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Network File System

Knowledge: ⭐ ⭐ Complexity: ⭐ ⭐

Reading time: 15 minutes

Network File System (NFS) is a network-mounted file-sharing system.


NFS is a client/server protocol: the server provides file system resources for all or part of the network (clients).

The communication between clients and server takes place by way of Remote Procedure Call (RPC) services.

Remote files are mounted in a directory and appear as a local file system. Client users seamlessly access files shared by the server, browsing directories as if they were local.


NFS requires two services to function:

  • The network service (of course)
  • The rpcbind service

View the status of the services with the command:

systemctl status rpcbind

If the nfs-utils package is not installed:

sudo dnf install nfs-utils

The nfs-utils package requires the installation of several dependencies, including rpcbind.

Start the NFS service with:

sudo systemctl enable --now nfs-server rpcbind

Installing the NFS service creates two users:

  • nobody: used for anonymous connections
  • rpcuser: for RPC protocol operation

Configuring the firewall is necessary:

sudo firewall-cmd --add-service={nfs,nfs3,mountd,rpc-bind} --permanent 
sudo firewall-cmd --reload

Server configuration


Directory rights and NFS rights must be consistent.

The /etc/exports file

Set up resource shares with the /etc/exports file. Each line in this file corresponds to an NFS share.

/share_name client1(permissions) client2(permissions)
  • /share_name: Absolute path of shared directory
  • clients: Clients authorized to access resources
  • (permissions): Permissions on resources

Declare machines authorized to access resources with:

  • IP address:
  • Network address: or CIDR format
  • FQDN: client_* allows FQDNs starting with client_ from the domain
  • * for everybody

Multiple client specifications are possible on the same line, separated by a space.

Permissions on resources

There are two types of permissions:

  • ro: read-only
  • rw: read-write

If no right is specified, then the right applied will be read-only.

By default, the NFS server preserves the client user UIDs and GIDs (except for root).

To force the use of a UID or GID other than that of the user writing the resource, specify the anonuid=UID and anongid=GID options, or give anonymous access to the data with the all_squash option.


A parameter, no_root_squash, identifies the client root user as the server root user. This parameter can be dangerous from a system security point of view.

Activation of the root_squash parameter is a default (even if not specified), identifying root as an anonymous user.

Case studies

  • /share client(ro,all_squash) Client users have read-only access to resources and are identified as anonymous on the server.

  • /share client(rw) Client users can modify resources and keep their UID on the server. Only root is identified as anonymous.

  • /share client1(rw) client2(ro) Users on client workstation 1 can modify resources, while those on client workstation 2 have read-only access. UIDs are kept on the server, and only root is identified as anonymous.

  • /share client(rw,all_squash,anonuid=1001,anongid=100) Client1 users can modify resources. Their UID is changed to 1001 and their GID to 100 on the server.

The exportfs command

The exportfs (exported file systems) command is used to manage the table of local files shared with NFS clients.

exportfs [-a] [-r] [-u share_name] [-v]
Options Description
-a Enables NFS shares
-r Applies shares from the /etc/exports file
-u share_name Disables a given share
-v Displays the list of shares

The showmount command

The showmount command monitors clients.

showmount [-a] [-e] [host]
Options Description
-e Displays shares on the designated server
-a Displays all current shares on the server

This command also determines whether the client workstation has authorization to mount shared resources.


showmount sorts and hides duplicates in the results, so it's impossible to determine whether a client has made multiple mounts of the same directory or not.

Client configuration

Shared resources on an NFS server are accessible through a mount point on the client.

If required, create a local folder for mounting:

sudo mkdir /mnt/nfs

List available NFS shares on the server:

$ showmount –e
/share *

Mount the server's NFS share:

mount –t nfs /mnt/nfs

Automation of the mount can happen at system startup with the /etc/fstab file:

$ sudo vim /etc/fstab /mnt/nfs nfs defaults 0 0

Author: Antoine Le Morvan

Contributors: Steven Spencer, Serge, Ganna Zhyrnova