Peer to peer and client/server are two very different types of networking that both have their own advantages and disadvantages and specific use cases.
peer to peer VS client/server
Peer to Peer
A peer to peer network is a type of networking where all the computers connected to the network do so equally, with the same permissions. There is no higher authority on the network, such as a dedicated server which would be present in the Client/Server model. This network is often used in smaller companies and home networks.
In a peer to peer configuration all connected machines are capable of communicating with one another and file sharing but, as there is no dedicated server, they usually all store their own files and applications separately. This means in terms of hardware requirements it’s basically just the workstations required for the network, such as desktops or laptops, and any required peripherals like printers. Of course you’d also need a way to link them all together such as cabling.
There are several pros and cons to this type of networking structure, some of which can be seen below:
- Very simple to set up
- As all machines communicate and share equally you avoid the need for a dedicated server
- If you did wish to use one machine to host all files you can choose any machine to serve this purpose.
- Much cheaper to set up because of the speed of setup and lack of requirement for certain machines such as a dedicated central server.
- Accessing any machine on the network can potentially give an attacker or malware access to the entire network.
- Any machine going down and the rest of the network will lose access to all the files/applications that were stored on that particular machine.
- All applications have to be set up on each machine separately.
- Security has to be set up on each machine separately.
- Backups have to be set for each machine separately.
- User accounts will need to be created on each machine separately. You can’t just create user credentials in a central server for all machines like you can in a Client/Server model.
A client/server network is often necessary in larger businesses and corporations to control user permissions and data access for various staff roles. As well as providing a central location for all shared resources, so many staff workstations would result in it being very difficult to find required files when they are spread out across different hard drives, not to mention very insecure with everyone having the same permission levels if they were to use a peer to peer network.
The client/server model works on the bases of having a central hub known as the server. All other workstations request files and functionality from this one server and these other machines are known as clients.
While one central server may be enough in smaller businesses, there may be multiple servers in larger companies with dedicated services/roles. For instance, larger companies may have a mail server to handle all the emails, a print server to handle all the printing functionality and a web proxy server to handle internet access/usage. Smaller businesses will be able to use one single server to perform all of the above tasks.
In all cases, servers, regardless of their role/purpose, will usually need to be made up of higher performing or specialist hardware in order to fulfill their roles. For instance, a server storing a lot of shared files or emails will need a lot more storage space than a normal desktop/laptop. They usually also need faster processors, increased RAM and a specialist operating system in order to be able to handle the massive amount of simultaneous requests and processes they need to manage.
- This type of network is much more structured/organized than a peer to peer network.
- There is a central hub from which to manage permissions and resources making this type of network much more efficient for system administration.
- There is a central hub to store and access files so they’re not scattered all over the various machines on the network like they could be on a peer to peer network.
- Due to permission levels, it is easier to restrict unauthorized access to data/resources.
- Backups can be managed from one central location.
- Dedicated central servers are much more expensive than standard desktops/laptops due to the need for better hardware/performance capabilities.
- Dedicated central servers need a specialist operating system, some of these can be very expensive, although there are free alternatives but they come with their own downsides.
- Server operating systems, whether paid or free, are more complicated to use than your standard desktops/laptops and usually require someone with extensive experience/training to set up and manage these servers.
- If the server fails for any reason the whole network will fail.
- As the network grows, e.g. increased clients (users/workstations), increased strain is put on the central server.
- If the performance of the server is reduced / poor it will have an adverse effect on the network as a whole.