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What is network topology and how to choose a right one?

Network Topology, its importance in network management, and the various types of network topology present

Published: November 11, 2021 By Ozair Malik

Image showing network topology of a part of the worldwide web

Image source – freepik.com

According to the latest research, the United States ranks third among the largest online markets in the world, with over 313 million active internet users worldwide.

However, with this exponential increase in internet penetration rate, there is also an increase in local networks, which demand proper structuring and management.

I think it's safe to say that while everybody enjoys using technology, nobody likes slow networks, which are mismanaged.

Along with many other factors, network topology plays a pivotal role in the performance of networks. Want to know how?

Read the article to find out!

What is Network topology?

Network topology is the structural arrangement of various nodes, devices, and connections in a network.

The network components are displayed as nodes in network topology, whereas the connections are shown as lines to build a graphical model.

In simple words, the network topology is referred to how a network is arranged and how the different components of a network are connected.

Approaches to Network topology

The two main approaches to network topology are described below:

Physical Network Topology

As the name implies, a physical network topology depicts the actual physical connections of the network components arranged in a network.

Network setup, management, and monitoring tasks require information about the physical arrangement of the network.

Logical Network Topology

As the name implies, a logical network topology is a conceptual representation of the functioning of a network, which includes:

  • The ways network components are interconnected.
  • The methods of data transmission among network components

Why choosing the best network topology is important?

Choosing the best network topology is important for various reasons. Some of them are listed below:

  • To ensure the proper functioning of your network
  • To increase data transmission efficiency
  • To identify and troubleshoot problems effectively
  • To reduce operational and maintenance costs

Types of Network Topology

Point-to-Point Topology

This is the simplest type of network topology and is used to connect two network nodes directly via a common link. Hence, the whole network bandwidth is reserved for data transmission among only these two nodes.

However, the transmission of data in a point-to-point topology could be done in various ways across a network. Three such methods are described below:

  • In the Simplex mode of communication, the entire bandwidth of the communication channel is used for transmitting the signals in one direction only.
  • and television, which allow the transmission of signals only towards the user-end, are examples of such communication channels.
  • In the Half-Duplex mode of communication, a signal carrier is used to transmit signals in both directions. However, this transmission cannot happen simultaneously.

A walkie-talkie, which doesn't allow the user to speak and hear simultaneously, is a good example of such a communication channel.

  • In the Full-Duplex mode of communication, the same signal carrier transmits signals in both directions simultaneously.

Examples of such communication channels include telephones and mobile phones, which allow users to speak and hear simultaneously.

Image showing an example of Point-to-Point Topology

Image source - itjones.com

The table below shows some pros and cons of Point-to-Point Topology:


Pros
Cons
  • Easy to understand and implement
  • Highest Bandwidth
  • Provides low latency
  • Faster than other topologies
  • Not suitable for larger networks
  • Error in one node will bring the whole network down
  • Replacement of nodes requires a lot of time and money

Verdict: It is a simple to use network topology but is only suitable for small areas where nodes are closely located.

Daisy Chain Topology

Daisy Chain Network Topology is also one of the simplest network topologies, allowing the addition of more network nodes.

In such networks, the network nodes are connected end-to-end, allowing the transmission of signals from one node to another without the interference of other devices.

These networks can be of two types mentioned below:

  • Linear Daisy Chain Topology

In a linear daisy chain topology, one network node is connected to the other by using a two-way wire connection between them. Thus, each node bounces the signal along a straight line until it reaches the destination.

Image showing an example of Linear Daisy Chain Topology

 Image source - itjones.com

The table below shows some pros and cons of Linear Daisy Chain Topology:


Pros
Cons
  • Less use of cables
  • Easier and faster data transmission
  • Lower cost
  • One faulty network node will bring the whole network down

  • Ring Daisy Chain Topology

Ring topology, as the name implies, is the arrangement of network nodes in a closed loop. Thus, each network node has two peers allowing data transmission in only one direction from one network station at a time.

However, bidirectional data transmission can be made possible by adding a second connection between the network nodes creating a dual ring topology.

Image showing an example of Ring Topology

Image source – stock.adobe.com

The table below shows some pros and cons of Ring Topology:


Pros
Cons
  • Reduced amount of cables required
  • Lower risk of packet collisions
  • Efficient data transmission
  • Low cost
  • Easier to identify misconfigurations and troubleshoot problems
  • The dual ring option provides continuity through redundancy
  • Requires extensive preventive maintenance and monitoring
  • Error in one node will bring the whole network down
  • Slower data transmission in large networks
  • Reconfiguring the network requires a full network shutdown.

Verdict: The Ring Topology is a cost-effective option for efficient data transmission but unsuitable for larger networks. Each additional component causes the entire network to slow down.

Bus Topology

Bus Topology is called so because, in this type of network, all the network nodes are connected to a single cable, called a bus, which runs from one end to another.

This topology is also referred to as "line topology" or "backbone topology" sometimes since the bus acts as a backbone of the network that joins all the network nodes.

A signal sent in such type of network, containing the address and data travels to all nodes until it reaches the destination node, which accepts the data. All the other nodes reject the data portion of the signal if it doesn't match the address.

Image showing an example of Bus Topology

Image source – adobe.com

The table below shows some pros and cons of Bus Topology:


Pros
Cons
  • Easy installation
  • Simple and inexpensive construction
  • Less use of cables
  • Suitable for small businesses
  • Easier to expand and handle
  • Backbone failure can cause a huge loss of time and money
  • Allows only unidirectional flow of signals
  • Not suitable for large networks as troubleshooting is difficult, and data transmission will become slower

Verdict: Bus topology is only suitable for small businesses but is not recommended over other network topologies in the list because of unidirectional flow and backbone dependency.

Star Topology

Star Topology is a topology in which every network node is connected to one central hub or switch through coaxial, twisted-pair, or fiber-optic cable. Hence, the central hub functions as the server, and all the network traffic passes through it.

It is the most commonly used network topology for LAN as it is easier to manage from only one location, i.e., central hub.

Image showing an example of Star Topology

Image source – adobe.com

The table below shows some pros and cons of Star Topology:


Pros
Cons
  • Easy to manage from a single place
  • Durable since one faulty network node doesn't affect the entire network
  • Less use of cables
  • It can be easily expanded without shutting down the network
  • Central switch's performance is critical
  • Requires extensive preventive maintenance of switch
  • Network size is limited
  • Expensive to set up and operate

Verdict: Star topologies have a lot of benefits regarding management and reliability, but they are way too expensive to set up and operate.

Mesh Topology

It is a relatively complex topology with a point-to-point connection, and the network nodes are interconnected directly and dynamically.

This non-hierarchical structure can be classified into two types described below:

  • In a partial mesh topology, most nodes are interconnected. However, some nodes have only two or more connections.
  • In a full mesh topology, all the nodes are interconnected.

Mesh topology allows data transmission via two different methods listed below:

  • Routing, where the network nodes use routing logic to find the shortest path from the source to the packet's destination.
  • Flooding, where the data is sent to every node in the network. Hence, it doesn't require any routing logic to work.

Image showing an example of Mesh Topology

Image source – adobe.com

The table below shows some pros and cons of Mesh Topology:


Pros
Cons
  • Durable and reliable
  • High-speed data transmission
  • Resistant to failure due to interconnectivity
  • Identifying faults and troubleshooting problems is easier
  • Labor-intensive as a lot of cabling is required
  • Difficult and time consuming to set up
  • Expensive and challenging to operate

Verdict: Mesh topologies are suitable for high-value networks for small to medium networks but require a lot of time and money to set up and operate.

Hybrid Topology

Hybrid topology, as the name implies, is a combination of two or more standard network topologies. Hence, the advantages and disadvantages of a hybrid topology depend on the types of common topologies combined.

Such network topologies are mostly found in larger organizations so that each department can have a different network topology according to its requirements within the same organization.

Image showing an example of Hybrid Topology

Image source – adobe.com

The table below shows some pros and cons of Hybrid Topology:


Pros
Cons
  • Extremely flexible
  • It can be expanded infinitely
  • Adjustable to optimize equipment use
  • Suitable for larger networks
  • Requires extensive professional management
  • Monitoring software is critical to ensure its proper functioning
  • Expensive because of the equipment costs

Verdict: Hybrid topologies are suitable for middle-sized and larger organizations, but they require proper management and can be very expensive compared to other options in this list.

Tree Topology

This topology is the most common example of the hybrid network topology formed by combining a bus topology and a star topology.

Tree topology is named so because, in this type of network, the bus resembles the trunk of a tree, whereas the peripheral nodes resemble leaves.

Image showing an example of Tree Topology

Image source – adobe.com

The table below shows some pros and cons of Tree Topology:


Pros
Cons
  • Flexible and easier to expand
  • Identifying faults and troubleshooting problems is a cakewalk
  • Backbone performance is critical
  • Higher costs due to the amount of cabling required
  • Difficult to configure because of the hierarchical structure

Verdict: Tree topology has a lot of benefits and can be used in larger networks. However, the central bus dependency is a major drawback especially considering the huge cost of this topology.

Conclusion

Choosing the best network topology for your business network changes your network management game altogether. However, this choice must be made carefully.

Some of the parameters you must keep in mind while choosing a network topology include the size of the network, configuration management, monitoring, and general performance.

Hence, one type of network topology cannot be best for all cases as every topology has its pros and cons. Professional help is also recommended if you're not sure about picking the best network topology for your network.

Tags: 
Technology
Author
Ozair Malik
A passionate Cyber Security researcher and writer with a keen interest in Digital Forensics. A community worker running a insta blog to raise cybersecurity awareness among laymen.

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