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What is a Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Network?

Many people's PCs come pre-installed with Peer-to-Peer (P2P) software clients. With millions of people all over the world sharing music, video, software, and photos, file transfers on these networks account for a significant portion of all internet traffic.

In the context of file-sharing, P2P networking is most commonly known. Once upon a time, P2P software such as Torrent and Napster was an essential part of any household computer. These programs made it possible for people to share large files, such as music and movies, over the internet. Their worldwide user base's computers served as both client and server in this way, rather than relying on centralized servers, allowing them to effectively offload processing tasks to their users. P2P file sharing is still going strong, even though these programs are no longer in use (think BitTorrent and the like). With the majority of IMs supporting file sharing, they can also be used for this purpose as well.

Peer-to-peer (P2P) networking entails linking some computers together so that each computer has equal access to and control over the data being processed. Since no devices in a P2P network are specifically set up to send or receive data, it differs from a traditional client-server setup. There are no special privileges for "peers" or "neighbors" in a network.

Peer-to-peer (P2P) networks are formed when two or more PCs connect and share resources without the need for a separate server computer. It's possible to create a P2P network out of two computers connected by a Universal Serial Bus (USB) and use it to share files. Also, a P2P network can be a permanent, copper-wired infrastructure that connects a small office of six computers. Alternatively, a P2P network can be a much larger network that utilizes specialized protocols and applications to establish direct connections among its members over the Internet.

What are the Main Advantages of Using a P2P Network?

In the file-sharing community, peer-to-peer (P2P) communication has been a constant. Many P2P services allow users to download large files in small chunks, from many different people, and do so much faster than if they had to download all of the files from a single source all at once. P2P file-sharing has both advantages and disadvantages, so it's important to do your homework before joining this high-speed data transfer community.

The advantages of P2P networking are numerous. For instance, in a traditional client-server network model, if one server goes down, the entire network goes down. Even though a single P2P device may go down, others may be able to help fill the gap. The fact that network traffic is handled by many computers means that one device does not become a bottleneck.

Let's take a closer look at its advantages.

1. Easy File Sharing

To put it simply, P2P file sharing is the act of exchanging digital media files, such as music or video files, from one computer to another. People who participate in P2P file sharing typically upload files to their computers so that others can download them. They also download music and video files from other people who have shared them online.

The only requirement to participate in file sharing is that you receive the files, not that you upload them. A P2P network or website allows you to quickly and easily download other people's files. Networks, on the other hand, often allow users to upload their files.

As a result, Webhosting sites are extremely popular because they allow you to download and upload privately.

A P2P network with a lot of features can share files quickly and over long distances. Anyone can get to files at any time.

2. Reduced Costs

Since there is no central server in a peer-to-peer network, it is up to each peer to store and send the information that is being asked for. The server that hosts the application does not charge any fees.

It is relatively inexpensive to set up and maintain a peer-to-peer network in terms of its total cost of ownership. Because there is no central configuration, the cost of setting up the system has been significantly decreased. A further advantage of the Windows server is that there is no charge for each user connected to the network. Only one payment should be made for this service.

Because everything happens at the user terminal, peer-to-peer networks don't need as many experts as other connections. Each person can choose which files they want to share with the rest of the network by setting their permissions. Even though it is theoretically possible to make an independent system with nothing shareable on it, the structure removes the need to have network technicians and system administrators on hand for help desk services and ongoing maintenance. This allows reducing the costs.

3. Adaptability

P2P network is flexible because it is easy to set up new computer systems on this network. So it can be used in more ways.

4. Reliability

Reliability is a major concern for structured peer-to-peer networks, and it is one of the most important ways to measure how stable and strong a system is.

A client-server network can fail if the central server stops working, but a peer-to-peer network will still work even if the central server goes down. If one computer stops working, the others keep working as usual. This also stops traffic from getting stuck because it is spread out among many computers.

5. High performance

Because the data comes from many different places, the P2P file-sharing application can download information from many different places at the same time. This makes the downloading process go faster. Also, the data is broken up into small pieces at each source location. This makes it possible to send the data at much faster rates. When many computers (called "peers") share the same information on a P2P network, larger files can be downloaded faster than when they are downloaded from a central location.

Depending on how many computers act as seeds for the peer-to-peer network, the speed of your Internet connection may not affect the quality of your download. Even if a user has a slow connection, some torrent files can still be downloaded much faster than the old way. Because of the way, this kind of sharing is set up, this benefit is possible. You get small bits of information from hundreds or thousands of computers instead of just one place to store everything

6. Efficiency

Because P2P files make large files more manageable, they allow for faster downloads for people who want to legally download things like Windows updates.

Emerging P2P networks allow devices with different resources that can help the whole network to work together.

What are the Tips for Using P2P Network?

It is common for young people to use peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing services to share media files like music and movies with their friends. It is the simplicity with which this type of file sharing can be accomplished by allowing users to connect to a network and access shared files on other computers on the network that gives these free services their appeal. Personal files like photos and music can now be shared via peer-to-peer networks. Although P2P networks are legal and safe, young people should be aware of the following risks before using them:

Consider both the content that can be accessed and the security of the service when using P2P services. Problems with the Text Copyright infringement and content age appropriateness have dominated public debate and concern about peer-to-peer (P2P) services (pornography or violent games). Sharing pirated material and illegally distributing it may be a problem for young people. A minor may or may not be aware of the illegal activity. Because of this, they could end up breaking the law themselves or their parents.

When it comes to dealing with P2P file sharing security issues, there is no shortcut. Whether or not you decide to allow P2P file sharing, you should still take the following steps to protect your network's sensitive data:

  • Restrict access to files containing sensitive information and delete any copies you no longer require.
  • P2P file-sharing programs should be used sparingly or not at all on computers that store or have access to sensitive data.
  • Use the correct naming conventions for your files.
  • Keep an eye out for P2P file-sharing programs that aren't authorized on your network.
  • Use network firewalls to block traffic from P2P file-sharing programs that aren't approved.

You can easily block P2P file-sharing applications using Zenarmor next-generation firewall on your network for free. Zenarmor application control capability allows you to prevent your client from using all P2P applications or specific file sharing applications such as uTorrent, Kickass Torrents, Don Torrent, Bit Torrent, etc.

To deny all P2P apps on your network:

  1. Edit the related policy, such as Default for Free Editon, on your Zenarmor.
  2. Go to App Controls.
  3. Click on the File Transfer to disable all file sharing apps including P2P programs (File Transfer Category).
  4. Click Save Changes at the bottom of the page to activate the rule.

Blocking all P2P applications on Zenarmor via OPNsense UI

Figure 1. Blocking all P2P applications on Zenarmor via OPNsense UI

To deny a specific P2P application, such as Kickass Torrents, individually on your network:

  1. Edit the related policy, such as Default for Free Editon, on your Zenarmor.
  2. Go to App Controls.
  3. Search for Kickass Torrents.
  4. Click on the Kickass Torrents to disable all the application.
  1. Click Save Changes at the bottom of the page to activate the rule.

Blocking specific P2P applications, such as Kickass Torrents, individually on Zenarmor via OPNsense UI

Figure 2. Blocking specific P2P applications, such as Kickass Torrents, individually on Zenarmor via OPNsense UI

  • Share information about the security risks of using peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing programs with all employees and others who have access to your network.
  • There are many factors to consider when deciding whether or not to allow P2P file-sharing programs on your company's network. Examples of this kind of information include: what are the types and locations of private or confidential data on your network? We need to know which computers have access to sensitive data. What safeguards have been put in place to guard against unauthorized access to those files?

What Are Examples of P2P Networks?

P2P (peer-to-peer) networks are commonly used to distribute large files over the internet. Several online gaming platforms, for example, use P2P to download games between users. P2P is used to distribute Diablo III, StarCraft II, and World of Warcraft by Blizzard Entertainment. With their World of Warships and World of Warplanes games, Wargaming is another major publisher that does the same thing. P2P isn't for everyone, and some prefer dedicated download servers around the world instead.

One of the best-known P2P networks is Torrents. A torrent is a file-sharing protocol that utilizes a peer-to-peer network to connect all participating computers. Any file on the network can be uploaded by one computer, and then downloaded by other computers. If a computer has already downloaded some chunks of the file, it can also upload parts of the file.

In a small office or at home, computers can form a peer-to-peer network and share data and resources via the local area network.

What Are Unstructured P2P Networks Like?

An unstructured peer-to-peer network is formed by nodes that connect at random rather than imposing a specific structure on the overlay network. (Unstructured peer-to-peer protocols such as Gnutella, Gossip, and Kazaa are examples of such protocols.)

For the simple reason that they do not have a global structure imposed upon them, unstructured networks are simple to construct and allow for localized optimizations to be applied to different regions of the overlay.

Unstructured networks, on the other hand, are extremely resilient in the face of high rates of "churn," that is when large numbers of peers are frequently joining and leaving the network. This is because the role of all peers in the network is the same.

However, the lack of structure in unstructured networks is also responsible for the primary limitations of these networks. A good example is when a peer wants to find a specific piece of data in the network, the search query must be flooded through the network to find as many peers as possible that share that particular piece of data. In addition to increasing the amount of signaling traffic in the network, flooding consumes more CPU/memory (by requiring every peer to process all search queries) and does not guarantee that search queries will always be resolved. A further problem is that, because there is no correlation between a peer and the content managed by it, there is no guarantee that flooding will find a peer who has the data that is desired. Popular content is likely to be available to several peers at the same time, and any peer searching for it is likely to find the same thing as the other peers. However, if a peer is searching for data that is only shared by a small number of other peers, it is highly unlikely that the search will be successful.

What Are Structured P2P Networks Like?

Because they use a Distributed Hash Table (DHT), structured P2P networks can overcome the limitations of unstructured networks. They also allow each peer to be responsible for a specific portion of all content on the network, allowing them to overcome the limitations of unstructured networks. When determining which peer is responsible for which content, these networks employ hash functions to assign values to each piece of content and each peer in the network, and then follow a global protocol to determine which peer is responsible for which content. Whenever a peer wishes to search for data, it first consults the global protocol to determine which peer(s) is responsible for the data and then directs the search towards the responsible peer(s).