A peer to peer (P2P) network forms when two or more personal computers (PCs) get connected and share resources with each other without going through a separate server. This simple connection can be an ad hoc method of coupling computers through a USB connection to transfer files. This network can also be part of a permanent infrastructure investment that links multiple devices in a small office over copper wiring.
P2P networks can operate on a grand scale where specific protocols and applications can create direct relationships for Internet users. The first use of these networks occurred in the 1980s when freestanding PCs began to appear in offices around the world. These computers held onboard applications and storage capacity to receive desktop deployment without the need for umbilical cords to create links.
As P2P networks developed, many workers found themselves feeling liberated because they had a dedicated PC on their desktop. When there was a need to share files from these independent terminals, the use of floppy disks became popular. Then our wireless connections developed, making all of those approaches obsolete.
List of the Advantages of a Peer to Peer Network
1. The failure of one computer won’t disrupt the rest of the system.
A peer to peer network doesn’t rely on a centralized system to distribute information. That means each terminal can function independently of every other one. If one of the computers goes down for any reason, then the rest of the network will not experience a disruption. The only adverse outcome that occurs in this situation would be a lack of access to the files on the terminal that is currently experiencing problems.
2. You get to avoid the expense of having and maintaining a server.
A P2P network doesn’t require a server because individual terminals serve as a repository of information. Authorized users can access any computer connected in this way through their assigned or personal devices. This advantage can significantly reduce overhead costs for large organizations because each workstation communicates with every other one on the assigned network automatically.
This advantage also means that workers can become more productive because file access is instantaneous instead of requiring a transfer from station to station.
3. Peer to peer networks don’t require a network operating system.
A peer to peer network doesn’t require a network operating system to function correctly. This advantage is another result of the independent structure of this setup. Each computer functions as its own “server” in a way, storing files for individual users while providing access to local files – sometimes under different profiles. Then you can connect each system to the Internet or to cloud-based systems as needed to manage the network. Without the need for an operating system, users can stay more productive while companies can reduce technology and staffing costs without impacting their employees in adverse ways.
4. This system doesn’t require advanced knowledge to be useful.
P2P networks are much easier to set up and implement than client-server networks. This approach does not require advanced knowledge during the startup phase. As long as the user understands how to connect the terminal to the others that are in close proximity to the station, the peer to peer functionality becomes immediately achievable.
Even when computers go through copper wire connections in a hardwired office, most systems use a plug and play approach that allows almost anyone to build the connectivity that’s required for ongoing productivity.
5. It reduces the need to have technical staff available.
Peer to peer networks don’t require the same number of specialist staff as other connections because everything happens at the user terminal. Each person gets to set their own permissions as to which files they are willing to share with the rest of the network. Although that means it is theoretically possible to create an independent system with nothing shareable on it, the structure stops the requirement of having network technicians and system administrators available for help desk services and ongoing maintenance.
Once a user understands how to create file permissions on a peer to peer network, that person is ready to become productive.
6. You can begin the file retrieval process at any time.
Have you ever tried to download a large file only to have your Internet connection interrupted in the middle of the process? When you use the peer to peer network protocol, then this issue goes away. If a stoppage occurs for any reason, including the sudden shut down of your terminal, then there is no need to start the downloading process over from the beginning. Once you can get your device back online or connected to the rest of the system, then you can continue to file the acquisition process.
7. An entire library of files is available for you to find online.
You can easily locate and download files online using peer to peer network, especially if you prefer torrent files. Several online sources and websites provide massive libraries of high-quality content that you can access at any time. Although it is up to you to determine the legality of each file or folder that you download to your system, this method of information sharing makes it easy to collaborate on projects or receive feedback on creative work.
8. Your internet speed may not impact the downloading time for your files.
Depending on the number of terminals that act as seeds for the peer to peer network, the speed of your Internet connection may not impact the quality of your download. Even when users have slow connections, some torrent files can download very quickly when compared to the traditional method. This advantage is possible because of the structure of sharing in this way. You are receiving small bits of information from hundreds or thousands of computers instead of only one storage location.
9. Search mechanisms make it easy to find your favorite files.
When you use a third-party provider to access information through a peer to peer network, then it is a simple process to find the files that you want. All you need to do to locate the content you want to stream, view, or access is to use the provided search bar that’s often placed centrally on a website or device. Then you can locate every file related to the subject that you’re currently researching.
The online library of content available to peer to peer networks continues to grow because the sharing mechanism is so easy to follow today. As long as you have a data connection, then you can gain access to the files that you need to stay productive.
List of the Disadvantages of a Peer to Peer Network
1. The files or resources are not centrally organized with a P2P network.
A P2P network stores files or resources on individual computers instead of using a centrally organized public area. That means it can be challenging for some people to locate specific files when the owner of a PC doesn’t seem to have a logical filing system. You must search through each database manually to determine what files are necessary to download to your system. If you don’t have a robust Internet connection supporting these efforts, then you could find yourself wasting a lot of time.
2. Virus introduction risks rise with a peer to peer network.
When a peer to peer network is employed, then it becomes the responsibility of each unique user to prevent viruses, malware, and other problems from being introduced to the system. One person making a mistake can adversely impact an entire team’s productivity levels indefinitely.
Even if the entire network runs antivirus software and operates with a firewall, there are no guarantees that an individual user will avoid every problem they find online.
3. P2P networks often have very little security.
Most peer to peer networks have very little security available to protect the information stored on individual terminals or computers. If the IT department assigns permissions to a specific device, then anyone with access to it will share that level of access. Most users don’t even need to log onto their workstations because of the structures employed. That means the first line of defense for homeowners or businesses that use P2P networks is their front door. If a workstation can require a password, it is useful to put one in place to protect files and resources.
4. There is no way to back up files or folders centrally.
The only way to back up files using a peer to peer network is to store them on separate devices. That means you will have independent duplicate files that each user can modify independently of each other. The lack of a centralized system creates issues with collaboration because of this disadvantage since the information is more terminal-based without a server. If something happens to a workstation and files get lost, there is no way to recover from that issue unless a backup drive is part of that individual terminal.
5. P2P networks often suffer from performance issues.
When users operate in a peer to peer network, then each terminal has the opportunity to access every other device that’s connected to it. That means each computer could get accessed by every other available user on the system at any time. Each direct connection results in slower performance, even if the user of the terminal is not trying to access any other information except what is locally stored.
This disadvantage is the primary reason why most peer to peer connections involve only two devices. Once the number of terminals starts to climb higher, performance issues almost always have a higher risk of occurring.
6. The structure may allow remote access to some terminals.
As with most network systems, a peer to peer network may experience the disadvantage of having unsigned or unsecured codes present on a specific terminal. If this situation were to occur, then it may allow someone to remotely access files on a connected computer without permission. That means it is sometimes possible to compromise the entire network when this incident occurs.
Because each system manages only itself, there is no way to determine the difference between authorized or unauthorized use with this structure.
7. You might need to use a specific interface to read the file.
If you use torrent downloads as a way to access content, then you typically need to have a special software program or platform that can make the file usable. Specific codex requirements might be necessary to read the information. Even when you have all of the elements in place to access the data, a large network has a greater risk of file corruption because different components of the seeding process exist on a variety of different systems.
Because larger systems don’t give you many choices or information about where your data originates, peer to peer networks force users to rely on a trust-based system. That’s why websites like The Pirate Bay and others use rating systems and other tools to sort out the better files from the ones you will want to avoid.
8. Peer to peer networks don’t provide a way to view files before download.
This disadvantage does not apply to a network that allows individual terminals to access files remotely from authorized systems. It applies to all other structures because there is no way to review the information that you want to download until the file appears on your computer. Most systems will give you the opportunity to observe what the file contains as a preview, but it will not allow you to view the quality of the data.
The only way that users can avoid problems with this issue is to perform a quality check through the online feedback from others or to request files from sources that you personally trust.
9. You can expose personal information through peer to peer network activities.
The peer to peer protocol will automatically expose your IP address to the people involved in your swarm. If you want to protect your privacy while downloading files, then the only method available to you is to use a virtual private network. A VPN allows you to route your traffic through different online servers in various countries so that your home address receives a disguise. Even your ISP cannot break through this tunnel.
If you decide to start using a VPN, you’ll want to make sure that the service provider has a strong reputation for preventing leaks.
10. Some peer to peer protocols require you to upload and download simultaneously.
When you use the BitTorrent protocol to manage your peer to peer networking solutions, then you are uploading and downloading files simultaneously. This activity can significantly impact the speed of your Internet connection in adverse ways. It may be impossible to perform simple tasks during the downloading process because of this disadvantage, including an inability to open a simple web page.
Some networks allow you to isolate this traffic somewhat, but it will still impact users who need to multitask projects as part of their job duties. If you’re accessing files at home, it won’t take much to overwhelm a standard DSL connection.
11. Some peer to peer networks may place illegal content on your device without your knowledge.
Peer to peer network providers will not police the files that people choose to download. It is considered a resource for users to share information independent of any third-party solutions. It is entirely possible for someone to download a file without realizing that it contains illegal content. Although most situations involve entertainment media like music or movies, there can be seriously immoral or unethical files that make their way to your device if you don’t carefully screen your commands.
Depending on where your computer or terminal is and what you download, you could receive an Internet ban, cease-and-desist letters from content creators, or a visit by a local police officer.
Peer to peer networks can help individuals and businesses save a lot of money. Most people have access to online systems like this that are free. That means one installation allows for every other terminal to have access to authorized software, files, and more. There can be indirect benefits that involve finances when this structure is used in an unethical manner, like downloading a movie to watch instead of paying for it.
That’s why the primary advantage of a P2P system is its speed and efficiency. When this technology is used on a large scale, then it is easier for users to participate in illegal activities, such as the downloading of copyright-protected materials. Personal risks also exist, especially if a virus gets introduced to the system unknowingly.
The advantages and disadvantages of peer to peer networks will depend on your perspective. If you see P2P services as torrent-only providers, then it may not offer a beneficial outcome. When you’re using it to keep productivity at the speed of business, then its usefulness will shine brightly.
Blog Post Author Credentials
Louise Gaille is the author of this post. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Louise has almost a decade of experience in Banking and Finance. If you have any suggestions on how to make this post better, then go here to contact our team.