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A distributed file system (DFS) is a file system with data stored on a server. The data is accessed and processed as if it was stored on the local client machine. The DFS makes it convenient to share information and files among users on a network in a controlled and authorized way. The server allows the client users to share files and store data just like they are storing the information locally. However, the servers have full control over the data and give access control to the clients.
There has been exceptional growth in network-based computing recently and client/server-based applications have brought revolutions in this area. Sharing storage resources and information on the network is one of the key elements in both local area networks (LANs) and wide area networks (WANs). Different technologies have been developed to bring convenience to sharing resources and files on a network; a distributed file system is one of the processes used regularly.
One process involved in implementing the DFS is giving access control and storage management controls to the client system in a centralized way, managed by the servers. Transparency is one of the core processes in DFS, so files are accessed, stored, and managed on the local client machines while the process itself is actually held on the servers. This transparency brings convenience to the end user on a client machine because the network file system efficiently manages all the processes. Generally, a DFS is used in a LAN, but it can be used in a WAN or over the Internet.
A DFS allows efficient and well-managed data and storage sharing options on a network compared to other options. Another option for users in network-based computing is a shared disk file system. A shared disk file system puts the access control on the client’s systems so the data is inaccessible when the client system goes offline. DFS is fault-tolerant and the data is accessible even if some of the network nodes are offline.
A DFS makes it possible to restrict access to the file system depending on access lists or capabilities on both the servers and the clients, depending on how the protocol is designed.