What is a Network Drive?

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Updated: 04/02/2019 by Computer Hope

A network drive or mapped drive is a drive, NAS, or share on another computer or server on the same network (e.g., LAN). For example, when utilizing a corporate network, you may access company or customer information on a network drive. Because all employees need the same information, it’s better to store it on a network drive instead of a local drive, which is only accessible to the user of the computer.

Tip: With the popularity of cloud computing and more people working remotely, many people now also use cloud storage solutions like Dropbox.

Local drive, network drive, and mapped drive

Although a local drive, network drive, and mapped drive are all considered drives, they each have unique differences.

A local drive is a drive (internal or external) that is connected to your computer. Although these drives could be shared, by default, they’re only accessible to the user of the computer. Below is a good example of a local drive path of the Windows directory on the C: drive (primary hard drive).

c:Windows

A network drive is any drive only accessible over a network. Unless mapped (explained below), the network drive is only accessible by entering the network path. On a Windows computer, a network path may resemble the example below. In the example, “hope” is the server name and “help” is a shared folder on that server.

\hopehelp

Finally, a mapped drive is a networked drive that has been assigned a drive letter. For example, you may map a network drive to the H: drive in Windows. After the drive has been mapped, when looking at available drives you’ll see an H: drive that looks like all other drives on your computer. Accessing the H: drive would open the network path.

What are the advantages of a network drive?

Below is a list of the reasons why it is better to use a network drive instead of a local drive.

  • A network drive and its files can be shared with many people.
  • Permissions can be used to specify the people you want to be able to view or edit the files.
  • Network drives are a central storage location that makes them easier to backup and mirror.
  • NAS and SAN solutions can make adding storage easier.

What are the disadvantages of a network drive?

While there are more advantages to network drives than disadvantages, there are still a few that are listed below.

  • Network drives require a network. If your network goes down, all files on the network drive are inaccessible.
  • Being a central location with multiple users increases the possibility of accidental deletion, modification, hacking, or infection.
  • Anyone with access to the drive could copy or move all its data to an alternate location.

Drive, Drobo, Local drive, Mount, NAS, Network, Network terms, SAN

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