What is an Inode?
Though it is mainly associated with the Linux platform, an inode could also refer to a file system on various Unix-like operating systems. Its purpose is to store all information about a particular file with the exception of its name and actual data. Whereas a file only contains its own content and a directory only contains the name of user files, an inode contains metadata, which is essentially all the other information relative to the file. This includes the size of the file, its physical location, its access permissions and timestamps among other details. This type of structure enables data to be stored and used more efficiently. The inode concept is particularly useful for recovering damaged file systems. If parts of the file system are lost, the inode can be used to find them within the partition on which they once existed.
Hard disk space for inodes must be allocated when a new file system or operating system is installed and the structuring of the system is initiated. The maximum number of files and inodes is set once the file system has been created. The determination of how many indoes to create on a Unix-like system is made by utilizing a mathematical calculation known as an algorithm. The algorithm makes its decision based on the size of the partition and the average file size. By default, the system creates an inode for every 2 kilobytes contained in the file system. However, the number can be adjusted by the system administrator when setting up the file system. For instance, you may want to create fewer inodes when creating a file system that will only contain a few large files. On the contrary, it would be advisable to allocate more space for inodes on a file system that is to contain mostly small files
There are two ways a file system can run out space: the space can either be consumed when new data is added, or it can run out when all the inodes have been used. The latter can cause the system to become inoperable just as easy as the former, primarily because exhaustion of the inodes prevents the creation of additional files, even if there is sufficient hard disk space on the system. It is very easy to exhaust inodes if the file system contains a large number of small files. The average system however, usually runs out of disk space first. This is because the typical file size on most systems is larger than 2 KB.
Who Needs Inodes?
Inodes enable added flexibility and efficiency but they are not made for everyone. Users who can benefit the most are those who are familiar with Linux and other Unix-like systems and have direct access to the file system on the server, capabilities you generally only get when running your own dedicated server. This advanced functionality can be enjoyed when signing up for a Linux-based dedicated hosting package with companies such as LunarPages and InMotion Hosting.
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