In simplest terms, a peer to peer network is two or mode computing devices connected to each other to accomplish a task or set of tasks.
A P2P network can be an ad-hoc network where two computers are connected by USB to transfer files. It can also be a permanent network where all the computers in an organization are connected.
Every connected computer or computing device in a P2P network is called a node and serves as a client and server at the same time. There is no presence of a centralized server.
How P2P Network Works?
Whenever a user wishes to download a file hosted on a P2P network, he will need to join the network via a client application called as “leech”. This client will then search for the file on the network called as “seeds”.
Once the client connects to the seeds
Examples of P2P Network
A few examples of P2P network are as follows:
- Bit Torrent – Needs no introduction, this is the most popular peer-to-peer
- DistriBute – World’s first P2P desktop deployment product for business use
- Tor – Application that shields user information by sending traffic through a P2P network of relays set up by volunteers across the world
Server Based Network vs Peer-to-peer network
It is important to note the difference between a server based network and a P2P network. In this section, we have discussed some of the most important ones that you need to note in order to appreciate the blockchains.
A server-based network has a centralized server that stores, manages, and communicates data from one computer to another. Users use local systems/computers to access, create, modify data which are stored on a server present at a remote location.
On the other hand, a P2P network does not have any servers. Data management happens on the computers or peers in the network.
Setting up a server based network require larger teams, complex architecture as compared to a P2P network. This leads to higher cost in setting up and managing server based network.
Scope and magnitude of use
Server based network are pre-dominantly used for large organizations that handle and process complex data every hour, round the year. On the other hand, P2P networks are suitable for smaller organizations with dozens of employees performing relatively easier or less complex tasks like sharing files, printer access, etc.
However, with the onset of the blockchain, this is set to change.
Robustness and Availability
A server-based network is robust, scalable and set-up to be always available. If a computer crashes or becomes unavailable, the network is still up. There are back up servers to take over in case the primary server fails.
Most P2P networks are however not as robust and scalable. If a node crashes, the system may collapse and become dysfunctional. However, most P2P network these days are set up to ensure that the network is up and running even though a couple of peers go offline.Similarly, there is no setup for data back up.
In a server based network, as the number of users grow, the efficiency decreases (unless more servers are added to the existing set up). In contrast, P2P network sees an increased efficiency as the number of users connected to the network increase.
The advantages of a P2P network are many, some of them are –
- Easy to set up and maintain, adding new peers is easy as configuration on a central server is not required
- Reduces cost by eliminating the need of setting up and managing server
- P2P networks are available even if one or more peers crash out. To bring down a P2P network, every peer in the network needs to be closed down.
- Faster file sharing as a download request is served by multiple peers at the same time. The larger the network, the faster is the download.
The disadvantages include –
- Absence of centralized server makes it difficult to back up and archive data, data is located in different machines
- Weaker security features as every machine is in charge of securing itself from external threats
P2P networks make decentralization a reality. However P2P networks can become a security scare at times if one or more peers turn hostile. Most networks take security seriously these days and so the security is maintained, as in the case of blockchain.