I don't have permission to upload files to the root of my shared hosting space

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This is not an accident, the initial directory you access using FTP (for Ecohost servers) or SFTP (for Webarchitects and Ecodissident servers), your home directory, often represented as ~/ is set not to be writable by you.

You will however find a ~/private directory where you can upload files that won't be accessible via the web and you will find the DocumentRoot for your web site under ~/web/ for Ecohost servers, ~/public_html for Ecodissident servers and ~/sites/default for Webarchitects servers — this is where you should upload files that you want to be accessed via the web.