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Chapter 1. File System Structure

1.1. Why Share a Common Structure?

The file system structure is the most basic level of organization in an operating system. Almost all of the ways an operating system interacts with its users, applications, and security model are dependent upon the way it organizes files on storage devices. Providing a common file system structure ensures users and programs are able to access and write files.
File systems break files down into two logical categories:
  • Shareable vs. unshareable files
  • Variable vs. static files
Shareable files are those that can be accessed locally and by remote hosts; unshareable files are only available locally. Variable files, such as documents, can be changed at any time; static files, such as binaries, do not change without an action from the system administrator.
The reason for looking at files in this manner is to help correlate the function of the file with the permissions assigned to the directories which hold them. The way in which the operating system and its users interact with a given file determines the directory in which it is placed, whether that directory is mounted with read-only or read/write permissions, and the level of access each user has to that file. The top level of this organization is crucial. Access to the underlying directories can be restricted or security problems could manifest themselves if, from the top level down, it does not adhere to a rigid structure.