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.
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).
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.
Finally, a mapped drive is a networked drive that is assigned a drive letter. For example, you may map a network drive to the H: drive in Windows. After the drive is 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.