A Virtual File System (VFS) is a layer of data organization used on a computer to organize and access other file schemes. In general, file systems are methods by which data can be stored in a logical manner on a computer, usually organized based on the Operating System (OS) on that machine. The user of a computer accesses this structure to find information, usually by navigating folders and other hierarchies to find a desired piece of data. A virtual file system allows different types of organization to be arranged under a single layer, which can then be used to access data within them.
There are quite a few different ways in which a virtual file system can be used, though in general it is meant to provide a more organized method for dealing with different types of filing schemes. The basic file system on a computer is typically based on the OS installed on it, and different systems can use various methods. Use of a virtual file system allows a computer with multiple types of OS, or other data organization issues, to more easily provide a user with one framework for data access.
As each OS presents a different organization methodology, the virtual file system creates an additional layer over that, which is accessed by a computer user. The user is then able to read and use files on each one without ever running into conflicts that might arise due to the differences between them. Most computer users never even realize they are accessing a virtual file system, and many computers do not even have a need for this access layer. An OS can also give an administrator the ability to make alterations within the VFS, allowing different systems to be incorporated into the larger layer.
One example of how this can be used would be in a computer with multiple hard drives that has information on each drive, providing a different hierarchy for them. An administrator using a computer with a virtual file system can change the VFS to make access simpler and more effective. Hierarchies could be created that allow access to different files in a single folder on the VFS, which allows a user to then quickly access data on each drive.
To illustrate this, each hard drive could have a folder that includes artwork created by the user of that computer. One drive has files that were created in the current year, and the other has ones from the previous year. A virtual file system can be used to create a single folder that includes both of those other folders, even though they are located on separate drives. This VFS layer makes accessibility simpler, and provides an administrator with more options for data organization.