Computers have revolutionized society. Jobs that were once time-consuming have now become much easier. Individuals and businesses can store a wealth of information on a single machine. There are two ways to organize computers: standalone and in networks. Depending on your needs, a standalone setup may or may not be appropriate for you.
A standalone computer is exactly what its name implies: a computer that stands on its own. Any tasks or data associated with that computer stay inside it and are not accessible from anywhere else. Any peripherals, such as printers, must be directly connected to it in order to work.
A standalone's counterpart is the network. Basically, a network is a group of separate computers connected together. A peer-to-peer network is the simplest form, because it simply hooks computers together in a circular fashion. Other methods, such as client/server, are controlled by a central area called a hub.
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One advantage of a standalone computer is damage control. For example, if something goes wrong, only the standalone will be affected. Simplicity is another advantage, because it takes a lot less expertise to manage one computer than it does to setup or troubleshoot several. Standalone computers can also be more convenient. For example, printing on a network may require you to walk some distance from the computer to the printer. Inversely, any peripherals on a standalone have to be in arm's reach. Finally, a standalone does not affect other computer users. With a network, one user may waste space by watching movies or listening to music. In turn, everyone else using the network may see slower computer performance.
Standalone computers have drawbacks. First of all, users are restricted to a single computer. On a network, users can access their files from any connected computer. Second, the same software cannot be installed simultaneously. While a network allows everything to be changed at once, a standalone requires that any new programs must be set up one-by-one, which is much more time-consuming. Third, it is much cheaper to connect every computer to one printer than to buy a printer for each standalone computer. Finally, standalones are harder to monitor. On a network, certain software can be used to simultaneously view each user's activity.