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Networking Basics - Create a Peer-to-peer Network

Many small to medium sized organizations are wrestling with Windows server and paying excessive licensing fees when they don't need to. Sure, a server provides centralized security administration, but is it really more efficient? A peer-to-peer, or "workgroup" configuration, can often provide all the security and functionality required with less expense and less expertise to administrator. In fact, it's possible for each user to administer their own computer.

Microsoft claims that the workgroup configuration is most efficient for environments with ten or fewer workstations. Nonsense! I would bet that a peer-to-peer network could work with 100 or more workstations. However, networks with more than ten workstations should assign one individual as the administrator. In this case, rather than sit at a server, the administrator would be required to move from machine to machine. Who couldn't use a little exercise nowadays?

A peer-to-peer network lets you use most of the same features as a server network. Each computer can work as a client and a server to share files and hardware resources such as printers and CD-ROMs. Microsoft Internet Information Server (IIS) can be installed on a workstation and run Active Server Pages (ASP). However on a workstation, IIS installs as Personal Web Server (PWS), which is limited to 20 simultaneous connections. If you expect more than 20 connections, you should use Apache Server rather than IIS.

With a peer-to-peer network, the performance of a workstation may degrade while another workstation is accessing its resources. Place frequently accessed file shares and attach shared printers to Workstations of light users who will not be affected by frequent performance degradation. Or you could designate a chair-less workstation to act as a server.

A peer-to-peer configuration requires the same network hardware as a server configuration. Each computer needs a network adapter circuit, and a cable to connect to a hub. Hubs serve as centralized distribution points for the network. When a computer or cable fails, using a hub lets the rest of the network keep functioning.

Once you have installed the network hardware, you need to install and configure the network protocols and services. When Windows 2000 initially detects a network adapter circuit, it creates a local area network (LAN) connection in the Network and Dial-up Connections folder. Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) is installed as the network protocol.

To make sure the required network protocols and services are installed.

1. login as administrator.
2. Select Start | Settings | Network and Dial-up Connections.
3. Right-click on "Local Area Connection".
4. Select "Properties" in the popup menu that appears.
5. In the "Local Area Connection Properties" dialog box, make sure the following are installed:

- Client for Microsoft Networks
- File and Printer Sharing for Microsoft Networks
- Internet Protocol (TCP/IP)

Local Area Connection Properties

In order for computers on a network to contact each other, each must have a unique IP Address. If a computer is configured to obtain an IP address automatically, it will use Automatic Private IP Addressing (APIPA) to generate its own IP Address. If the generated address has already been used by another system, the computer generates and broadcasts another IP address.

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