Network File System (NFS)

Contributor(s): Laura Kun and Andrew Williams

The Network File System (NFS) is a client/server application that lets a computer user view and optionally store and update file on a remote computer as though they were on the user's own computer. The user's system needs to have an NFS client and the other computer needs the NFS server. Both of them require that you also have TCP/IP installed since the NFS server and client use TCP/IP as the program that sends the files and updates back and forth. (However, the User Datagram Protocol, UDP, which comes with TCP/IP, is used instead of TCP with earlier versions of NFS.)

NFS was developed by Sun Microsystems and has been designated a file server standard. Its protocol uses the Remote Procedure Call (RPC) method of communication between computers. You can install NFS on Windows 95 and some other operating systems using products like Sun's Solstice Network Client.

Using NFS, the user or a system administrator can mount all or a portion of a file system (which is a portion of the hierarchical tree in any file directory and subdirectory, including the one you find on your PC or Mac). The portion of your file system that is mounted (designated as accessible) can be accessed with whatever privileges go with your access to each file (read-only or read-write).

NFS has been extended to the Internet with WebNFS, a product and proposed standard that is now part of Netscape's Communicator browser. WebNFS offers what Sun believes is a faster way to access Web pages and other Internet files.

This was first published in April 2005

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