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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
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.