If you are someone who uses the internet regularly, it is highly unlikely that you have not come across certain types of networks that are not talked about openly. Yes, we are referring to a peer-to-peer network that is present almost everywhere the content is produced and shared over the internet.
While it is an extremely popular concept among internet users, not many people actually know about the technicalities involved in it. And so, in this blog, we will take you through similar aspects of a peer-to-peer network, where we will discuss their fundamental meaning and how everything happens over the network.
But before we move forward, let us first understand the meaning of peer-to-peer networks in the simplest terms.
Meaning of a peer-to-peer network
In the simplest terms, a peer-to-peer network is a network created whenever two or more devices (usually a computer) are connected and share the resources. But what creates the main difference here is that a peer-to-peer network, unlike the conventional network systems, forms an ecosystem where the computers are connected to through a single server computer. It can also be seen as a network where multiple computer systems are connected through a single server that enables the transfer of files from one end to the other.
Moreover, a peer-to-peer network also serves the role of a permanent infrastructure that can connect more than a dozen computers in a small region amidst the conventional offline environment. In addition to this, if you want to learn more about peer-to-peer networks and how they can be beneficial in the field of blockchain, you can go for a blockchain certification course from any certified platform.
Why are these peer-to-peer networks so useful?
While these networks have now become a very common thing, there are many other benefits to using a peer-to-peer network that gives it an edge over the others. Here are a few reasons why –
- It is extremely tough to bring them down. Even if one of the sections is about to shut down, other pairs continue to operate and communicate, which ensures that the network does not stop working even if a single unit is not able to perform its functions.
- These networks are highly scalable because adding new peers is an extremely easy and quick process as you don’t have to perform any central configuration on the server.
- P2P networks are best when it comes to file sharing. Due to the fact that it is so quick in its processing, it becomes extremely easy to have the same file stored on multiple peers. It ensures that every time someone needs to download a particular file, the downloading process from multiple locations can take place simultaneously without any hassle.
What is a P2P (Peer-to-peer) Network architecture?
Peer-to-peer network architecture is a kind of network where there is absolutely no division of activities among various other sections. Every node performs the same task and set of actions where each device serves the purpose of both the server and the client. Response of network architecture established over the computer networking ecosystem under this model is such that each and every workstation is responsible for equal tasks but fewer devices are connected to the main server. The peer-to-peer network architecture is most suitable for residential areas and small-scale businesses in smaller regions. This is because in such networks every device plays an independent role as a workstation as it has the access to save the entire set of data in its own database.
To state in layman’s language, the general peer-to-peer architecture is designed keeping in mind the functionalities of a single software program. In this way, every program is responsible to perform its task while fulfilling the role of both client and server carrying similar responsibilities and abilities. Moreover, if you wonder how to learn blockchain basics, you can also get multiple content pieces to help you throughout the process.
Further, peer-to-peer networks can be classified into two major categories based on how the sections in the network are linked to each other. Here are the two major types –
- Unstructured networks: An unstructured peer-to-peer network is one where the links in the network are established randomly. Such networks are easy to construct as any new peer that would like to join and contribute to the network can do so by copying the existing links of another section and then forming and spreading its own links.
However, it is equally important to know that the queries may not always get a resolution in unstructured networks so there can be hassles. For instance, a popular piece of content may be available to certain peers but if any other is looking for content that is rarely available, then the user may not be able to search for it.
Examples – Napster, KaZaA, Gnutella, etc.
- Structured networks: Unlike unstructured networks, the structured ones allow each peer to look after a specific section of the content over the network. These networks assign a specific value to each content and peer in the network which is then followed by a common protocol that determines which section is responsible for which part of the content. In this way, whenever someone reaches out to a peer to search for content, the network uses the common protocol to determine the section responsible for data transfer and direct the search query towards the peer responsible for it.
Examples – Tixati, Kademlia, P-Grid, etc.
Uses of P2P network
Peer-to-peer technology has undeniably paved the way for several other technologies that integrate with its architecture to provide greater and better services to the users. Apart from blockchain, which you can learn in any top-rated blockchain classes, there are various other applications of peer-to-peer networks.
However, there are few areas where P2P networks find quite different applications. Let us take you through some of the most common applications where peer-to-peer networks are predominantly used.
Peer to peer and copyright infringement
The first and most obvious application of a P2P network is associated with copyright infringement. As these file-sharing networks use the devices from both the end of the client and the server, it becomes one of the most commonly used platforms for sharing electronic media, mostly for pirated content. In addition to this, these networks also find their application in distributing malicious software such as spyware and viruses. It means that by installing any peer-to-peer file-sharing software on a device, anyone can access the files among millions of other users, irrespective of whether the person is doing it intentionally or not. However, with such networks, people who lawfully buy the content online may also get in trouble. So, it is always advisable to take the necessary precautions.
Some prominent examples of such software include Frostwire, Kazaa lite, BitTorrent, Limewire, and Gnutella.
File sharing is another significant application of peer-to-peer networking that takes place through file-sharing technology. As the name itself implies, it allows the users to access and transfer various kinds of multimedia files such as videos, images, music, etc. So, basically, you can use a file-sharing network across various devices to transfer any kind of file you want.
Some examples of a file-sharing peer-to-peer network include BitTorrent, uTorrent, Ares Galaxy, FrostWire, and BitComet.
As a technology, a P2P network is based on the concept of decentralization. The foundational architecture of blockchain technology similarly enables a user to transfer cryptocurrency across the globe without needing any middleman or intermediary. With such a decentralized distribution, it becomes easier for any individual to become a part of this process of verification.
When a peer-to-peer network is enabled on a blockchain, the network helps in the maintenance of a complete replica of the records ensuring the accuracy of data. On the other hand, it also offers greater security as compared to conventional client-server systems. Therefore, a peer-to-peer network works phenomenally when used with blockchain technology. If you wish to learn more about the foundational concepts of blockchain, make sure to pick up the best blockchain training platform for it.
Content Delivery Acceleration
If there is one network service that can significantly help in reducing delivery costs, it has to be a P2P content delivery network. The technical functionalities of a peer-to-peer network can potentially integrate with any content delivery system and offer a wide range of service capabilities. One of the most famous examples of such a content delivery network is Alibaba Cloud’s peer-to-peer content delivery network that is based on the same technology where these two worked as components that can effectively manage content delivery even during significantly high traffic.
How does a P2P network work?
Coming to the technical aspects of our topic, it is also necessary to understand the mechanism behind the working of peer-to-peer networks. While things are quite different in the case of blockchain, where any blockchain developer can resolve your query, the basic mechanism of a peer-to-peer network follows a different process. Generally, these networks have no distinct server for authenticating their users. Each device across the network manages its own security which makes it necessary to create a separate user account for each device that the user would need.
- Usually, a user stores their file on their own devices, which is a computer in an ideal situation. They are themselves responsible for ensuring that these files are properly backed up for data recovery. Furthermore, the devices usually run both server and client software in a peer-to-peer network and can also make the resources available to other users on the network.
- From the perspective of simplicity in network architecture, a peer-to-peer network is relatively simple to set up and is often an ideal deal for networks that require less than 10 devices and prefer a server-based solution over any other option.
Let us take an example to understand how a peer-to-peer network actually works. Suppose you want to download any file from the internet. In this case, you will need to use a web browser to open any website over the internet. Considering this scenario, the website you will visit plays the role of a server while your computer or any device you use possesses the role of a client that will receive all the files you will download. This entire network model performs some specific set of tasks just like a one-way road where the data you download shifts from website to your device.
Similarly, in the case of a peer-to-peer network, whenever you browse over the internet to search for a particular piece of content, this task of downloading is controlled in a slightly different manner. It is essential for you to have any peer-to-peer program installed on your device that can enable you to generate a virtual peer-to-peer network. Once this is established successfully, the file you want to download from the internet is received in the units of bits that come from different devices in the network that already have the same file on them.
At the same time, the file is also shifted from your device to other computer systems that call for it. This entire process works in two ways as the files convert into small bits of data that come from your device. Once this process gets completed, the network releases your file after sending the request, which is then followed by the final transfer of the file to all connected peer devices.
With reference to our above discussion, it is clear that peer-to-peer network is one of the most sophisticated technologies that we have today. What makes it even more prominent is its link with blockchain and the potential it holds in terms of its usability. However, it is equally important to know and understand that it may not always come to use for the right reasons due to such open and easy access to all types of content. While it can be a possible argument that this technology should not be promoted, we as individuals must understand our responsibilities as users while accessing online content.
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