Network Basics: Dedicated Servers and Peers

There are two basic types of networks: client/server and peer to peer. The relationships, whether dedicated servers or peer relationships amongst the hardware determines the network type.

In some networks, a server computer is dedicated solely to the task of providing shared resources, such as hard drives and printers, to be accessed by the network client computers. Such a server is referred to as a dedicated server because it can perform no other tasks besides network services. A network that relies on dedicated servers is sometimes called a client/server network.

Other networks enable any computer on the network to function as both a client and a server. Thus, any computer can share its printers and hard drives with other network computers. And while a computer is working as a server, you can use that same computer for other functions such as word processing. This type of network is called a peer-to-peer network because all the computers are thought of as peers.

While you’re walking the dog tomorrow morning, ponder these points concerning the difference between dedicated server networks and peer-to-peer networks:

  • Peer-to-peer networking has been built in to all versions of Windows since Windows 95. Thus, you don’t have to buy any additional software to turn your computer into a server. All you have to do is enable the Windows server features.

  • The network server features that are built in to desktop versions of Windows (including Windows 7, Vista, and XP) aren’t very efficient because these versions of Windows were not designed primarily to be network servers. If you’re going to dedicate a computer to the task of being a full-time server, you should use a full-fledged network operating system, such as Windows Server 2008, instead.