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Various File Access Methods in Network

The following methods and protocols are well-suited to file transfer and sharing.


Use FTP (File Transfer Protocol) if you need to exchange files very often and with different users. Set up an FTP server on one system and access it with clients. There are many graphical client applications available for FTP on Windows*, MacOS, and Linux. Depending on how your FTP server is used, enable read and write permissions.


NFS (Network File System) is a client/server system. A server exports one or more directories that can be imported by a client. Use NFS if you share files very often and for different users. Generally, this protocol is more common in the Linux world than in the Windows world. An NFS export integrates well into your Linux system and you can browse the imported directory structure like any other folder on your local machine. Depending on how you configure it, enable write and read permissions or both on the server. In general, for a home user it makes sense to allow read and write access.


Use rsync to transfer regularly large volumes of data that does not change considerably. It is available on Linux and Windows. A typical use case for rsync is managing data backups. Refer to the manual page of the rsync command.


Unison is an alternative to rsync. It is used to regularly synchronize files between different computers but has the advantage to behave bidirectionally. Refer to the manual page of the Unison command. Unison is available on Linux and Windows.


Samba is a client/server system and an implementation of the SMB protocol. It is usually used in Windows networks, but is supported by several operating systems.

Use Samba if you need to share files very often and with different users, especially to Windows systems. Samba as a Linux-only solution is uncommon, use NFS instead.


SSH (Secure Shell) enables a secure connection between computer. The SSH suite consists of several commands and uses public key encryption to authenticate users.

Use SSH if you copy files occasionally over an untrusted network and if you are the only user doing so. Although there are graphical user interfaces available, SSH is mainly considered a command line utility and is available on Linux and Windows.


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