Often referred to simply as peer-to-peer, or abbreviated P2P, peer-to-peer
architecture is a type of network in which each workstation has
equivalent capabilities and responsibilities. This differs from
client/server architectures where some computers are dedicated
to serving the others. Peer-to-peer networks are generally simpler
but they usually do not offer the same performance under heavy
loads. The P2P network itself relies on computing power at the ends
of a connection rather than from within the network itself.
P2P is often mistakenly used as as a term to describe one user
linking with another user to transfer information and files through
the use of a common P2P client to download MP3s,
videos, images, games and other software. This, however, is only one
type of P2P networking. Generally, P2P
networks are used for sharing files, but a P2P network can also mean
Grid Computing or Instant messaging.
Key Terms To
Often referred to simply as peer-to-peer, or abbreviated P2P, a type
of network in which each workstation has equivalent capabilities and
A network architecture in which each computer or process on the
network is either a client or a server.
Types of P2P Networks
Peer-to-peer networks come in three flavors. The category classification
is based on the network and application.
Also referred to as distributed computing, it combines the idle or
unused CPU processing power and/or free disk space of many computers in
the network. Collaborative computing is most popular with science and
biotech organizations where intense computer processing is required.
Examples of distributed computing can be found at
GRID.ORG where United Devices is
hosting virtual screening for cancer research on the Grid MP platform.
This project has evolved into the largest computational chemistry
project in history. United Devices has harnessed the power of more than
2,000,000 PCs around the world to generate more than 100
teraflops of power. Most distributed computing networks are created by users
volunteering their unused computing resources to contribute to public
interest research projects.
One very common form of P2P networking is Instant Messaging (IM) where
software applications, such as MSN Messenger or AOL Instant Messenger,
for example, allow users to chat via text messages in real-time. While
most vendors offer a free version of their IM software others
have begun to focus on enterprise versions of IM software as business
and corporations have moved towards implementing IM as a standard
communications tool for business.
Affinity communities is the group of P2P networks that is based around
file-sharing and became widely known
and talked about due to the
public legal issues surrounding the direct file sharing group, Napster.
Affinity Communities are based on
users collaborating and searching other user's computers for information
How Peer-to-peer File-sharing Clients Work
Once you have downloaded and
installed a P2P client, if you are connected to the Internet you can
launch the utility and you are then logged into a central indexing
server. This central server indexes all users who are currently
online connected to the server. This server does not host any files
for downloading. The P2P client will contain an area where you can
search for a specific file. The utility queries the index server to
find other connected users with the file you are looking for. When a
match is found the central server will tell you where to find the
requested file. You can then choose a result from the search query
and your utility when then attempt to establish a connection with
the computer hosting the file you have requested. If a successful
connection is made, you will begin downloading the file. Once the
file download is complete the connection will be broken.
A second model of P2P clients works in
the same way but without a central indexing server. In this
scenario the P2P software simply seeks out other Internet users
using the same program and informs them of your presence online,
building a large network of computers as more users install and use
P2P Security Concerns
One major concern of using P2P architecture in the workplace is, of course,
network security. Security concerns stem from the architecture itself. Today
we find most blocking and routing handles by a specific server within
network, but the P2P architecture has no single fixed server responsible for
routing and requests. The first step in securing your P2P network is to
adopt a strict usage policy within the workplace. In securing your network
against attacks and viruses there are two main strategies where focus is on
controlling the network access or the focus is put on controlling the files.
A protocol-based approach is where system administrators use a software or
hardware solution to watch for and block intrusive network traffic being
received through the P2P clients. A second method of protection is a
software solution which would provide file surveillance to actively search
for files based on their type, their name, their signature or even their
P2P at Work
P2P is not only popular with home users but many small business have come to
rely on this cost-effective solution for sharing files with co-workers and
clients. P2P promotes the ease of working together when you're not
physically located in the same office. In just seconds updated files and
data can be shared with peers and confidential files can be blocked for
Additionally, companies can also block access to Internet music and video
files to assist in maintaining a work-oriented P2P network. Not only does
this keep the company free and clear from legal issues regarding music
downloading and sharing but it also keeps the corporate bandwidth usage
Did You Know...
Studies have shown that P2P traffic accounts for 50-70 percent of
traffic on consumer ISPs networks, and that hundreds of millions
of P2P clients have been downloaded and are in use.
Vangie 'Aurora' Beal
Last updated: May 20, 2005
resource for information on Internet file sharing.
SBC.com Article: Groove Workspace
An Online Collaboration Service for Small Businesses
Peer to Peer File Sharing
This University of Chicago Web page provides links to common peer-to-peer
clients and instructions on how to disable file sharing on each one.
The practice of peer-to-peer computing: Trust and security in peer-to-peer
DCIA - Distributed Computing Industry
The DCIA is a voluntary organization representing all sectors of the distributed
computing industry. This includes content providers, software developers and
distributors, and service-and-support companies.
Content security that operates within your network. Protect your organization
from spyware, adware, P2P, IM, hacking tools and information theft.
Grid.org is a single destination site for large-scale, non-profit research
projects of global significance.
Napster has extensive content agreements with the five major record labels, as
well as hundreds of independents.
The Official BitTorrent Web site.