A network file system (NFS) is a client/server application that allows users to access shared files stored on computers within the same network. NFS was originally developed by Sun Microsystems in 1984 as an internal file sharing system. Although the first version was never made publicly available, subsequent public releases have been widely used. NFS standards are currently managed by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).
In general, NFS is favored as a low-cost alternative that uses infrastructure resources already available. It allows for centralized management, so any authorized user can access remote files as if they were stored locally on the user’s own hard disk. One downside, however, is that it’s based on Remote Procedure Calls (RPCs), which have inherent security risks.
Versions of NFS
Since the original version was launched in 1984, there have been numerous versions of NFS that have been adopted by all types of enterprises:
- NFSv2: The first public version of NFS released in 1989. It used User Datagram Protocol (UDP) exclusively and had limited data access and transfer capabilities. This version has since become obsolete.
- NFSv3: Released in 1995, expanded the file offsets of version 2 to allow a larger amount of data to be processed at a faster rate. It also added Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) as a transport option. Despite later updates, NSFv3 is the most widely used version of NFS today.
- NSFv4: Released in 2003 as a stateful (as opposed to stateless) file system for better performance and security. It was the first version developed by IETF, with versions 4.1 and 4.2 published with a few added features and relatively minor updates.