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Chapter 3 - Networking and Group Computing

Peer-to-Peer Networking

The requirements for an additional computer, network cards, etc. for a client/server networking system led to the development of peer-to-peer networking. The primary idea behind a peer-to-peer network is that each computer can be both a client and a server. Therefore, each computer can share its resources with and borrow resources from other computers. So, if one computer has a laser printer attached, a peer can request access rights to the laser printer and print a document on that printer. Similarly, if another computer has the office workproduct on it, then one can access the peer “server” as a “client” to locate specific motions.

The cost of peer-to-peer is less then a client server system, since you do not need a high-powered standalone server computer, but one can still share data such as rolodex and accounting information and use e-mail services. However, other applications, such as a shared calendar and backing up the system are more difficult to accomplish using a peer-to-peer system.

Connections can be made through your serial port for a peer-to-peer system with Windows XP and Vista™ software, eliminating the need for network cards. They have an advantage of flexibility and are simpler to set up. The limitation of peer-to-peer is that they are slower, one lacks the control or management over the other user’s computer, and security and access are lessened. If the client subjects one peer computer to a lot of use, then a significant decrease in performance can occur. Client servers are generally in a more secure environment, are not turned off, and are faster.

Peer-to-peer networks have their advocates, who argue that when computing groups are small, performance is not critical, cost is important and when technical skills are generally not available, then peer-to-peer may be the answer. 

As client server technology becomes simpler and peer-to-peer features are built into client server technology, the distinction between the two will continue to blur.

The networking evolution continues with the emergence of Intranets and Extranets.


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