What is Common Internet File System (CIFS)?

As companies tried to create an Internet System-based file-sharing protocol, the CIFS (Common Internet File System) protocol rose to prominence around the year 2000.

Common Internet File System establishes a standard for employing millions of computers simultaneously to view the distant file. It provides a way for client computers to access files and printing services offered across the network of the server system. That is, without installing any new software, users with various computers and operating systems may exchange data via CIFS.

Operating systems (OSes) such as Windows, Linux, and Unix supported CIFS during its height. By asking a server program, often running on a different computer, to retrieve a file or deliver a message to a client program running on the server machine, CIFS employed the client-server programming model. The requested action is carried out by the server, who then responds.

Since most contemporary data storage systems employ the more reliable Server Message Block (SMB) 2.0 and 3.0 file-sharing protocols, which were significant enhancements to CIFS, CIFS is now regarded as being outdated.

Network-attached storage (NAS) systems mostly employ CIFS/SMB and the Network File System (NFS).

How Does CIFS Operate?

Client-server architecture underlies the CIFS protocol's operation. Following is how the CIFS client-server paradigm operates −

  • The client contacts the server with a request.

  • The request is fulfilled by the server.

  • The server answers the client's request.

Features of the CIFS Protocol

According to Microsoft's documentation, the CIFS protocol has a number of capabilities. These qualities consist of −

  • Transport Intelligence − The CIFS protocol may make use of a connectionless protocol even though it is often employed on top of a connection-oriented protocol.

  • Flexible Connectivity − Regarding client/server communication, the CIFS protocol is incredibly versatile. A single client can establish connections to several servers, and if required, they can even establish multiple connections to the same server.

  • Feature Negotiation − On a connection-by-connection basis, the dialect of the protocol and its available features are agreed upon.

  • Access to Resources − The resources that clients can connect to are not restricted by the CIFS protocol. Shared files, named pipes, print queues, and other resources can all have many CIFS clients connected at once.

  • Security Situation − The usage of a single security context by the client is not constrained by the CIFS protocol. If required, several security contexts can be utilized across a connection. Long file names as well as set and Unicode Legacy 8.3 filenames are supported.

  • File Access − A CIFS client has the capacity to deal with many files at once. Additionally, CIFS does not impose file locks and file sharing is a feature of the server operating system. This implies that a file may be accessed by numerous clients at once.

  • Extended Sub Protocols − Sub-protocols are supported by the CIFS protocol and can be utilized to increase functionality.

  • Named Pipe Interprocess Communication − Named pipes can be utilized by CIFS as a server-to-client communication channel.

  • File and Record Locking and Safe Caching − The CIFS protocol does enable file and record locking, as well as file caching, even though it permits several clients to access a file at once.

  • File, Directory and Volume Attributes − The properties assigned at the file, folder, and volume levels are recognized and respected by the CIFS protocol. Windows Access Control Lists are also compatible with the protocol (ACL).

  • File and Directory Change Notifications − Clients can be informed when a shared resource has changed, thanks to a feature included in the CIFS protocol. This functionality often displays a current view of the shared folder's contents for a Windows client viewing it using File Explorer, for instance.

  • Batched Commands − The CIFS protocol enables the linking and sequential processing of communications.

  • Support for the Distributed File System − The Distributed File System (DFS), which generates a global namespace that can encompass resources on several servers, is supported by the Windows Server operating system. The DFS functionality is completely supported by the CIFS protocol.

  • Remote Procedure Call Transport − RPC protocols like MS-RPCE and MS-RAP are supported by the CIFS protocol.

  • Message Verification − The CIFS protocol and message signing can be used together to ensure that communications haven't been altered while in transit.

  • Unicode File Name Support − The ASCII character is supported by the CIFS protocol.

Uses of CIFS

The current generation SMB protocol, which is used for file sharing on Windows computers, was inspired by the CIFS protocol. For gaining access to files and folders on Windows networks, SMB is frequently utilized.

There are open source variants of the CIFS protocol available, despite the fact that Microsoft is perhaps the company with whom it is most frequently associated. An open source CIFS/SMB protocol for Linux is CIFSD, for instance. An SMB/CIFS client is also included in Samba, the Windows interoperability package for Linux and Unix. Additionally, the CIFS/SMB protocol is occasionally used to link containers to shared resources.