The disadvantages of client/server networks

Updated July 20, 2017

Client/server network architecture is the preferred choice for large networks because of its stability, security and scalability. The strengths of the client/server configuration make it a desirable option for nearly any size network. The disadvantages of the client/server architecture, however, often eliminate it altogether as a practical option for smaller networks.


A client/server network can be expensive to implement and maintain. First, at least one server is required to create a client/server network. This requires server hardware and software, a server operating system and appropriate licenses to allow the end users to use the network software. If data will be stored centrally, a backup system is needed, which requires backup server software and backup media. Maintaining a client/server network also requires at least one network administrator, which translates into an additional salary. For a smaller network, cost alone may be the deciding factor in opting for a different type of network architecture.


A client/server network is naturally more complex, which can be both an advantage and a disadvantage. For instance, data stored remotely can be more secure than data stored locally, but more configuration is required both to ensure the security of that data and to allow the appropriate users to have appropriate access to that data. The very nature of a client/server environment creates challenges in the delivery and accessibility of remote resources.


A client/server network requires experienced network personnel to maintain the server, manage security and backup systems, and recover quickly from unexpected outages. Depending on the size and complexity of the client/server network, this could require network administrators, IT security professionals, and/or other IT professionals. A smaller network may be able to combine several of these roles into one position, but additional training is often required as a result.


When a computer in a simple peer-to-peer network goes down, the only users affected are the user of that particular computer, and perhaps any users who are trying to access data stored on that computer. In contrast, when a server in a client/server network goes down, all users are affected. If security is maintained centrally on that server, workstations are unable to authenticate login information, and users are unable to gain access to their own systems. If user data is stored centrally, users are unable to access their data. If applications are managed centrally, users are unable to run their applications. Any of these scenarios can result in significant loss of productivity and/or revenue.

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About the Author

Marcie Thomas has a Master of Education in instructional technology. She specializes in the use of technology in higher education, including online learning. Thomas has experience with instructional design, Web development, network administration, PC support and technical writing.