync are primarily political.
It uses XCOPY-like (Unix rcp-like) commands to copy groups of files from one machine to another, but much more efficiently than a classic copy. Security is handled by a combination of SSH encrypted communications, passwords, IP (Internet Protocol) lists permitted access, domain lists permitted access and userids permitted access.
To use rsync, you run a bash script on your desktop. The bash script, among other things invokes the rsync utility to efficiently copy files from your desktop machine to the server. You can also get rsync to run shell commands on the server to select files.
I wrote The Replicator, an rsync replacement, which uses just ordinary FTP and HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) to get around those two problems. You don’t need anything but vanilla generic FTP/FTPS and HTTP software running on the server. It is not as clever as rsync, but it fills the same niche.
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