Peer-to-peer networking (P2P for short) refers to connections made by users that allow other users within the same network to access files and storage space, among other things. Under this set-up, participants (otherwise known as peers) share their own resources and make use of others’, as well. Thus, it is considered the opposite of client-server networking, which facilitates the one-way transfer of resources from a server to its clients. Peer-to-peer networking may simply be referred to as peer networking.
Peer networks are commonly established within small local area networks, or LANs. These provide a convenient and efficient way for the distribution of information and other resources by facilitating both the downloading and uploading of data. They may be utilized by employees working for the same company, as well as other organizations and schools.
However, with the use of the Internet, it is also possible for peer networks to operate on a larger scale. File sharing networks such as Napster, for instance, make it possible for certain types of resources to be shared globally. Most networks which use the same model use a combination of peer and client-server networking. Even though resources are shared among users, a server is often still necessary for certain operations to be carried out.
On the other hand, the use of peer networks may also pose some problems. Due to the ease with which resources can be shared, certain industries have been threatened by the proliferation of such networks. The recording industry, for instance, has taken legal steps to prevent peer networks from facilitating the distribution of music for free.