Examples are shared file access (also known as disk sharing and folder sharing), shared printer access (printer sharing), shared scanner access, etc. The shared resource is called a shared disk (also known as mounted disk), shared drive volume, shared folder, shared file, shared document, shared printer or shared scanner.
A few years ago the term file sharing was for shared file access in a local network, but that is today often associated with peer-to-peer file sharing over the Internet. Shared file and printer access is typically based on the client-server paradigm, rather than such models as peer-to-peer communication or onion routing. In client-server communications, a client process on the local user computer takes the initiative to start the communication, while a server process on the file server or print server remote computer passively waits for requests to start a communication session.
A network share can become a security liability when access to the shared files is gained (often by devious means) by those who should not have access to them. Network shares relies on a fixed network access, and would consume extensive communication capacity in non-broadband network access. Because of that, shared printer and file access is normally prohibited in firewalls from computers outside the local area network or enterprise Intranet. However, by means of virtual private networks (VPN), shared resources can securely be made available for certified users outside the local network.
A shared drive or folder is often mapped at the client PC computer, meaning that it is assigned a drive letter on the local PC computer. For example, the drive letter H: is typically used for the user home directory on a central file server.
The most common such file systems and protocols are:
|Primary operating system||Application protocol||Transport protocol|
|Mac OS||Apple Filing Protocol|
|Unix-like systems||Network File System (NFS), SMB|
|MS-DOS, Windows||SMB, also known as CIFS|
| Novell NetWare (server)|
MS-DOS, Windows (client)
The "primary operating system" is the operating system on which the file sharing protocol in question is most commonly used.
On Microsoft Windows, a network share is provided by the Windows network component "File and Printer Sharing for Microsoft Networks", using Microsoft's SMB (Server Message Block) protocol. Other operating systems might also implement that protocol; for example, Samba is an SMB server running on Unix-like operating systems and some other non-MS-DOS/non-Windows operating systems such as OpenVMS. Samba can be used to create network shares which can be accessed, using SMB, from computers running Microsoft Windows.
Shared resource access can also be implemented with Web-based Distributed Authoring and Versioning (WebDAV).
Shared file access is normally considered as a local area network (LAN) service, while FTP is an Internet service.
Shared file access is transparent to the user, as if it was a resource in the local file system, and supports a multi-user environment. This includes Concurrency control or locking of a remote file while a user is editing it, and file system permissions.
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