What is NFS File Share?

May 23, 2019

What is NFS File Share?

BY Tobias Geisler Mesevage

Let's Get Technical

NFS, or Network File System, is a collaboration system developed by Sun Microsystems in the early 80s that allows users to view, store, update or share files on a remote computer as though it was a local computer.

The first version of NFS was used as an internal process for employees of Sun, and it wasn’t until version two was released that the public could start to benefit from its features. When NFS version two was released to the public, it was used extensively for file sharing, particularly with UNIX operating systems.

Each iteration of NFS has brought increased capabilities to the system, including increased file size limits and improved security measures, like the addition of Kerberos as a network authentication protocol.

Benefits of NFS File Share

Apart from allowing local access to remote files, NFS is most notable for its host authentication, it’s simple to do and makes it possible to connect to another service using an IP address only.

Additional benefits of NFS file share include:

  • NFS provides a central management
  • NFS allows for a user to log into any server and have access to their files transparently
  • It’s been around for a long time, so it comes with familiarity in terms of applications
  • No manual refresh needed for new files
  • Can be secured with firewalls and Kerberos

NAS Overview: Other Files Sharing Options

NFS protocol is one of several distributed file system standards for network-attached storage (NAS). Another popular option is server message block (SMB), sometimes referred to as common internet file system (CIFS).

Server Message Block (SMB)

Similar to NFS, using the SMB protocol allows a user to access files or other resources at a remote server. While there are many similarities between SMB and NFS — like the opportunity for shared access to files, printers, and serial ports between nodes on a network — there are some notable differences, too.

Specifically, one of the drawbacks of SMB is the fact that Windows requires user authentication in order to connect to an SMB, and generally, the user needs to be logged in. Workarounds for this can be a tedious process.

Common Internet File System (CIFS)

Though CIFS and SMB are often used interchangeably, CIFS is actually a dialect of SMB. After an unsuccessful solo launch, and a name that couldn’t catch fire, CIFS is now considered a thing of the past, and the term SMB should be the preferred acronym moving forward.

SMB and NFS can be used in conjunction with one another. However, if you are connecting two UNIX computers, it’s best to use a native protocol, which is NFS. Likewise, if you’re connecting two Windows computers SMB would be the preferred NAS.

The Basics of Getting NFS Running on Your Network

  1. Simply enter the following command in your terminal window: sudo apt install nfs-kernel-server to install
  2. You can configure NFS by manually editing the configuration file /etc/exports or via the command line, using exportfs
  3. To start the NFS server, run the following command: sudo systemctl start nfs-kernel-server.service
  4. For NFS client configuration, mount a shared NFS directory from another machine, by typing a variation of the following command in your terminal window: sudo mount example.hostname.com:/ubuntu /local/ubuntu