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

NFS vs FTP – What’s the Difference ? (Pros and Cons). Well NFS is needed to help companies share files over the network. That is remote access of data and files from any computer or device connected to the external network that you want to use. But NFS is a protocol that allows computer users to access files on a network, making it a distributed file system.

Well FTP is used to communicate and transfer files between computers using the Transmission Control Protocol also known as the Internet. Users who have been granted access can receive and transfer files to FTP servers also known as sites.

In this blog we will provide the definitions of NFS vs FTP, plus benefits and disadvantages. At the end of the article we will provide a detailed explanation of the key differences between them.

Let’s proceed with NFS vs FTP – What’s the Difference ? (Pros and Cons).

What is a NFS?

Well the NFS is a protocol for file systems and is based on RPC v2 protocol. All native disc formats can be exported.
There is NFSv3 that was published in 1994 and extends to 64 bit files with improved write cache. This is probably the most widely used file sharing protocol on *NIX/Linux LANs today.

Primarily NFS is derived from the distributed file system mechanism. Typically implemented in computing environments that require centralized management of data and resources.

Importantly NFS, which stands for Network File System, is a client server distributed file system developed by Sun Microsystems that has become the default file system implemented by many UNIX platforms. The NFS network file system allows users to store and access information on local and remote computers over a TCP/IP Internet network.

Network file systems are implemented in a client/server computing model, where the NFS server handles client authentication, delegation, and management. As well as all shared data within a given file system. Once authenticated, clients can view and access data on their local system as if they were accessing it from an internal drive.

How does the Network File System work?

To access data stored on another machine, the server deploys an NFS daemon to make the data available to clients. The server administrator decides what to provide and ensures that it can recognize authenticated clients.

On the client side, the device requests access to the exported data, typically by issuing a load command. If successful, the client computer can see and interact with the file system within the specified configuration.

Primarily NFS is a client server protocol. Server for NFS is a host that meets the following requirements:

  • Configured to accept and respond to NFS requests over a network connection.
  • At least one network connection to share NFS resources.
  • Also the NFS server software is installed.

Client for NFS is a host that meets the following requirements:

  • Authorized to access NFS server resources.
  • Has NFS client software installed.
  • Network connectivity to an NFS server.

Benefits of NFS server

  • System admin costs are reduced and it leads to centralization of data.
  • Mounting the file system is transparent to all users.
  • Computers share applications, which eliminates the needs for local disk space and reduces storage costs.
  • Heterogeneous environments support that allows you to run mixed technology from multiple vendors and use interoperable components.
  • All users can read the same files, so data can remain up to date and it’s consistent and reliable.
  • Very good for local or reliable connections.
  • Allows local access to remote files transparently.
  • Central Data Management.
  • Reduces storage costs by having computers share applications instead of requiring local disk space for each user application.

Pros of NFS server

  • Central management.
  • Highly flexible, so allows easier administration/configuration.
  • Stateless server and client.
  • Server can be rebooted and user on client might be unaware of the reboot.
  • Client server distinction occurs at the application user level not the system level.
  • Transparent mounting process.
  • Less requirement for removable media storage for security purposes.
  • Consistent and reliable file sharing protocol.

Cons of NFS server

  • The file locking and caching system for configuration and installation of shared file access can be a difficult task.
  • The NFS does not provide requirement sessions.
  • Uses RPC authentication.
  • Filesystem data is transmitted in cleartext.

Next in this comparison article NFS vs FTP – What’s the Difference ? is to introduce FTP server. 

What is a FTP server?

Primarily FTP is a mature protocol that allows data files to be exchanged between computers over a TCP/IP network. The protocol defines a standard set of rules and regulations for the interaction of network devices in a network environment. Additionally FTP uses server port 21 to communicate with users.

Additionally FTP is a client/server system. The user connects to a server application on a remote host using an FTP enabled client. The user issues a command to the client and the remote host server executes the command after receiving the command and returns the execution result to the client. In simple terms, the user sends a command to the server and asks it to send a file to the user. The server responds and sends the file to the client. The user receives the file and places it in the user’s working folder. This operation is performed by the FTP server.

How does FTP server work?

Firstly FTP servers go further by making it easy to transfer files over the Internet. The diagram above shows how an FTP server acts as an middle man between devices. Through two machines called FTP clients connected to the Internet and a specific FTP server that allows data to be uploaded and downloaded between the two ends.

So FTP is a client server protocol and there is two communication channels between the client and the server:

  • Control Connection – FTP clients, such as FileZilla or FileZilla Pro. Usually it sends connection requests to port 21 on the server. This is the control connection. Used to send and receive commands and responses. Typically, users must log into an FTP server to establish a connection, but some servers serve everything offline. These FTP servers are called anonymous.
  • Data Connection – To transfer files and folders, we use a separate connection called a data connection.

How can we make connections?

  • Active mode – users connect from a random port on the FTP client to port 21 on the server. Send the PORT command, telling the server which port to connect the client to the server connects from port 20 to the port specified by the client. Once the connection is established, data transfer occurs through these client and server ports.
  • Passive mode – should be used in situations where the client cannot accept connections, such as blocking a firewall. This is the most common situation because the client is currently behind a firewall, such as Windows Firewall. In this mode, users connect from a random port on the FTP client to port 21 on the server. Send a PASV command to tell the client which port the server should connect to in order to establish a connection. Once connected, data will be transmitted over these client and server ports.

Benefits of FTP server

  • Ease of sharing large files.
  • Added Security benefit.
  • Better control.
  • Backup and Recovery.
  • Improved workflow.
  • Files are scheduled by directory transfer, meaning they work automatically according to the user’s instructions.
  • If a connection is lost while transferring a file, the file will continue to transfer once the connection is restored.
  • The speed of files transmission from one end to another is the major and biggest advantage of FTP.

Pros of FTP server

  • Many clients have scripting capabilities through a command line.
  • Includes automatic back up facility.
  • Most clients have a synchronizing utility.
  • No size limitation on single transfers.
  • The ability to resume a transfer if the connection is totally lost.
  • Additionally FTP is used to allows you to transfer multiple files as well as directories.

Cons of FTP server

  • Easy for an inexperienced user to wipe out work.
  • Hard to script jobs.
  • Can be vulnerable to attack.
  • It’s difficult to monitor activity.
  • Servers can be spoofed to send data to a random port on an unintended computer side.
  • Usernames, password, and files are sent in clear text.

NFS vs FTP server (Comparison)

The difference between FTP and NFS is in the processing and modification of data. Here the FTP must first modify the data file. If an application running on computer A wants to add information to a large file on computer B in a remote location, get a copy of the file. Then move that file from computer B to computer A, add the information to it, and transfer it back to computer B. Transferring such a large file back and forth takes time and this transfer is unnecessary. So here the NFS allows users to copy only a small portion of a large file and transfer only a small amount of variable data over the network.

Abbreviation NFS

  • Stands for network file system. It is not used to transfer stuff.

Abbreviation FTP

  • Stands for file transfer protocol. It’s primary purpose is to allot users to copy whole file from one computer to another.

Network Condition NFS

  • Works best on fast, stable, low loss LANs. It does not handle packet loss well because it defaults to large and fragmented packets and tends to time out due to large delays.

Network Condition FTP

  • Uses the TCP protocol and works well under various network conditions, handling lossy and delayed networks safely.

Use cases NFS

  • Can be very fast, but only if both machines can use NFS. But it will also work if you have static routes and loop around with traffic. However, NFS suffers from slow network connections for several reasons.
  • Used to share files over the network (within Linux os).
  • In NFS applications, the local NFS client application can transparently read and write files on the remote NFS server, just like accessing local files.
  • Really NFS is a network file system. It puts the embedded root file system on a certain medium on the network through NFS.  And NFS transfers commands through udp in the Ethernet.

Use cases FTP

  • Firstly FTP is good for far away connections. 
  • Ideal for large file uploads and transfers that you cannot sent via email.  
  • Security of IT department to securely  store files on an FTP server.
  • Uses to share file over the network which means you can access it with both Windows cmd prompt and in Linux.
  • Shields the details of various computer systems, so it is suitable for transferring files between arbitrary computers in a heterogeneous network.

NFS Ports and Protocol Type

  • Uses Port no. 2049 and is automatic protocol. 

FTP Ports

  • Its port number. is 20 and 21 is manual protocol. 

Thank you for reading NFS vs FTP – What’s the Difference ? (Pros and Cons).

NFS vs FTP – What’s the Difference ? Conclusion

To summarize FTP stands for File transfer protocol and NFS for Network File System. It is a fixed set of rules that computers use to communicate on a network. In fact, the FTP protocol, which works in a client server model, is used to quickly download files from the Internet or a local network. Moreover, NFS is another file transfer system that works on all IP networks and allows authenticated file transfer between servers and other devices. However, if we have to choose which one will be safer to use it will be FTP. If you want to send files or data to more people in your network, then Network File System NFS is the right option. Therefore take a look at the above mentioned information and choose the most wise solution for you.

Thanks a lot! I hope I helped. Please take a look at our FTP content here as well as NFS information here

Avatar for Kamil Wisniowski
Kamil Wisniowski

I love technology. I have been working with Cloud and Security technology for 5 years. I love writing about new IT tools.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x