046 - What is Network Topology

A Network Topology is the arrangement with which computer systems or network devices are connected to each other. Topologies may define both physical and logical aspect of the network. Both logical and physical topologies could be same or different in a same network.

A network topology describes the arrangement of systems on a computer network. Computers in a network have to be connected in some logical manner. The layout pattern of the interconnections between computers in a network is called network topology. You can think of topology as the virtual shape or structure of the network. Network topology is also referred to as network architecture.

Devices on the network are referred to as nodes. The most common nodes are computers and peripheral devices. Network topology is illustrated by showing these nodes and their connections using cables.

Types Of Network Topologies

Bus topology • Is a network type in where every computer and network device is connected to single cable. Features: It transmits data only in one direction. Every device is connected to a single cable.
Ring Topology • It is called ring topology because it forms a ring as each computer is connected to another computer, with the last one connected to the first. Exactly two neighbours for each device. Features: A number of repeaters are used and the transmission is unidirectional. Date is transferred in a sequential manner that is bit by bit.
Star Topology • In this type of topology all the computers are connected to a single hub through a cable. This hub is the central node and all others nodes are connected to the central node. Features: Every node has its own dedicated connection to the hub. Acts as a repeater for data flow. Can be used with twisted pair, Optical Fibre or coaxial cable.
Line Topology • Nodes are arranged in a line, where most nodes are connected to two other nodes. However, the first and last node are not connected. Features: allows for longer runs than it's loop equivalent.
Mesh Topology • It is a point-to-point connection to other nodes or devices. Traffic is carried only between two devices or nodes to which it is connected. Two types of mesh : Partial Mesh and Full Mesh. Features: Fully connected. Robust. Not flexible.
Tree Topology • It has a root node and all other nodes are connected to it forming a hierarchy. It is also called hierarchical topology. It should at least have three levels to the hierarchy. Features: Ideal if workstations are located in groups.
Hybrid Topology • A network structure whose design contains more than one topology is said to be hybrid topology. Hybrid topology inherits merits and demerits of all the incorporating topologies. The combining topologies may contain attributes of Star, Ring and Bus topologies. Internet is the best example of largest Hybrid topology. Features: It is a combination of two or topologies. Inherits the advantages and disadvantages of the topologies included.

Two Main Categories Of Network

Server-based network • The server is the central location where users share and access network resources. This dedicated computer controls the level of access that users have to shared resources. Shared data is in one location. Each computer that connects to the server computer network is called a client computer.

Most server-based network require a one user account and password to log on to the server and to access shared resources. Server operating systems are designed to handle the load when multiple client computers access server-based resources.

Peer-to-Peer based network • There are no dedicated servers or hierarchy among the computers. All of the computers are equal and therefore known as peers. Normally each computer serves as Client/Server and there is no one assigned to be an administrator responsible for the entire network.

The term Client/Server refers to the concept of sharing the work involved in processing data between the client and the server.

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