Peer-to-peer - Advantages and Weaknesses

Advantages and Weaknesses

In P2P networks, clients provide resources, which may include bandwidth, storage space, and computing power. This property is one of the major advantages of using P2P networks because it makes the setup and running costs very small for the original content distributor. As nodes arrive and demand on the system increases, the total capacity of the system also increases, and the likelihood of failure decreases. If one peer on the network fails to function properly, the whole network is not compromised or damaged. In contrast, in a typical client–server architecture, clients share only their demands with the system, but not their resources. In this case, as more clients join the system, fewer resources are available to serve each client, and if the central server fails, the entire network is taken down. The decentralized nature of P2P networks increases robustness because it removes the single point of failure that can be inherent in a client-server based system.

Another important property of peer-to-peer systems is the lack of a system administrator. This leads to a network that is easier and faster to setup and keep running because a full staff is not required to ensure efficiency and stability. Decentralized networks introduce new security issues because they are designed so that each user is responsible for controlling their data and resources. Peer-to-peer networks, along with almost all network systems, are vulnerable to unsecure and unsigned codes that may allow remote access to files on a victim's computer or even compromise the entire network. A user may encounter harmful data by downloading a file that was originally uploaded as a virus disguised in an .exe, .mp3, .avi, or any other filetype. This type of security issue is due to the lack of an administrator that maintains the list of files being distributed.

Harmful data can also be distributed on P2P networks by modifying files that are already being distributed on the network. This type of security breach is created by the fact that users are connecting to untrusted sources, as opposed to a maintained server. In the past this has happened to the FastTrack network when the RIAA managed to introduce faked chunks into downloads and downloaded files (mostly MP3 files). Files infected with the RIAA virus were unusable afterwards or even contained malicious code. The RIAA is also known to have uploaded fake music and movies to P2P networks in order to deter illegal file sharing. Consequently, the P2P networks of today have seen an enormous increase of their security and file verification mechanisms. Modern hashing, chunk verification and different encryption methods have made most networks resistant to almost any type of attack, even when major parts of the respective network have been replaced by faked or nonfunctional hosts.

There are both advantages and disadvantages in P2P networks related to the topic of data backup, recovery, and availability. In a centralized network, the system administrators are the only forces controlling the availability of files being shared. If the administrators decide to no longer distribute a file, they simply have to remove it from their servers, and it will no longer be available to users. Along with leaving the users powerless in deciding what is distributed throughout the community, this makes the entire system vulnerable to threats and requests from the government and other large forces. For example, YouTube has been pressured by the RIAA, MPAA, and entertainment industry to filter out copyrighted content. Although server-client networks are able to monitor and manage content availability, they can have more stability in the availability of the content they choose to host. A client should not have trouble accessing obscure content that is being shared on a stable centralized network. P2P networks, however, are more unreliable in sharing unpopular files because sharing files in a P2P network requires that at least one node in the network has the requested data, and that node must be able to connect to the node requesting the data. This requirement is occasionally hard to meet because users may delete or stop sharing data at any point.

In this sense, the community of users in a P2P network is completely responsible for deciding what content is available. Unpopular files will eventually disappear and become unavailable as more people stop sharing them. Popular files, however, will be highly and easily distributed. Popular files on a P2P network actually have more stability and availability than files on central networks. In a centralized network, only the loss of connection between the clients and server is simple enough to cause a failure, but in P2P networks, the connections between every node must be lost in order to fail to share data. In a centralized system, the administrators are responsible for all data recovery and backups, while in P2P systems, each node requires its own backup system. Because of the lack of central authority in P2P networks, forces such as the recording industry, RIAA, MPAA, and the government are unable to delete or stop the sharing of content on P2P systems.

Read more about this topic:  Peer-to-peer

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