What is network operating system (NOS)?

A network operating system (NOS) is a computer operating system that is designed primarily to support workstation, personal computer, and, in some instances, older terminal that are connected on a local area network (LAN).Microsoft’s LAN Manager are example of network operating systems. In addition, some multi-purpose operating systems, such as Windows NT and Digital’s OpenVMS come with capabilities that enable them to be described as a network operating system. A network operating system provides printer sharing, common file system and database sharing, application sharing, and the ability to manage a network name directory, security, and other housekeeping aspects of a network. Unlike operating systems, such as DOS and Windows, which 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.
The two major types of network operating systems are:
Client Server
  • Peer-to-Peer: Peer-to-peer network operating systems allow users to share resources and files located on their computers and to access shared resources found on other computers. However, they do not have a file server or a centralized management source. In a peer-to-peer network, all computers are considered equal; they all have the same abilities to use the resources available on the network. Peer-to-peer networks are designed primarily for small to medium local area networks. AppleShare and Windows for Workgroups are examples of programs that can function as peer-to-peer network operating systems 
Network for Peer-to-Peer 

Peer to Peer Network

Advantages of a peer-to-peer network: Less initial expense, no need for a dedicated server, Setup – An operating system already in place may only need to be reconfigured for peer-to-peer operations.
Disadvantages of a peer-to-peer network: Decentralized – No central repository for files and applications; does not provide the security available on a client/server network.
  • Client-Server: Client-server network operating systems allow the network to centralize functions and applications in one or more dedicated file servers .The file servers become the heart of the system, providing access to resources and providing security. Individual workstations have access to the resources available on the file servers. The network operating system provides the mechanism to integrate all the components of the Network and allow multiple users to simultaneously share the same resources irrespective of physical location.Windows 2000 Server are examples of client-server network operating system.
Advantages of a client-server network: Centralized – Resources and data security are controlled through the server; Capability – Any or all elements can be replaced individually as needs increase; Flexibility – New technology can be easily integrated into system; Interoperability – All components (client/network/server) work together; Accessibility – Server can be accessed remotely and across multiple platforms.
Disadvantages of a client/server network: Expense (Requires initial investment in dedicated server), Maintenance (Large networks will require a staff to ensure efficient operation), Dependence (When server goes down, operations will cease across the network).

Examples of network operating systems: Microsoft Windows NT, Microsoft Windows 2000, Microsoft Windows XP, Linux etc…

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