Definition of workgroup in The Network Encyclopedia.

What is Workgroup (in computer networking)?

Workgroup is a logical grouping of networked computers that can share resources with each other. These resources might include files, printers, and other devices. A workgroup is often called a peer-to-peer network because all computers in a workgroup are equally important. In other words, no single computer “runs the network,” as in a domain-based model.

How Workgroup Works

Each computer in a workgroup handles security separately using its own local security database, which tracks who can log on to the computer and what rights or permissions users have to resources on the computer. A user who wants to log on to a computer must have an account in that computer’s local security database. A user with an account on one computer doesn’t necessarily have any permissions or rights to resources on other computers.

If a computer in a workgroup is used to provide file, print, or other resources to other computers in the workgroup, that computer is generally called a peer server or a stand-alone server. Because security is local to each computer in a workgroup, a peer server can share resources using share-level security only, which uses passwords to protect access to each resource. Users who know this password can access the resources at the level of access with which it is shared (such as read-only access, full access, and so on).

Workgroups are simple to implement but hard to maintain. Administrators must create accounts on each computer for the users who need access to them. As a result, workgroups are generally used for small networks of 10 or fewer computers in which security and centralized administration are not an issue.