Your Internet Consultant - The FAQs of Life Online

6.27. What is AFS?

AFS is another way to move files around the Internet. It is a distributed file system that allows hosts to share files across local area networks--and bigger networks, such as the Internet. AFS, also known as "Andrew File System," was originally developed at the Information Technology Center at Carnegie-Mellon University.

The nifty thing about AFS is that, from the user's point of view, there is no difference between perusing directories and downloading files on your local computer's hard disk drives and those linked by AFS. All the commands that you normally use to access local files, move around directories, and so on, can be used to access files in AFS. You don't need to run a special program (as with FTP); you just go to a special directory (usually called /afs) and use the commands with which you are already familiar.

So instead of FTPing to, you could just type cd /afs/

Unfortunately, not many Internet sites offer AFS access. In order to use AFS, both your local host and the remote site from which you wish to grab files must be part of the AFS network. From what I understand, AFS is a pain to configure, and it runs only on UNIX systems (such as HP, NeXT, DEC, IBM, and Suns.) For these reasons, AFS isn't very common despite its niftiness.

Note: AFS is a commercial product that is supplied and maintained by Transarc Corporation. The company can be reached via e-mail at, by phone at (412) 338-4400, and by fax at (412) 338-4404.

For more information about AFS, read the Usenet newsgroup alt.filesystems.afs. There is an anonymous FTP site with information about AFS: The /pub directory contains newsletters, release notes, and technical information about AFS.

Also, check out the AFS FAQ.

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