Networking / Beginners

Peer-to-Peer Networking

Peer-to-peer networking is based on the idea that a computer that connects to a network should be capable of sharing its resources with any other computer. In contrast to client/server, peer-to-peer networking is a many-to-many scheme.

The decentralized nature of peer-to-peer networking means the system is inherently less organized. Knowing this, also note that the recent computer OS offering from Microsoft (Windows Vista) has powerful peer-to-peer networking functions.

Peer-to-peer networks that grow to more than a few computers tend to interact more by convenience or even chance than by design. As examples, Windows Vista and Windows XP provide a Networking Wizard that automatically sets up basic network configurations; it's a fine service, especially for network neophytes.

Peer-to-peer networking is similar to the Internet: There are no hard-and-fast rules about basic user-to-user interactions. With a client/server model, you can establish rules for user-to-user interactions through the server(s).

Peer-to-peer networking is appropriate for your network if the following conditions apply:

  • Your network is relatively small (fewer than 10 computers, although depending on the number of users accessing any one computer for resources, you could get by with 15-20).
  • Your network doesn't require robust security regarding access to resources.
  • Your network does not require the company data be free from the threat of accidental loss.
  • Your network needs users to focus on workstation-based applications rather than on server-based applications and resources. This means that users run applications such as productivity software (Microsoft Office, for example) installed on each computer. Each user works in a closed system until she has to access data on another peer-to-peer computer or a shared printer.

Most of the time, home networks can use peer-to-peer networking without a problem. The only piece of the network that you likely need to centralize is Internet access, and you can easily obtain this operation via a combination device that serves as a hub/switch/router, a firewall, and a DSL modem.

Now that we've looked at client/server and peer-to-peer networking, let's look at client OSs-specifically those that provide peer-to-peer services-and then we can tackle NOSs. This latter subject is highlighted in this tutorial.

Server-Based and Peer-to-Peer Networking on the Same Network

In some situations, you might discover you need a server-based network. However, you might want to make it easy for users to collaborate, so you allow workstations to share resources through peer-to-peer networking. These two environments can coexist. Just keep in mind that allowing peer-to-peer networking degrades your ability to secure the network. Files that would typically reside on a file server might end up on individual workstations, making it more difficult to back up important data.

[Previous] [Contents] [Next]