Client-Server and Peer-To-Peer Networks

In the previous sections we talked about what a network is and the factors that affect its performance. Whether a network is set up as a LAN or WAN, it may also be classified as either Client-Server or Peer-to-Peer dependent on how it is set up.

Networks for GCSE & A Level

There are benefits and drawbacks to each style of network, and it is important not to confuse these types with the network topology (the shape of the network).

The choice of how to set up the network is often made based on the purpose of the network.


When discussing networks, the devices within the network are often referred to as nodes. This allows us to refer to all types of devices on a network using one name.

Client-Server networks require a central node known as a server. This is a central computer that is often much more powerful, with larger storage capacity than the other nodes on the network.

When connecting to the network, each node must connect through the server, often through a network login.

By having this central computer, files and sometimes even programs can be stored on the server and shared to the other nodes directly. A benefit of this is that a user can log into any machine on the network and access their files as if they logged into their own machine.

This also allows for additional benefits such as centralised sercirity and whole network backups to prevent loss of data. Because of these benefits, most school and business networks make use of the client-server model.

One major drawback for client-server models though is having a single point of failure. Should the server go offline, the whole network is unusable!

This is less of an issue with peer-to-peer networks where all nodes in the network are connected through each other and have equal status on the network. User files are kept locally on the user’s machine, but can be shared with other machines.

This removes the single point of failure, so should one machine on the network fail the only thing that is lost is the access to the files on that machine, allowing the rest of the network to continue as usual.

but means that each user is responsible for backing up their files, updating their software, and installing security programs like anti-virus.

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