Give P2P a Chance

Why you should be using peer-to-peer networks to share your data.

Jeffrey M. Perkel
Jul 1, 2006

Remember peer-to-peer (P2P) networking? It's the software technology that incurred the wrath of the entertainment industry for its use in pirating copyrighted material. But P2P isn't bad; it exists simply to share data, a mission that dovetails nicely with science's collaborative ethos.

With P2P you can create pooled image libraries, disseminate genomic-scale datasets, and share publications, patient data, and poster presentations. You could do that from your lab's home page, too, of course, but P2P has an edge over traditional Web pages. Should your host computer go down, lab priorities change, or funding falter, the site could be lost. You also might lack the bandwidth to accommodate a popular site, or the hardware to host a large site.

That's why P2P is so useful: All you need to deliver files via P2P is a desktop computer. Simply download the application, select the files you want to share, and let the...