Extranets - Peer-to-Peer options

Peer-to-Peer solutions use relatively new technologies.

At it's simplest level Peer-to-Peer technology turns your desktop PC into a personal web server. You have the ability to share, store, retrieve and edit documents and other files on any other device operating the same Peer-to-Peer Software - all within a secure environment.

This page provides an overview of various ways that Peer-to-Peer technology can be used, including:

In general, the great things about Peer-to-Peer technology are:

  • it provides real-time interactivity
  • it can easily be used with in-house software
  • it is public or private (i.e. secure) as you need
  • it is a low-cost solution

The possible downsides of Peer-to-Peer technology are:

  • You may need to have a PC running 24/7 to provide consistent customer service level
  • Your customers usually need to be using the same Peer-to-Peer software

Peer-to-Peer systems are expected to become widely used across many business sectors staring within the next 12-18 months.

Note that Peer-to-Peer will help you interact with your customers and suppliers - but to take full advantage of technology you need to consider automating your in-house business processes as well i.e. you need to consider what processes using the peer-to-peer system can be automated.

Peer-to-Peer Intranets/Extranets

Right now you can use free Peer-to-Peer software to set up your own intranet or extranet. The following functions are usually:

  • Once set up the members of your network simply "drag and drop" files into folders appearing on their machines. Files can be text messages (i.e. a replacement of e-mail) invoices, orders, etc. 
  • Customers can see any files you want them to see, you can see any files your customers want you to see. Peer-To-Peer folders can be public or private (i.e. secure)
  • You can use other MS-Windows applications to copy files created by desktop application directly to the Peer-to-Peer folders on your local machine.
  • You can use MS-Windows applications to copy files from your Peer-to-Peer folders to other (normal) MS-Windows applications.

If you combine the overall features it is pretty obvious that right now you can use Peer-to-Peer technology to provide a very low cost (i.e. FREE) and secure eCommerce solution for many businesses.

The constraint on the growth of Peer-to-Peer eCommerce is the willingness of your customers to load the software on their machines. The benefits to you as a supplier are similar to the most sophisticated of web sites available using "traditional" database-driven technologies.

The trick to getting your clients to adopt Peer-to-Peer technology is to let them know the benefits they will enjoy when THEIR customers begin using it. It's a little bit like the uptake of FAX machines - the value of Peer-to-Peer grows in an exponential way as more people adopt the technology - in the parlance of the "New Economy" it is the "power of the network".

In the very near future Peer-to-Peer technology will soon provide you with the ability to e-mail, fax or print any file within your private extranet - not just copy it from one location to another. Peer-to-Peer software is also being developed to allow you to interact with your extranet using a WAP-enabled phone when away from your Internet-connected PC.

Peer-to-Peer Public Web Sites

Peer-to-Peer users can host their own Web site by placing files within their Public folder. You effectively become become your own Webmaster and your PC becomes the Web host. It's not even necessary to know Web page design or coding - the Peer-to-Peer Web folders make any file Web-publishable.

You can also provide web-based access to your Peer-to-Peer site for people not using the same Peer-to-Peer software as you - although your web address is a sub-folder of the Peer-to-Peer software vendor rather than your own company URL.

Peer-to-Peer Project Management

Work team members, regardless of location or company, can use Peer-to-Peer systems as a secure repository and collaboration tool on many different types of files, such as schedules, presentations, budgets and more.

This should be a boon to the Construction Industry which is notorious for a lack of co-ordination between contractors.

Peer-to-Peer eMeetings for Organisations and Associations

Teams, clubs, committees and others have the perfect way to share confidential information and keep in constant touch with each other using Peer-to-Peer information sharing features - including instant messaging and Web page publishing.

See also: Server options | E-Mail Only systems | Brochureware Sites | Database-driven Sites

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