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

NFS vs SMB, What’s the difference?, lets start from the beginning.  The ability to cooperate, communicate, and share files effectively is what makes an organization’s management effective. When sharing files over a network, you have two main protocols to select from NFS and SMB. Earlier, file sharing and collaborating with the shared files were often monotonous, time consuming, and expensive. However, today, with technologies like NFS and SMB, file sharing and collaborating with other users and servers have become easy.

Nowadays, no one likes to spend effort and time on work that requires physical documents. SMB vs NFS have completely changed how organizations work on large files across servers in the workplace.

Let us know more about how NFS and SMB function and how different they are from one another.

What is NFS?

NFS vs SMB

Network File System or NFS, as it is better known as is a file system distribution protocol that enables a user on a client computer to connect to a network and access files. It is similar to how you access files through local storage. Since Network File System is an open standard, anyone can execute the protocol. All people within a network have access to the same files, making the file sharing process easier.

A Network File System is a prerequisite for helping your business share files over a network. The NFS protocol was first introduced by Sun Microsystems in 1984 and had since been evolving. You can make adjustments to NFS as necessary.

A basic system is used in NFS, where a _mount command will instruct the server to link with several clients. The clients will get access to the files on the server through the proper platform. The design can allow several security protocols to run in a place that will dictate who will access certain files, producing a safe and simplified approach to work.

The Network File System also has a file locking system that allows many clients to share the same file. The NFS can manage multiple computer threads and applications for operation. It uses multiple hosts that can access the same files. NFS does not require any application for its operation and provides a simple design for handling the content one will read.

From a technological point of view, You can use NFS to share information over the public internet or non local domains, but it is used only on local networks. Sharing files over the public internet is not viable because NFS is not adept at handling complex network address translation and routing configurations.

NFS runs on every operating system, including Windows. It has, however, been very popular on Unix and similar operating systems, including Linux. One of the substantial reasons for this popularity is that NFS has been developed by Sun Microsystems, a major vendor of Unix.

What is SMB?

what is smb

Server Message Block or SMB as we know is a file sharing protocol and other resources like printers over a local area network. SMB is also known as CIFS or Common Internet File System. From a technical perspective, CIFS is an SMB implementation and is very different. But in reality, the terms are used correspondingly to refer to Server Message Block protocol or applications that use it.

Just like NFS, SMB uses a server client architecture. The files that are to be shared over the network are configured on a computer, and then the client computers access those SMB shared files by entering the IP address of the host computer or the hostname.

However, SMB does not treat directories that are network mounted as local directories. Under SMB, there is a big difference between network files and local files.

IBM first launched SMB, however, Microsoft has been using SMB as its default file sharing protocol in Windows. Microsoft has improved SMB substantially since the time it was first initiated in the Windows environment.

SMB support is also available on Linux, Unix, and similar systems via Samba, an open source SMB protocol deployment system. Linux computers can share and host files (including printers) over a local network with Samba, using the SMB protocol.

NFS vs SMB Comparison Key Differences

A very significant difference between both protocols lies in the way they authenticate. NFS uses the host based verification system, where every user on a verified machine can access specific shared files. The fourth generation NFS (NFSv4) makes using a Kerberos server that enhances the authentication system.

With SMB, authentication is strictly user based.

NFS vs SMB

Write operations

Files: 7000 files of 10 KB each
NFS write time: 37 seconds
SMB write time: 101 seconds

Files: 245 files of 1 MB each
NFS write time: 23 seconds
SMB write time: 27 seconds

Files: 1 file of 500 MB
NFS write time: 45 seconds
SMB write time: 45 seconds

Files: 1 file of 3.5 GB
NFS write time: 323 seconds
SMB write time: 324 seconds

Read operations

Files: 7000 files of 10 KB each
NFS read time: 26 seconds
SMB read time: 58 seconds

Files: 245 files of 1 MB each
NFS read time: 24 seconds
SMB read time: 28 seconds

Files: 1 file of 500 MB
NFS read time: 45 seconds
SMB read time: 48 seconds

Files: 1 file of 3.5 GB
NFS read time: 330 seconds
SMB read time: 347 seconds

Observation

NFS is unbeatable when it comes to medium sized or small files. For larger files, the performance of both protocols is similar.

Performance of NFS and SMB in the case of sequential reading is similar when using plain texts. But with encryption, NFS is slightly ahead of SMB.

In random read, NFS and SMB fare equally with plain text. However, NFS is better with encryption.

In the case of random writing, NFS is better than SMB in both plain text and encryption.

If you use rsync for file transfer, NFS is a better choice in plain text and encryption.

Difference between NFS and SMB

  • NFS is more appropriate for Linux users, while SMB is more appropriate for Windows users
  • NFS is case sensitive, while SMB is not case sensitive. This creates a big difference when it comes to a particular search
  • NFS is faster in comparison to SMB when you are reading or writing several medium or small files. NFS is also fast while browsing
  • NFS uses a host based verification system, while SMB uses a user based verification system
  • NFS is suitable for Linux, where the operation is very straightforward. It is very quick and simple to set up. But it has problems with authentication since it uses a client IP address, and it becomes difficult to separate multiple users from a single machine. SMB, on the other hand, is more monotonous but allows user based verification, multiple access at the same time, and printer sharing
  • NFS without encryption on Linux is the best choice for maximum performance in trusted home based networks. SMB is the protocol of choice for Windows servers

Pros And Cons of NFS

NFS is a proven protocol for remote file sharing. Mentioned below are some of the pros and cons of NFS.

Pros of NFS

  • The cost of network file sharing is low
  • With the help of existing IP infrastructure, you can easily set up NFS
  • The shared files can be centrally managed
  • Since there is a lesser need for storing software or files locally, there is a very small requirement for disk space for individual users
  • There is no dispute about the way you access remote files. It is similar to how you access local files
  • NFS reduces the requirement for removable media storage like USB disks or DVDs and increases security

Cons of NFS

  •  NFS is based on RPC, which is not very secure. RPC communications without a firewall are risky. It should only be allowed on trusted network
  • NFS can slow down the procedure in the event of high traffic loads. Both NFSv4 and NFSv4.1 have their limitations. The maximal bandwidth has, however, increased with version NFSv4.2

Pros And Cons of SMB

SMB is a popular user based authentication protocol. Mentioned below are some of the pros and cons of SMB.

Pros of SMB

  • SMB is easier to set up on both Linux and Windows machine
  • SMB supports Apple extended documents without using any additional files
  • SMB allows user based verification that helps with multiple access and printer sharing
  • The protocol supports ACL file sharing or transfer between networks
  • Reading transactions are faster in SMB when compared with NFS. The reading rate is 4 MB
  • Additional software is not a requirement while mounting SMB for network sharing

Cons of SMB

  • You cannot rename a file in SMB irrespective of the files are open or closed
  • SMB is more price and administration sensitive. It is not budget friendly
  • Since Samba is an open source project, SMB doesn’t always provide perfect compatibility with Microsoft’s implementation.

NFS vs SMB - Conclusion

NFS and SMB are both tried and tested protocols for data sharing over a network. While NFS is better suited for Linux based environments and SMB on Windows, both protocols can function on any established operating system. However, it is always advisable to consider the potential compatibility and configuration challenges associated with NFS and SMB and evaluate which file sharing platform is a better choice.

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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