Peer-to-peer networking for the entrepreneur, part 3

Now that you have the basic steps to get started with peer-to-peer networking from parts one and two, Steve Pittsley completes this series with a discussion on TCP/IP configuration and a how-to on sharing files.

In the first part of my series on peer-to-peer networking, I focused on giving you a broad overview on how to set up your own network. In part two, I explained the equipment you would need and the software configuration required on the client. For part three, let’s get our hands a little dirty with some of the more technical aspects of peer-to-peer networking, namely TCP/IP configuration.
If you missed part one, click here to read Steve Pittsley’s introduction to peer-to-peer networking concepts. To read part two, which covers equipment needs and software configuration, click here.
Phase 3—TCP/IP configuration
If you recall in part two, I left off at the Network dialog box after installing TCP/IP as a component. From there, you will need to configure the TCP/IP properties. To do this, select TCP/IP and click the Properties button, after which you will be presented with the TCP/IP dialog box (see Figure A). Because your network will only have a few computers on it, you can manually specify an IP address for each station. After clicking on the Specify An IP Address radio button, enter the IP address for your computer. Remember, the first three sets of numbers of the IP address must be the same, and the last number will be unique. In our example, each computer will have a network address of 192.168.100, plus a unique host address. You can select any number between 1 and 254; just make sure that each computer receives a different number. The subnet mask, in this case, will always hold the value of This field can change to use more advanced configurations, but for a small network, this value is appropriate.

Figure A
Make sure last number (i.e., the host) in the IP address is unique for each machine.

After clicking OK, you will be prompted to insert the Windows 95/98 CD. A short file copy will occur, and then you will be prompted to reboot. Before doing so, remember to remove any floppy disks and CDs from the drives.

After the computer restarts, you will need to log in. The Microsoft client software provides you with a small amount of security. Although you can click the Cancel button and avoid the login process, you should enter a unique username and password. You will need this later to access files on other computers, so you should go ahead and create it now. After successfully logging in, the network setup on this computer is complete. That wasn’t too difficult, was it?

Phase 4—Sharing files
Now that your computers can communicate with each other, you can begin to share files among them. In a peer-to-peer network, you store files on your computers’ hard drive and then allow other people to use them. However, you must ensure that you are not storing all of the heavily used files on one computer. Doing so could slow the system down immensely. Try to distribute heavily used shared files among all of the computers on the network.

To configure your computers to share files, you must install the Microsoft service called File And Printer Sharing For Microsoft Networks. This can be done using the same method with which you installed the networking components. From the Network dialog box that you used with Windows 95/98 (see Figure A), click Add to bring up the Select Network Component Type dialog box. After selecting your service, choose Microsoft and then File And Printer Sharing For Microsoft Networks. After the short file copy, you can reboot the computer to finish installing the service.

To enable a file or folder to be shared in Windows 95/98, you must enable file sharing. To do this, go to the Network dialog box and click on the File And Print Sharing button. The File And Print Sharing dialog box will appear, and you must select I Want To Be Able To Give Others Access To My Files (see Figure B).

Figure B

Now you are ready to share your files. You share files and folders by right clicking them in Windows Explorer and selecting the Sharing option, as shown in Figure C.

Figure C

Then, you should select the Shared As option (see Figure D). You can then enter the Share name. The Share name is what you will see when searching for files to use. Keeping the names simple and generic is best. Names like Steves-CD are okay, but if that person ever leaves the company, the name will lose its meaning. If you want more details, you can add them to the Comment line.

Figure D
Be sure to give the file or folder a simple and generic name.

The three types of access levels that are available are Read Only, Full, and Depends On Password. Read Only allows others to read your file, but not modify it. Full access means just what it says: Everyone will have full access to the file; they will be able to read and modify the document. The Depends On Password option allows you to password protect access to the shared files and folders. Users who want to use your files must enter a valid password to do so.

When making access rights assignments, try to do so at a higher level in the directory structure, such as a folder, so that you don’t end up managing access to every single document. A good idea is to create a folder named Shared_Files and put all of the files that you want to share into this folder. You can then grant whatever access type you want to the folder, and all of the subfolders and documents will inherit the rights granted to the Shared_Files folder.

Once you have shared the files on your computers, you can access them through Windows Explorer. As you can see in Figure E, using the Network Neighborhood icon, you will eventually see the share name as you move down the directory structure.

Figure E
Use Windows Explorer to drill down to the files available for sharing.

I hope that after reading my series of articles, you are comfortable with configuring a small peer-to-peer network for your small business or home. The examples used in this series were provided simply as an overview of how to construct a simple network. Keep in mind there are many other methods of connecting computers together. My goal in this article series was to help you create an efficient and stable network while allowing you to do what you do best: run your business.
The authors and editors have taken care in preparation of the content contained herein but make no expressed or implied warranty of any kind and assume no responsibility for errors or omissions. No liability is assumed for any damages. Always have a verified backup before making any changes.

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