Unlike a network with a server, in a peer-to-peer connection setup, a server is not required. The computers are connected to each other with the help of network cables or by using wireless devices and they can share each others resources.
What is a Peer-to-peer Connection?
A peer-to-peer connection is a computer network in which all computers in the network have identical capabilities. There is no server computer with more capabilities or authorities than the other computers in the network. In this connection any computer can initiate the communication process. Any other computer in the network can access resources from any other machine which that machine wants to share. In other words, all the computers in the network are given both client and server functionalities.
Setting up a Peer-to-peer Connection
If you are setting up a peer-to-peer connection using ThickNet or ThinNet cables, then the process becomes very simple as you will not require any other hardware. If you want to connect a good number of computers, then use twisted pair cables and a hub. All the computers in the network need to be connected to the hub, so that there is sufficient power in the cables to carry data. The twisted pair cables need to be clipped at the ends with RJ-45 phone connectors. Set up your network in the usual manner now. You can also use CAT 5 cables to do the same.
If you are using a Windows XP operating system, go into 'Network Places' and set up a network using the option, 'Create a small home or office network'. Follow the simple steps of this wizard and your connection will be established. When you are asked to give an IP address to your computer in this system, you can either ask the computer to do so automatically, or you can set up an IP address yourself. Depending on the number of users in your network, choose a class for your IP address accordingly. If there are not many users in the network, give a Class A IP address with the last three digit number varying and the three numbers at the beginning constant. Give a subnet mask of 255.255.255.0.
With a peer-to-peer connection, there is no chance of the entire network failing because of the failure of a single system on which the entire network depends; as in the case of client-server setup. In a client-server network, failure of the server means failure of the entire system. Another advantage is that adding more computers to the network would mean increase in the number of resources (memory space, bandwidth, etc.). But in case of a client-server network, adding more computers in the system will increase the system load on the server.
A peer-to-peer connection is not as secure as a server-client network. Providing a single security blanket on the server could secure the entire network. Besides, in a server-client configuration, it is possible to monitor the workings of other computers in the network.
Peer-to-peer connection setups are very popular and are the prime reasons for heavy traffic on the Internet. Standard client-server configurations like the SMTP also use the peer-to-peer configuration.