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The Respect of Your Peers?

Peer-to-peer computing is coming, But is it good for your company?

Back before Napster's legal morass, the ultrahip Web music provider's ability to attract tens of millions of MP3 file-swappers virtually overnight caught everyone's attention-and led to dozens of copycat peer-to-peer networks. Indeed, P2P networking among individuals is supposed to be the proverbial new computing paradigm. Some have gone so far as to deem 2001 "The Year of the Peer."

If so, that's not necessarily a good thing. There's a chance your company could get served a heaping helping of P2P before the concept is fully cooked. So? That's how streaming video, biometrics and most new technologies come to fruition, isn't it? True, but the acronym "P2P" doesn't refer to only a technology. It's also a socio-economic philosophy that's best summed up as "What's yours is all of ours."

 
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The last time we checked, you're all about making money and holding down costs. With those priorities in mind, you should take a careful look at P2P before inviting it onto your network. It still has three major shortcomings that could drain your company's IT support and networking budgets-or worse:

1) Lack of common programming standards and protocols,
2) Lack of security, and
3) Lack of respect for people's private property.

The first problem will get worked out-probably long after the current trickle of P2P applications becomes a flood. Security is likely to be a problem, resulting in higher costs overall and the occasional expensive disaster. But that last problem, that's the tough one. It arises from our changing social mores and isn't likely to be helped by bestowing an identifiable address on every PC-or, in the P2P vision, on every file on every PC.

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This article was originally published in the June 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: The Respect of Your Peers?.

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