A peer-to-peer network (P2P) is a network that is commonly referred to on the internet. Despite the often use of this term, the actual meaning and understanding of the network are not known to most people.
In this article, we’ll be taking you through a simplified understanding of a peer-to-peer network, its meaning, types, features, applications, advantages and disadvantages for proper insights into this type of network.
Peer-to-Peer Network (P2P) Meaning
A peer-to-peer network (P2P) is an information technology infrastructure which involves the connection of two or more devices (mostly computers) in order to communicate and share data or resources from one computer (a peer) to another peer without the need for a separate or central server or software.
This type of network differs from the usual client-server network. A client-server network involves the connection between a client’s computer or device and a server whereby the client computer is provided with data and information resources from the server.
The features of a peer-to-peer network
- The users can control who accesses data or information on their computers.
- Data and resources contained in a computer (or peer) are shared directly from each computer to another or they are made accessible to a group of computers.
- Access to a peer computer can be controlled just by setting up sharing permissions on the computer or setting a passcode for certain resources that require stricter access.
- Some peer-to-peer networks instruct a virtual network overlaid on a physical network, where the physical network is utilized to transfer data or resources and the virtual network works to establish communication between the computers.
- The peer-to-peer network does not require an immense number of nodes.
Types of P2P networks
1. Structured P2P network
This type of peer-to-peer network requires the user to search for a certain category of content on the network. The network makes it possible by assigning specific values to each content or resource available on the network. Therefore when someone searches for content, the network uses a typical protocol to search out the section containing the content and directs the search towards the peer responsible. The users get access to rare content. Examples include P-Grid, Kademlia, etc.
2. Unstructured P2P network
This type of peer-to-peer network involves the generation of links. This type is easier to create because joining and contributing to the network by a new peer just requires copying already existing links of other sections and forming their own, thereby making devices connect randomly to the network. Examples include Gnutella, KazaA, etc.
3. Hybrid P2P network
This type of network incorporates the characteristics of both a peer-to-peer network and a client-server network.
Some applications and uses of peer-to-peer network
1. Peer-to-peer file sharing
This is the use of file-sharing networks to access and share multimedia files e.g. music, images, videos, etc. It is a convenient method of file sharing for businesses without having to send the files to a server.
Blockchain involves the sending and receiving of cryptocurrency without the need for an intermediate. The peer-to-peer crypto exchange network helps in maintaining and recording transaction history and ensuring data accuracy while providing maximum security to the network.
3. Content delivery
A peer-to-peer network helps in decreasing the delivery costs of content delivery networks and effectively manages content delivery even during high traffic.
4. Direct messaging
A fast, secure and effective way of direct communication is provided on P2P networks. It provides easy messaging tools and the use of encryption on both ends of the peers (devices)
Benefits and disadvantages of peer-to-peer networks
- Easy and quick sharing of data and resources between computers
- The peer-to-peer network is adaptable to almost all operating systems today.
- It is reliable to use because it still functions even when a computer goes down unlike when a central server is down.
- It provides high performance and less network traffic on the network.
- Data is susceptible to getting misplaced due to the lack of a central server’s backup
- Files are difficult to find because they are kept on individual computers and not centrally.
- Computers can perform slower due to the accessing of files on them by other computers
- Each computer needs its own antivirus measures and backup making it more expensive to maintain.