Join Mike Meyers for an in-depth discussion in this video Client/server vs. peer-to-peer, part of CompTIA Network+ Exam Prep (N10-006) Part 5: Advanced IP Networking.
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- I love the Network Plus, in fact, it's probably one of my favorite certifications out there. But it's got a couple of quirky little objectives on there and, well, this is one of them. It's the idea of client/server versus peer-to-peer. Now, when we say client/server and peer-to-peer, there are two totally different sets of meanings about these. The first one is that we're talking about old school client/server and peer-to-peer and then we have a much more modern meaning. Now, the challenge is we're not exactly sure which one Comp TIA wants us to talk about, so guess what? I'm going to mention both really quick.
Don't worry, it's not that hard. Back in the old days, I mean, we're talking back in the 80s, when networking was first coming out, there were two very different ways to look at networking. There were companies who had names like Novell Netwear, for example, who you would set up a Novell Netwear server. Now this server wasn't running Windows or anything like that, it was running Novell Netwear. Which was its own operating system. And individual computers, and remember this was really before Windows for the most part.
So, you had old school DOS computers and these DOS computers would have a little Netware client installed. When you ran that client, all the sudden these little computers instead of just having a C drive, suddenly had a Z drive or something like that. So, everything that was networking manifested on these little, individual clients as nothing more than a new drive letter. That drive letter was storage space on the Netware server itself. So, that's where the old term client/server originally came from.
You had a dedicated machine that only ran Novell Netwear. You couldn't install Microsoft Word on it, you understand? It just ran Netware. It didn't even have an interface that you'd recognize. But it was very strong, and it was very secure, and only the client could access the server, and the clients couldn't access each other. You could have 18 computers around you, but there was no way to see or know that there were other computers. They simply weren't part of the process. Now, Microsoft kind of messed this up with something called Microsoft LAN Manager back in the very early 1990s.
And Microsoft LAN Manager came up with this idea of what we call peer-to-peer. And peer-to-peer simply meant that any computer could be a client or a server. And that's kind of what we're used to today, where you can jump into a network and you can see a whole bunch of computers. And that's because we don't have to have computers that are dedicated servers. We can have a machine that can do both. In fact, even the most high end Windows server today, if you wanted to install World of Tanks on it, it would work. So, that's kind of the old school way of looking at it. Keep in mind that peer-to-peer back in the old days wasn't very secure, it wasn't very strong, it was easy to mess it up.
So, that's where the whole idea of client/server versus peer-to-peer came from. Well, with today's Windows systems, even if you're running a bunch of Windows 7, Windows 8 systems, they are peer-to-peer, but they're extremely robust. They have NTFS file system, they've got all kinds of stuff in there that's going to make them run really, really robustly, really securely, lots of everything in there that makes the whole old school idea of client/server versus peer-to-peer really not make sense anymore.
So, let's talk about what we say client/server and peer-to-peer today in terms of the more modern applications we talk about. For the most part, pretty much everything done on the Internet is client/server. If you want to access something on the Web, you are using your Web client, your Web browser, to access as Web server. If you want to get your email you're accessing a Web server. If you want to play World of Tanks, you're going to be accessing a World of Tanks server. And you're running some kind of client software to do it.
So, for the most part, it's always client/server when we're talking about the Internet. But, there's some big exceptions to that. We have a lot of tools out there that are what we would call peer-to-peer tools. In these types of situations, there really isn't a server so much as a whole bunch of computers that are working together to share data. Probably one of the more common ones would be the famous BitTorrents that are out and all over the place these days, and of course no one's using that for anything illegally. But with BitTorrents you don't really have a server computer.
What you have are a bunch of peers, and that's literally what they're called in BitTorrent, that work together to share data. So, when we're talking about client/server and peer-to-peer on the Network Plus, keep in mind we've got two totally different ways to talk about it. The old school way, or the more modern way. And I can't tell you which one you're going to be seeing on the test.
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