What is a Network Topology?
The physical topology of a network refers to the configuration of computers, cables, and other network components.
Main Types of Physical Topologies
Ring Topology In a ring topology, all nodes (file server, workstations, and peripherals) are connected to each other in a ring. This is called daisy-chaining. Each node on the ring acts as a repeater. It receives a transmission from the previous node, amplifies it then passes it on.
Advantages of a Ring Topology
Requires less cable length than any other topologies. Each node duplicates the data signals so that very little signal degradation occurs.
Disadvantages of a Ring Topology
All information must travel the entire ring of the network. If the ring is broken at any point within the network the network will no longer function. Very difficult to identify the problem if the entire network shuts down.
Linear Bus Topology A linear bus topology consists of a main run of cable with a terminator at each end. All nodes (file server, workstations, and peripherals) are connected to the linear cable and all data signals are broadcast throughout the bus structure. Therefore, all transmissions are available to all nodes on the network.
Advantages of a Linear Bus Topology
Easy to connect a computer or peripheral to a linear bus. Cable costs are minimized because of the common trunk.
Disadvantages of a Linear Bus Topology
Entire network shuts down if there is a break in the main cable. Terminators are required at both ends of the backbone cable. Difficult to identify the problem because there is no central point of distribution. Performance degrades as additional computers are added or on heavy traffic.
Star Topology A star topology is designed with each node (fileserver, workstations, and peripherals) connected directly to a central node (switch). The switch will "learn" the layout of the network by first broadcasting data packets, then observing where response packets come from. All data goes to the switch which sends it to the required node.
Advantages of a Star Topology
Easy to install and wire. No disruptions to the network when connecting or removing devices. Easy to detect faults and to remove parts. If one node is disconnected from the switch, the rest of the system will be unaffected.
Disadvantages of a Star Topology
Requires more cable. If the switch fails, nodes attached are disabled. More expensive than linear bus topologies because of the cost of the switch.
Tree Topology A tree topology combines characteristics of linear bus and star topologies. It consists of groups of star-configured workstations connected to a linear bus backbone cable. Tree topologies allow for the expansion of an existing network, and enable schools to configure a network to meet their needs.
Advantages of a Tree Topology
Easy to add new segments (branches).
Disadvantages of a Tree Topology
Overall length of each segment is limited by the type of cabling used. If the backbone line breaks, the entire segment goes down. More difficult to configure and wire than other topologies.
Hybrid Topology Hybrid networks use a combination of any two or more topologies in such a way that the resulting network does not have one of the standard forms. An example is a star ring network.