Networking Basics - Create a Peer-to-peer Network
By Stephen Bucaro
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.