Network Information Service


Network Information Service, also known as NIS, is a client-server directory service protocol for distributing system configuration data such as user and host names across computers on a network. Developed by Sun Microsystems, it allows a group of machines within an NIS domain to share a common set of configuration files. This means that a system administrator only needs to make changes once, and all the machines update automatically.


The phonetic spelling of “Network Information Service” can be broken down as follows: Network: /ˈnɛtˌwɝːk/Information: /ˌɪnfɚˈmeɪʃən/Service: /ˈsɝːvɪs/

Key Takeaways

  1. Network Information Service (NIS) is a client-server service developed by Sun Microsystems. It is used primarily for distributing system configuration data such as user and host names, IP addresses, and other directory services across a computer network.
  2. In NIS, a single server, known as the NIS Master Server, maintains and distributes the network information databases to NIS clients. This centralizes the management of commonly used network resources and reduces the administrative workload.
  3. Although NIS has been widely used in Unix environments, it has certain security vulnerabilities. User passwords are not very securely protected and the service is prone to various network attacks. Therefore, newer, more secure alternatives such as LDAP and Kerberos are often preferred.


Network Information Service (NIS) is a critical technology term as it refers to a client-server directory service protocol designed for distributing system configuration data such as user and host names among several computers on a network. It is significant because it simplifies network administration and enhances efficiency. An NIS allows a group of computers to share a single set of configuration files, eliminating the need to manually update each system when a change occurs, which could be both time-consuming and error-prone. Moreover, it also provides a way to manage and organize scattered data across a network, contributing to higher network performance, better data integrity, and improved security.


The Network Information Service (NIS) is an integral technology that plays a central role in managing network user access and providing a seamless computing environment across networked systems. Essentially, it sustains a uniform environment across multiple computers in a network by administering crucial information such as user and group information, hostnames, email aliases, and other network-wide settings. This is particularly useful as it negates the need to individually manage such details on each network system, which can be unwieldy in a large network setup.By creating a distributed database of network information, NIS serves as a central directory service which facilitates the sharing of configuration data among multiple systems in a network. From an application perspective, this means that even in the event of adding, removing, or modifying computer systems in the network, the application behavior remains consistent. NIS is widely used in Unix and Linux based environments, making it an essential tool for network administrators to ensure efficient and consistent network management.


1. University Databases: Universities often use Network Information Services (NIS) to manage information about students, staff, courses, and resources. This allows individuals to access their information from any terminal or computer on the university network.2. Corporate Networking: Many businesses utilize NIS for managing large amounts of data related to employees, business departments, and resources. This ensures smooth sharing of information, files and software between different devices or systems within the same network.3. Internet Service Providers: Internet Service Providers (ISPs) use NIS to manage information related to their users, the various plans they offer, and network related information. Through this service they can centrally manage customer information and the traffic of data across their network.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

Q: What is Network Information Service (NIS)?A: Network Information Service (NIS) is a client-server directory service protocol used for distributed systems to maintain consistent data on networks such as user directories and passwords. Initially known as Yellow Pages (YP), it was developed by Sun Microsystems.Q: What are the main uses of Network Information Service (NIS)?A: NIS is predominantly used to manage system configurations, maintain user authentication, automate access to network resources and distribute system configuration data among computers in a network.Q: How does Network Information Service (NIS) operate?A: NIS operates in a client-server model. The NIS server holds the NIS database and responds to requests for information, while the NIS clients query the NIS server to obtain information.Q: How is the Network Information Service (NIS) updated?A: The NIS can be updated manually by the system administrator. The updates would then be propagated across the network to the NIS clients.Q: What are the advantages of using Network Information Service (NIS)?A: The advantages of NIS include centralized control of important network information, reduced redundancy, and simplified management of networked computers. Q: What are the limitations of Network Information Service (NIS)?A: The limitations of NIS include security issues as it lacks support for encrypted passwords. Also, it isn’t designed to handle large databases, leading to reduced performance. Q: Is Network Information Service (NIS) the same as DNS?A: No, NIS is not the same as DNS (Domain Name System). While both are used to manage network resources, DNS is used primarily for mapping domain names to IP addresses, whereas NIS is used more for user credentials and system configuration data.Q: Are there any alternatives to Network Information Service (NIS)?A: Yes, LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) and Kerberos are often used as more secure alternatives to NIS. Q: Does NIS support modern Windows systems?A: No, NIS was developed by Sun Microsystems for UNIX based systems and is not natively compatible with modern Windows systems without an integration solution.Q: Is Network Information Service (NIS) still in use?A: While NIS has been largely replaced by newer and more secure strategies such as LDAP and Kerberos, it is still in use in some legacy systems.

Related Tech Terms

  • Domain Name System (DNS)
  • Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP)
  • Network File System (NFS)
  • Client-Server Architecture
  • Directory Service

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