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Advantages and Disadvantages of a Peer-to-Peer Network

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You may have seen one of the articles comparing the price of Bitcoin to gold and wondered what P2P stands for. You may have heard about Skype being the first peer-to-peer network and had no clue why it is important. Whichever is your case, you are in the right place!

In a nutshell, a peer-to-peer network is a network architecture that partitions tasks among many computers that are connected to it. It means that every peer takes care of a part of the workload and other peers take care of the rest.

Still, peer-to-peer networks come with their pros and cons. Do you want to know what they are? If that is the case, then keep reading!

What Is a Peer-to-Peer Network?

The term peer-to-peer originates from the idea of a network that makes its resources available to everyone who is a part of it. Because of that, it is decentralized. Peer-to-peer networks were first used for file sharing. They would enable you to download files directly from other users instead of paying a central server.

Nowadays, such networks have evolved and taken on many forms. For example, they can be used in video streaming and messaging apps. In fact, the underlying structure of these networks is desirable to such an extent that many companies are trying to replicate it.

Unlike centralized networks, peer-to-peer networks eliminate the need for a single point of failure. What does that mean, though? In a centralized network architecture, the failure of the central server means that the entire network is down.

On the other hand, if something goes wrong in a peer-to-peer network, there will always be at least one other node that can keep the network running.

If you have ever used torrents, then you are already familiar with a form of peer-to-peer networking. In fact, the most popular use of peer-to-peer networks is torrents, which transfer files from one computer to another without using a central server.

In addition to that, there is a different and very interesting application of peer-to-peer networking, and that application is cryptocurrencies. Transactions are recorded on the blockchain ledger that is stored on many different computers, known as nodes.

The blockchain is a distributed database, and it does not reside on one single computer. Instead, it resides on the computers connected to the network. This makes cryptocurrencies very resilient to attacks. After all, if someone tries to hack into a single node on the network, they will not succeed in taking the network down.

Lastly, when it comes to peer-to-peer networks, there is no need for centralized oversight and control. Due to that fact, the data being transferred between peers is secure and can remain completely anonymous.

What Are the Advantages of Peer-to-Peer Networks?

There are several advantages of peer-to-peer networks. Do you want to know what they are? If your answer is yes, then take a look at this list!

  • Low latency – With low latency come better response times and shorter waiting times between requests. The length of the connection path that is between peers is reduced, making the network more efficient by eliminating redundant steps on the way towards the final destination.
  • High bandwidth – A peer-to-peer network provides you with high bandwidth, so there is no need for central servers to provision resources. This makes it possible to provide information to a huge number of users at the same time without affecting the performance of the network.
  • Low cost – Due to the fact that there is no central server in a peer-to-peer network, each peer is responsible for storing and sending the requested information. There are no fees charged by the server that is hosting the application.
  • High security – A peer-to-peer network has no single point of failure. If one node goes offline or becomes unavailable, the network is still able to function.
  • Decentralization – In a client-server architecture, the company that owns the server controls its users. It can monitor user activity and delete information. That is not the case when it comes to peer-to-peer networks, which let users control their own data.
  • Fault tolerance – Peer-to-peer networks are very resilient to faults. When one node goes down, other nodes will cover for this node and keep the network running.

What Are the Disadvantages of Peer-to-Peer Networks?

Peer-to-peer networks have many advantages over client-server applications. Still, they come with two big disadvantages.

  • Scalability – Scalability is an issue that affects peer-to-peer networks. It is not an issue with client-server networks, though. Why is that the case? It is difficult to add new peers to the network and maintain great performance levels at the same time.
    There are several ways to solve this problem, including upgrading the hardware. However, it tends to be more expensive than using a client-server architecture.
  • Security concerns – Peer-to-peer networks, such as file-sharing applications, are places where you can easily get infected with malware. Caution is advised.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, peer-to-peer networks have a number of advantages, such as decentralization and high fault tolerance. If you take that into account, you should not be surprised by the fact that they have become incredibly popular in recent years.

Still, it is worth noting that they do have a few disadvantages, such as security concerns and scalability issues. If you want to use such networks to your advantage, you definitely need to keep these disadvantages in mind. If you do just that, you will be able to reap their benefits without any issues!

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About Shane Avron

Shane Avron is a freelance writer, specializing in business, general management, enterprise software, and digital technologies. In addition to Flevy, Shane's articles have appeared in Huffington Post, Forbes Magazine, among other business journals.

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