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Peer-to-Peer vs Windows Domain Network

Peer-to-peer (P2P) and Windows Domain are the two ways an office network may be set up.  In either case, one computer will assume the role of database server.  This computer will be in charge of storing and maintaining the patient database.

In a P2P setup, the computers on the network essentially function on their own, keeping charge of who they talk to and what files and folders they are willing to share with the other computers on the network.  When one fails, the others are not affected.  However, one computer will have to assume the important role of keeping and maintaining the patient database.  When this computer fails, the network will still be up, but the patient files will not be accessible.  The figure below illustrates a P2P network, and the one computer maintaining the patient database is labeled 'SERVER', or more appropriately, database server:


In a Windows Domain network, one of the computers takes complete charge of the entire network.  This computer, labeled 'SERVER' in the figure below, governs who has access to the network, maintains all passwords and directs all data traffic within the system. When this computer goes down, the entire network goes down with it.   Instead of having a desktop version of Windows such as XP or Vista, this computer runs special server software called Windows Server.  This computer is typically designed to run 24/7 and be less likely to suffer from hardware failure. It is usually configured with special high-performance drives and larger power supplies.  Naturally, this is also the computer which you will want to host the patient database.  So you may consider it the database server as well:

Windows Domain

In either situation, the database server will be the most important computer on the network, so you want it to be the most reliable computer on the network.  In other words, the one least likely to fail.  So a Windows Domain network has advantages of better security since only one computer is in charge of who has access, and better reliability since the patient database resides on the most failsafe computer in the network.