In our school division, we have a OS X Server sharing files to up to 120 Mac clients [for things like home folders and group sharepoints]. The AFP protocol is the easiest to set up and use, but that doesn't mean it is the best.

What are the pros and cons of the different protocols (especially as they relate to the Mac)?

Built in, and easily administered, are:

It is conceivable that one could install MacFuse and use ssh, ftp, or other protocols. I've also seen some cluster protocols mentioned, but don't know that they'd be appropriate when the use case is many users accessing different files instead of many machines accessing the same files.

The most useful related question I saw is:What network file sharing protocol has the best performance and reliability? The accepted answer is NFSv4. As there is a project to run NFSv4 on Leopard, I assume that it is running NFSv3.

Lastly, what have been your experience with using the different protocols? The AFP bug helped cause us grief last year.

4 Answers 4


One reported issue we have seen in production is that OS X servers, over AFP, seem to have an issue around 300 or so connections, and getting above that on a single server is really problematic. The client (who I have not checked back with lately so this may have changed) worked with Apple on it as well, with little luck.

  • NFS is for speed, but Mac NFS is not a clean implementation in my book. Coming from Linux/BSD/Solaris it will be a change of pace and configuration. This is the mixture of that FreeBSD userland and Apple GUI colliding.
  • SMB is good for multi-platform sharing and quicker than AFP. My opinion is SMB is the easiest solution if you need speed, but with the standard GUI of Mac
  • AFP is a necessary if you are doing Time Machine over a network drive: Time Machine on AFP NAS
  • I love FUSE, but would NEVER run it for production class services. The only place I have seen it deployed for production is in VMware Fusion for image mounting.

If it were me, SMB/CIFS all the way for the sanity of the admin.

  • Wow. That is contrary to my expections! AFP would seem to be the way to go, as it is Apple's sytem. NFS would seem to be good as OS X is unix. My initial thought was that SMB would work, but you'd only want it for compatibility with Windows systems. Aug 12, 2009 at 20:17

It depends...again...

SMB is a defacto protocol because it is Windows' sharing. Windows computer prefer it, everything has the ability to use it, it does support some permission limiting and such. It's kind of one of those things that is expected to be available on networks and you probably will have Windows users with notebooks coming in with trainers, visitors, etc., so SMB is a decent protocol to use to save on some headaches down the road.

We're an Active Directory house so we need to have support for SMB/CIFS in order to work. But we use it with Macs, Windows (of course), and I use it with my Linux workstation and Linux liveCD's for saving data to our NAS.


I manage linux servers and mostly Mac clients and a few windows machines. At first, I thought using mostly NFS for Linux and Mac, with SMB/CIFS for windows where necessary.

unfortunately, the Mac default privileges and user registration is too different from usual Unix, which means NFS shares have a lot of problems (the most common is that it's hard for users to create folders readable for other users).

Also, when the performance isn't what it should be, it's really hard to dig the server statistics necessary to find the bottlenecks. With Samba, OTOH, top shows most of what I need to know. That's because of the non-connection nature of NFS. (I don't know if it's really better in NFSv4)

In the end, I switched all the macs to CIFS mounts, and it's easier to manage this way. Fortunately, the CIFS Unix extensions mean that they're not 'emulating' attributes from Unix to windows-like and back to Unix, like it was with old SMB-for-mac extensions.

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