Network Operating System

Unlike operating systems, such as Windows, that are designed for single users to control one computer, network operating systems (NOS) coordinate the activities of multiple computers across a network. The network operating system acts as a director to keep the network running smoothly.

Network Operating System is the software that allows multiple computers to communicate, share files and hardware devices with one another. Some popular network operating systems are Novell Netware, Windows NT/2000, Linux, Sun Solaris, UNIX, and IBM OS/2.

Did you Know? The first network operating system was Novell NetWare, released in 1983. After Netware, other network operating systems were released, including Banyan VINES and Microsoft Windows NT. Some examples of other network operating systems include Windows 2000, Microsoft Windows XP, Sun Solaris, and Linux.

A common example of network operating system is a collection of personal computers along with a common printer, server and file server for archival storage, all tied together by a local network.

Local Area Network

Features of Network Operating System

  • It allows multiple computers to connect so that they can share data, files and hardware devices.
  • Provide basic operating system features such as support for processors, protocols, automatic hardware detection and support multi-processing of applications.
  • Provide security features such as authentication, login restrictions, and access control.
  • Provide name and directory services.
  • Provide file, print, web services and back-up services.
  • Support Internetworking such as routing and WAN ports.
  • User management and support for logon and logoff, remote access; system management, administration, and auditing tools with graphical interfaces.
  • It has clustering capabilities.
  • It also provides basic network administration utilities like access to the user.
  • It also provides priority to the printing jobs which are in the queue in the network.
  • It detects the new hardware whenever it is added to the system.

Types of Network Operating Systems

There are two basic types of network operating systems, the peer-to-peer NOS and the client/server NOS:

  1. Peer-to-peer network operating systems allow users to share network resources saved in a common, accessible network location. In this architecture, all devices are treated equally in terms of functionality. Peer-to-peer usually works best for small to medium LANs and is cheaper to set up.
  2. Client/server network operating systems provide users with access to resources through a server. In this architecture, all functions and applications are unified under one file server that can be used to execute individual client actions regardless of physical location. The client/server tends to be most expensive to implement and requires a large amount of technical maintenance. An advantage to the client/server model is that the network is controlled centrally, makes changes or additions to technology easier to incorporate.

Network Operating System Diagram


Characteristics of Network Operating System

The first characteristic of network operating systems is the support component: Network operating systems provide support for the multiple processors, applications, and hardware devices that make up a network. The systems support the users accessing the network as well as process requests for specific documents and usage of hardware. NOSs also provide protocol requests from users, including Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) and other protocols.

The second characteristic of network operating systems is the security component: NOSs manage the authorization and authentication of users, computer workstations, and other devices accessing a network. If an intruder tries to access a network, the NOS blocks the unauthorized user/computer and logs the intrusion attempt within its log files. The NOS also manages software and hardware installations to keep users from installing unauthorized software and devices.

The third characteristic of network operating systems is the user setup component: Network operating systems create user accounts and manage the users logging into and out of the network. The systems also manage what file and directory services a specific user has access to, users accessing the network remotely, and how the network graphical interface looks to specific users.

The fourth characteristic of network operating systems is the printing and file services component: Like other operating systems, network operating systems manage all printing, storage, backup, and duplication services for computers and users accessing a network. The systems also control access to the Internet, local-area (LAN) and wide-area networks (WAN), port routing, and internal web services known as Intranet. NOS filters documents and files through the printing/file services immediately. More than one user can send documents and files through the network for printing, backing up, or other types of processing.

The Fifth and final characteristic of network operating systems is the email component: A NOS manages electronic mail, also known as email, for the entire network, including users accessing the NOS remotely and from the Internet. The NOS blocks SPAM and other problematic emails and sends/receives the email, as well as lets users, create additional email accounts.

Advantages of Network Operating System:

  • Highly stable centralized servers
  • Security concerns are handled through servers
  • New technologies and hardware up-gradation are easily integrated into the system
  • Server access is possible remotely from different locations and types of systems

Disadvantages of Network Operating System:

  • Servers are costly
  • User has to depend on a central location for most operations
  • Maintenance and updates are required regularly

Network Operating System Software

The following links include some of the more popular peer-to-peer and client/server network operating systems.

  1. Macintosh OS X
  2. Microsoft Windows Server
  3. UNIX
  4. Linux

In this Network Operating System Tutorial, we covered network operating system, operation of network operating system, Diagram of NOS, Features of NOS, Components of NOS,  Advantages, and Disadvantages of NOS.