NFS vs CIFS – What’s the Difference (Pros and Cons)

NFS vs CIFs, What’s the difference ?. Are you confused over the best network file systems and file sharing protocols? To help take the right decision, we have penned down and compared two major protocols trusted by many users, Common Internet File System protocol (CIFS) and Network File System (NFS). Common Internet File System protocol (CIFS) allows accessing the files over the network, whereas Network File System (NFS) allows remote file sharing between servers. These are the two most convenient tools used in computers, and each has its pros and cons. In this post, we will compare CIFS and NFS on various parameters, including scalability, security, implementation, speed, transportation, port, sessions, utility, and communication features. Follow the below listed points to choose the affordable and best file sharing system out of the two trusted protocols to take a final decision.

What is CIFS?

nfs vs cifs

In the 1990s, Microsoft updated the Server Message Block (SMB) protocol and named it as Common Internet File System (CIFS). The CIFS application uses the TCP/IP protocol and works best on Windows operating systems to share files between machines on a network. Initially, incorporated for file sharing, but now CIFS is exercised for network management and other network services. In this protocol, users or administrators can edit, read, write, or delete files on the remote server. The best part about CIFS is it follows client server methodology as per which you can communicate with any server set to get CIFS client requests.

It is one of the vital protocols used in network attached storage (NAS) systems, embedded and appliance systems. It is chattier than NFS, supports more features, like allows printing queues, communication between servers, a secure file sharing feature, and has network latency issues. Also, chances of data loss are low as the client can create one or more secure contexts over the network. It is one of the most reliable transport independent protocols that allows clients to cache data for better performance. Client, Server, and Application are the three entities that define Common Internet File System (CIFS).

CIFS Pros

  • It allows a secured file transfer within the network
  • No requirement for an additional external transport protocol for transferring SMB messages from clients to the server
  • It is easy to edit, read, write, and remove files or print queues
  • It supports record tracking
  • It allows easy access to the files over the network
  • It updates the client or user via notifications when file contents are modified over a network
  • It supports a safe file cache, non file system attributes, LDAP services, record locking

CIFS Cons

  • It supports the N number of commands and subcommands for file sharing but faces maintenance issues with these commands
  • It has a less data storage size on comparing with SMB
  • It has a complicated configuration process
  • The client or user may find it difficult to diagnose and find faults in CIFS
  • It is less scalable than NFS
  • The communication speed in Common Internet File System (CIFS) is moderate

What is NFS?

what is nfs

Sun Microsystems introduced Network File System (NFS) in the 1980s for file sharing and remote communication amid servers and end user machines and devices. The easy to use file system allows users to edit, view, read and write files remotely on a system. Also, the user or administrator has access to organize and mount the file system through NFS. NFS is affordable and provides better locking and caching performance. You require no additional software and disk space on user systems in the case of NFS. This protocol has multiple versions and is best suitable for Unix and Linux based operating systems. The biggest disadvantage to NFS is it is vulnerable to internet threats. Also, it supports Remote Procedure Calls (RPCs), which are less secure.

It is a distributed file system protocol that stores data on its disks and provides centralized administration. The NFS server implements NFS daemon processes to access data on other devices. NFS version 2 (NFSv2), NFS version 3 (NFSv3), FS version 4 (NFSv4) are a few versions of Network File System (NFS).

NFS Pros

  • It is an affordable solution for network file sharing
  • It uses existing Internet Protocol infrastructure and is easy to install
  • It has a Centralized File Sharing System that reduces the system admin overhead
  • You require no additional disk space or software in NFS
  • It provides easy access to remote files
  • It supports NFS mapped files and the cache file system
  • It supports a file locking system
  • It has a transparent mounting process
  • Less requirement for removable media storage for security purposes
  • It is a consistent and reliable file sharing protocol

NFS Cons

  • Network File System supports the inherently insecure Remote Procedure Calls (RPC) communication which must be allowed only on a trusted network behind a firewall
  • NFS versions, NFSv4 and NFSv4.1, have limited maximal bandwidth. As a result, on noticing heavy traffic loads, NFS may go slow
  • The file locking and caching system for configuration and installation of shared file access can be a daunting task
  • NFS does not provide Requirement sessions
  • It includes no special security features in NFS
  • It has a limited block size needed when transferring a read or write request
  • In some cases, users find it difficult to access files at the same time

NFS vs CIFS - What's the Difference (Comparison)

Abbreviation

  • CFS stands for Common Internet File System
  • NFS stands for Network File System

Definition

  • Common Internet File System is a protocol used on Windows Operating System to share files between machines on a network
  • Network File System is a protocol used on UNIX or LINUX operating systems to share files remotely between servers

NFS and CIFS Ports and Protocols

CIFS Ports

CIFS uses the following ports:

 

  • For TCP – 139 and 445 port
  • For UDP – 138 and 137 port

NFS Ports

NFS uses the same port for both TCP and UDP in each case:

 

  • For Server – 111 port
  • For operations – 2049 port
  • For checking client status – 1110 port
  • To access NFS lock manager – 4045 port

Communication Features

CISF – The communication in CIFS is quite a mess. It has messy communication but less on comparing with CIFS. CIFS is best for windows operating systems.
NFS – It is the preferred option for UNIX and LINUX operators.

Security

CIFS supports advanced security features and is highly reliable on comparing with NFS.
There are no special security features for NFS and is not a reliable protocol on comparing with CIFS.

Speed

CISF – Moderate communication speed
NFS – High communication speed.

LDAP services

CIFS allows the use of LDAP services for storing and accessing the database.
NFS allows the use of LDAP services to view the information.

NFS vs CIFS - Conclusion

CIFS stands for Common Internet File System and NFS for Network File System. There are many features that make CIFS different from other file transfer protocols, including the in built remote procedure called ‘subprotocols’ helps easy transferring of files to the printing queue. However, NFS is another file transfer system that operates on all IP based networks and allows authenticated file transfer between servers and other devices. When it comes to which protocol is more chattier, NFS is better than CIFS. However, when you need to choose which protocol is more secure then CIFS is the preferred option. It is a high performing file transfer protocol. If you want to send files or data to more people in your network, then Network File System (NFS) is the right option. At the end, both protocols have their pros and cons. Thus, it is best to go through the above listed pointers to make a final call and choose a protocol as per your requirement.

Avatar for Hitesh Jethva
Hitesh Jethva

I am a fan of open source technology and have more than 10 years of experience working with Linux and Open Source technologies. I am one of the Linux technical writers for Cloud Infrastructure Services.

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