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Computer Networking Topologies

The physical arrangement of the cables, computers and components is referred to as the networks topology. There are five basic topologies, bus, star, ring, mesh, and wireless.

Bus Topology

A bus topology consists of a cable that connects all the computers in the network in a single line. Computers communicate by attaching the address of the computer meant to receive it to the data and putting it on the cable. The data, an electronic signal, travels to the ends of the cable. A component called a terminator is connected to each end of the cable to absorb the signal and prevent it from bouncing back.

Bus topology

If the cable is disconnected or physically broken, this would result in cable ends that do not have a terminator. Signals would bounce, causing the network communications to fail.

Ring Topology

Ring topology

In a ring topology, all the computers in the network are connected in a closed loop. The data signal travels around the loop in one direction, passing through each computer. Whereas bus topology is passive, in a ring topology each computer boosts the signal before sending it on to the next computer. Because the signal must pass through each computer, the failure of one computer can cause the network to fail.

Star Topology

Star topology

In a star topology, all the computers in the network are connected by cable to a central hub. This configuration results in better fault tolerance because a problem with one cable will not affect the rest of the network. However, if the central hub fails, it brings down the entire network. Star topology may require more cable than bus or ring topology.

Mesh Topology

In a mesh topology, each computer in the network is directly connected to every other computer in the network. Mesh topology has very high fault tolerance because if one cable breaks, several alternate routes are available. Mesh topology is very complex and requires a large amount of cable. It is not cost effective to implement except for the most mission critical systems.

Wireless Topology

A wireless network dosn't use cables. Instead a wireless network uses infrared light beams or radio waves to communicate. The wireless network consists of transceivers called access points. The computers in a wireless network each have their own transceivers to communicate with an access point. In an infrared light network, the client and the access point must be in line-of-sight.

Logical vs. Physical Topology

The logical topology is the way the data is transferred between devices on a network, as apposed to the physical topology which is the actual physical layout of the network cabling. The logical topology of a network is not necessarily the same as its physical topology. For example, Ethernet networks use the bus logical topology, but commonly use the star logical topology.

Understanding the difference between the logical and physical topology of a network is important in troubleshooting. For example, in an Ethernet network, although each network device physically connects to a hub, its logical topology means that a single malfunctioning device can transmit bad packets to all other devices on the same subnet.

More Networking Topologies Articles:
• Introduction to SONET (Synchronous Optical Networking)
• Here's a Quick Way to Build Your Fiber Optic Network
• How to Set up a Private Network
• Understanding Optical Fiber Types
• Six Things You Must Know About Fiber Optic Cable Materials
• What is Fiber Optic Splicing?
• Data Center Management Best Practices
• Wireless or Wired Network?
• Introduction to ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode) Networks
• Fiber Media Converter - What's the Use and How to Choose It

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