Peer-to-peer networks (P2P): explanation and file sharing

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There are two types of computer networks. One of them is the client-server model , where all computers are connected to a server computer that facilitates file sharing. The other type of computer network is Peer to Peer to Peer. Peer-to-peer means the absence of a dedicated server. As their name suggests, they are connected as peers – directly to each other instead of having to connect to a server. This article explains how to share files over cable networks and the Internet.

Peer-to-peer networks

When it comes to the term peer-to-peer network, also known as P2P networks, an image appears – from a few directly connected computers. They can be connected via USB or Ethernet cable. Assuming that there are three computers A, B and C when A is connected to B and B is connected to C, users of A can easily access files and printers connected to C, provided computer C allows file and printer sharing. It is like the home group network in the Windows operating system.

In a peer-to-peer (P2P) network, a computer is both a client and a server. It is a client because it requests data or other services from another computer to which it is connected. It is a server because it allows access to the files on its hard disk or to the devices connected to it, to other connected computers.

A peer-to-peer network can also be implemented via a hub, so you do not need additional Ethernet cards for file and printer sharing. A hub can ideally be a router with multiple LAN ports or a USB hub. The image below shows what it looks like.

File sharing over peer-to-peer networks

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Peer-to-peer networks can be implemented locally or over the Internet. In the latter case, the computers are not connected via Ethernet cables. Instead, they use normal Internet connections to connect to each other. If you used BitTorrents, you were part of such a peer-to-peer network. File sharing is almost identical in both types of P2P networks. Let’s first look at normal P2P home networks.

Read: What are torrent files.

Public folders are already shared on Windows P2P networks. They are visible under My Network. If not, go to each computer and share the files and devices you want to share.

You can select the folders to share by right-clicking the folder and moving to the Share tab. The Share tab can have different names in different versions of Windows. To enable folder sharing, select the check box. From the drop-down list displayed on the Validation tab, select All. You can also select computers from the drop-down list in the Sharing tab and click Sharing to share a folder with the selected computers.

In short, the process of sharing files and folders in peer-to-peer cable networks is easier than you think. The computers are connected as soon as you connect them to the hub.

File transfer via P2P over the Internet

This is where BitTorrent comes in. The BitTorrent protocol is used to download large files from the Internet. In the case of BitTorrent, once you start a download, your computer is part of the peer-to-peer network on the Internet.

A large file is not hosted on a single computer if it can be downloaded via BitTorrent. It is distributed over several computers in the form of different parts. If you use a.torrent file to download a file, connect to more than one computer and your BitTorrent client will download different segments from different computers that form one swarm (or a group of computers associated with that download).

Your computer belongs to this swarm as long as you download it, as it establishes a direct connection to different computers via the Internet. While your BitTorrent client is running, it is seeding, i.e. it downloads parts of the downloaded file from the Internet, so that other people trying to download the file at the same time can download it from any file downloaded by your BitTorrent client. This is directly connected in addition to the peers (computers hosting parts of the download without needing a server in the middle) whose other user receives the file.

This explains peer-to-peer networks and file or printer sharing in the language of the layperson.

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