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Peer-to-Peer Networks

Computer networks are basically to two types – peer-to-peer networks and client/server networks.

Peer-to-peer networks are a type of network where each computer connected to the network has equivalent capabilities and responsibilities, hence the name ‘peer’. Unlike the client-server network, there is no dedicated server in the peer-to-peer network; each computer on the network is capable of being both a server and a client. This allows the computers to pool their resources, such as disk drives, CD-ROM drives, scanners and printers, and make them accessible to each computer on the network.


Peer-to-peer networks because of their simple architecture are really just practical for a small number of computers. Peer-to-peer networks can be built using either Ethernet (10Base T cabling and a hub) or Fast Ethernet (a thin coaxial backbone -10Base 2). Both methods work best with a maximum of 16 computers or less that are not separated by great distances (small to medium local area networks), more so with 10Base T cabling. Ethernet speeds are up to 10Mbit per second and 100Mbit per second for Fast Ethernet.

Advantages of peer-peer networks when compared to client-server networks include:

  • They are easier to set up, with only the operating system needing configuration.

  • They are less expensive to install.

  • There is no need for an administrator.

The disadvantages are

  • The network is decentralised, thus there is no central repository for files and applications.
  • They are less secure than client-server networks, especially so because the files have to shared and no password is required.
  • It is more time consuming to maintain the software on individual computers.
  • Peer-to-peer networks are designed for a small number of users. Network speed and performance starts to deteriorate usually after more than 10 computers are on the network. This makes it difficult to grow the network when the need to add more computers on the network becomes unavoidable.



International Medical Informatics Association
American Medical Informatics Association
UK Health Informatics Society
Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society

Knowledge Center
Biomedical Informatics
Health Informatics
Healthcare Technologies
Hospital Information Systems
Computer Networks Topics
Client/Server Networks
Intranets and Extranets
Peer-to-Peer Networks
Thin Client Server Technology
Virtual Private Networks
Wireless Technology

Last Updated: 10 August 2006.

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