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

By Indeed Editorial Team

November 12, 2021

The ability to share digital information and resources is a vital part of information technology. A peer-to-peer (P2P) network linking computers may help your business run more efficiently by improving connectivity and access to shared resources. In this article, we discuss what a P2P network offers, how it’s used and examples of its use.

What is a peer-to-peer network?

A peer-to-peer network is an information technology (IT) infrastructure allowing two or more computer systems to connect and share resources without requiring a separate server or server software Workplaces may set up a P2P network by physically connecting computers into a linked system or creating a virtual network. You can also set up computers to be the clients and servers of their network.

A P2P network is different from a client-server network traditionally used in networking. A client-server network is a connection between a client computer and a server computer to provide the client with the server’s resources.

In the P2P network, each device is considered a peer—thus “peer-to-peer”—with functions that contribute to the network. Each computer is both a client and a server and they share resources with other networked computers.

Some major features of the P2P network include:

  • Each computer in a P2P network provides resources to the network and consumes resources that the network provides. Resources such as files, printers, storage, bandwidth and processing power can be shared between various computers in the network.

  • A P2P network is easy to configure. Once it’s set up, access is controlled by setting sharing permissions on each computer. Stricter access can be controlled by assigning passwords to specific resources.

  • Some P2P networks are formed by overlaying a virtual network on a physical network. The network uses the physical connection to transfer data while the virtual overlay allows the computers on the network to communicate with each other.

Key advantages of using a P2P network

Due to its architecture, a P2P network can offer many advantages to its users, including:

  • Easy file sharing: An advanced P2P network can share files quickly over large distances. Files can be accessed anytime.

  • Reduced costs: There is no need to invest in a separate computer for a server when setting up a P2P network. It doesn’t require a network operating system or a full-time system administrator.

  • Adaptability: P2P network extends to include new clients easily. This benefit makes these networks more flexible than client-server networks. Its scalability

  • Reliability: Unlike a client-server network, which can fail if the central server malfunctions, a P2P network will remain functional even if the central server crashes. If a single computer goes down, the others continue as normal. This also prevents bottlenecking since traffic is distributed across multiple computers.

  • High performance: While a client-server network performs less effectively when more clients join the network, a P2P network can improve its performance when more clients join it. This is because each client in a P2P network is also a server that contributes resources to the network.

  • Efficiency: Emerging P2P networks enable collaboration between devices that have different resources that can benefit the whole network.

Tips for using a P2P network

Here are some tips to help you to use P2P networks safely and efficiently:

  • Secure your P2P network with network security solutions. You should also check your network regularly for malware.

  • Develop an innovative policy that suits the decentralized architecture of the network to manage your data and applications.

  • Develop a cybersecurity policy and invest in network security to protect advanced networks that users create with P2P software, as they can have software-based vulnerabilities. By taking these preventative actions, you can prevent remote exploits—attacks that take advantage of the vulnerabilities in electronic systems to deny services or spread malware.

Examples of P2P networks

There are three basic levels of P2P networking:

  • The basic level uses a universal serial bus (USB) to create a basic P2P network between two computer systems.

  • The intermediate level requires using copper wires to connect a large number of computers.

  • In the advanced P2P network, software establishes protocols that manage the direct connections between multiple devices over the internet.

You can use these levels to build the following types of networks:

Unstructured P2P networks

Here are the basic details of unstructured networks:

  • They are easy to build since devices can randomly connect to the network.

  • Each device can make an equal contribution.

  • The lack of structure can make it challenging for users to find rare content.

  • They are resilient to high churn rates. Churn refers to the number of users joining and leaving the network.

Structured P2P networks

The software used to set up a structured P2P network organizes the virtual layer of the network into a specific structure. Here are the features of structured P2P networks:

  • While structured P2P networks are not as easy to build as unstructured networks, they offer users better access to rare content when compared to unstructured P2P networks.

  • Structured networks are less resilient to high churn rates when compared with unstructured networks.

Hybrid networks

Hybrid networks combine the features of a P2P network with the features of a client-server network. There are many varieties of hybrid networks. An example of a popular hybrid network is one that assists users in finding each other via a central server.

Jobs that use P2P networks

Several jobs could use a P2P network, such as:

Sales associate

National average salary: $48,677 per hour

Primary duties: Sales associates sell their employer’s product or service to clients. They are tasked with developing and maintaining inventory control, communicating with customers, maintaining the client base, seeking new clients, working with sales teams and meeting sales goals. You can become a sales associate with a high school diploma or work experience, but some employers could require a bachelor’s degree in business or a related field.

Related: How To Be a Good Sales Associate


National average salary: $78,421 per year

Primary duties: A videographer can operate cameras, use audio equipment and create videos. They are responsible for planning, filming and editing video content. While some employers may require a bachelor’s degree, you can often become a videographer with a high school diploma or work experience.

Related: How To Become a Videographer: Job Outlook and Salary Information


National average salary: $43,990 per year

Primary duties: Journalists create news content for news publishers and social media platforms. They are responsible for collecting information, working independently, handling interviews, using computer skills, writing news articles and delivering their reports on online, offline and on-air platforms. Most employers require a bachelor’s degree in journalism or a related field as well as work experience.

Related: Multimedia Journalist Skills: Definition and Examples

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