Peer-to-peer networking is a pretty cost-effective way to hook up a few computers and share resources such as printers and files. What's more, there are products that allow you to connect computers running different operating systems together into the same peer environment. For example, we've already discussed Samba as a possibility for including Linux computers in a Windows workgroup.
Remember, however, that peer networks are meant to be kept small before you start to develop grandiose plans for connecting a number of different operating systems into some giant peer-to-peer network. If you have more than 5 to 10 clients , network performance will suffer greatly, as will individual computer performance, as all those peers begin to access resources on the various computers.
Therefore, if you find you need to connect computers running various operating systems and think your network might grow in the future, you're better off buying a server and a network operating system that will support the different client types and provide you with the ability to centrally manage the network.
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In Windows you can quickly map a drive to a network resource such as a shared folder. This allows you to reattach to the resource when your computer is rebooted. Right-click on any shared folder and select Map Network Drive from the shortcut menu. The Map Network Drive dialog box will open. Specify a drive letter for the shared folder (or go with the default) and then click Finish. The mapped drive will appear in Windows Explorer and the My Computer window when you open them.
The Absolute Minimum
In this chapter we sorted out the possibilities for peer-to-peer networking and looked at configuring LAN protocols for our peer network. Peer-to-peer networking works best in situations where there are less than 10 computers. Other things that you learned in this chapter include the following:
Protocols such as TCP/IP and NWlink can be used to connect Windows peer computers.
Windows workgroups identify the peer members by their computer names .
Windows drives and folders can be shared by right-clicking the resource in Windows Explorer and selecting Sharing and Security from the shortcut menu. Windows printers can also be shared in a similar fashion.
Linux computers can be configured with Samba so that they can be part of a Windows workgroup.