Peer-to-Peer Vs. Client Server Networks

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Peer-to-Peer Vs. Client Server Networks

In computer networking, the architecture or way the network entities are arranged, plays a key role in determining the communication and privilege flow. Two main models of computer networks, are client server and peer-to-peer. Scroll below for a listing of the various differences between the 2 types of models.

There’s a lot more to a computer network, than just physical connections and device setups. Who is part of the network and who is not, what data is present and where … are just a few considerations that go into a computer network. In a network, each entity has a role to play, from the workstation being the input or working terminal, to a central machine for storing data and files or external devices like printers and fax machines, which are to be shared network resources.

A computer network is maintained following a paradigm or blueprint, to simplify setup, maintenance and functioning. Mentioned herein, are two such paradigms or network models which are very commonly used to establish a computer network are peer-to-peer and client server network architectures. Below is a listing of the differences between peer-to-peer and client server networks.

Peer-to-Peer Vs. Client Server Networks Comparison


Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Model Client Server Model
Decentralized form of networking architecture Centralized form of networking architecture
The network access, tasks and workload are divided and shared amongst the various members. It is an “everyone pulls their own weight” sort of relationship Working is based on a resource provider or storehouse (server) and the entities that require the resources (clients). The clients make requests to the server to access the resources. It is a “make a request and it will be granted” sort of service
Supply and consumption of resources is carried out by the peers, there is no higher body or “boss” and no separate entity exists to dole out resources. All peers in a network can request for resources as well as grant them Two members of such a system are servers and clients. Servers contain the resources in the form of information or data. Certain resources like say printers, can be connected to the server and the client has to request access to the server, to use the printer
Members are called peers, they have the same privileges and rights and enjoy the same access to various data sources and devices. There is no difference between them in any manner. Peers communicate with each other directly, no need for a median in the middle Clients are the respective workstations or computers that do not share their resources but work on their own and makes requests to the server for data or resources or functions
The Peer-to-Peer network paradigm is commonly used in P2P file sharing programs like Napster and Bitorrent Email, banking services, even the HTTP protocol are all examples of client server model


Peer-to-Peer Model
Computers A, B, C and D are connected in a P2P network. Comp A wants a file from Comp C, it sends a request to C. C decides to accept the request, finds the file and sends it to A. B and D are ignorant to what is going on but function normally. There is a network printer to which all computers are connected to. A sends a request to print and B sends one too. A’s request reached first, so it is granted. Then the printer will grant B’s request
Client Server Model
Computer A is the server. Computers B, C and D are the clients. B wants to print a page. The printer is attached to Comp A. B will send a request to A, asking to print a page. A will print the page and respond to B. C wants to access a file, it will send a request to A, asking for the file. A will check C’s credentials, C is not authorized to access the data, A will reject the request and respond to C by turning down its request


Peer-to-Peer Model Client Server Model
2 types of peer-to-peer networks exist. Structured P2P arranges peers in a order or manner based on certain rules and algorithms. There is no change in privilege, just in the way the members communicate. Unstructured P2P have no such order or manner and consists of 3 models – pure, hybrid and centralized There is no specific model or type of client-server networks. It’s more like a mixed bag of different styles. For example, having two servers, one just for data and one for devices and clients have to make requests to 2 different entities for accessing such resources
Physical Structure
The physical structure is independent from the underlying network structure of behavior. Peers can be arranged in any network topology but in small networks, are located near to each other physically. The computers are similar in software content and protocols used for networking Physical structure is divided. Servers are powerful machines, designed for a dedicated purpose and should be robust to handle multiple transactions. Their hardware makeup is more powerful with more storage space or RAM and powerful processors. The server machine is normally contained in a different room with increased security and better environmental conditions. Clients are ordinary workstations, accessed by different users. They have their own data
Where Is This Model Used
Small businesses and home users Big corporations or organizations with high security data

Pros & Cons

Peer-to-Peer Model
Pros Cons
  • As a peer joins the network, it adds resources to the existing network, adding more members to the system, increases the capacity or resources of the system itself. The throughput of the network increases. Such networks also scale better, as increase in members increases efficiency
  • Very robust as there is no single point of failure. If one peer fails, just that connection is lost, the network will go on functioning
  • Since the machines are independent of each other, operation and set up is easier and cheaper than client-server model machines
  • P2P networks have high bandwidth consumption rates, due to multiple request and responses taking place at the same time from different peers
  • Lack of security, no checking of authentication takes place. So anyone can send and receive data from anybody
Client Server Model
Pros Cons
  • A structure or organizational manner is present in the network. Easier organization and management of resources, including easier data updation and editing as well as making a backup, due to a centralized data source
  • Security is a key advantage, as requests can be monitored and logged. Those with the necessary credentials will get access, so illegal or unauthorized data access can be prevented
  • More expensive in setup and maintenance due to specialized server equipment and software for running the server
  • Adding more and more clients, increases the workload of the server and the network speed could reduce. The bandwidth consumption also increases
  • Client server model is not very robust, if the server fails, the network could collapse. And until the server is restored, the clients cannot function. Also if the server is the only source where data is stored, if the server falls, all such data is lost

The above tables explain the differences between peer-to-peer and client server networks extensively, so ideally any doubts that you may have regarding the 2 types of networking models have been removed.

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