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Peer to Peer
Remember when you were a child and you played "Telephone" with a piece of string stretched between two tin cans? That was a network. "How can this be?", you ask. Well, the textbook definition of a network is two or more devices that share resources and information using a common language over a transmission media.

Let's apply this definition to your childhood version of MaBell. Each tin can (device) was connected to the string (transmission media). Through that vibrating string you spoke (using a common language). You traded secrets (information) about siblings and school. Or maybe helped each other study for Mrs. Smith's 3rd Grade Spelling Bee (shared resources).

In the real world of peer-to-peer networks this commonly means two or more Microsoft Windows 9x/ME workstations (the devices) using the built-in networking features of Windows (the common language), and a Network Interface Card (NIC), RJ-45 UTP cabling, and a hub (they collectively make the transmission media).

There are two types of computer network.
Client-Server A centralized computer (server) contain a list of all users, and what each user is permitted to use. When a user attempts to access information or resources the server verifies that the user has access rights. Differing levels of permission can be set (i.e, users can read but not change, or they can change but not delete, or they may not even be able to do anything).
Peer-to-Peer A computer (peer) can share devices, like printers, or resources, like data, with other computers (peers). Shared items are available to all peers. The list of shared items is controlled by the peer. No single computer controls all the network resources, doling out access and information in limited amounts.

A peer-to-peer network is one, as the name suggests, where the access rights to resources/information on the network is equal for each participant.

Each computer is used as a fully functioning PC, but the user can make folders, drives, or printers available to other computers on the network. Microsoft usually describes network of 10 PCs or less as a peer network. But that doesn't mean that peer networking won't work with more than 10 PCs. It is true, however, that peer networking is best suited for smaller networks.

The benefits of a peer network are the ease with which it can be installed and maintined, as well as its relatively low cost to set up. The drawbacks are that if many users are accessing the information of a single computer, that PC will slow down (inconveniencing the user at the PC), and security can be difficult with no centralized contol of information access.

Now that you understand the theory, let's get to work on the How-To parts. Click here for step-by-step instructions. Or use the links below to browse through the topics.