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Network Topology

A topology is the actual appearance or physical layout of the network. This includes all the hardware that makes up the network and points of connection to the network by the stations are called nodes or line stations. Some of the popular topologies are: 1) Bus topology. 2) Star topology. 3) Ring topology. 4) Mesh topology. 5) Hybrid topology.

Bus Topology A bus topology uses one single cable to connect all the computers and peripherals. A special device called terminator is attached at the cables start and end points to stop network signals, so that they do not bounce back down the cable.

Advantages: Uses least amount of cables for connecting computers and peripherals. One of the simplest and easiest methods of connecting computers to each other.

Disadvantages: Fault finding is difficult. Large amount of data cannot be transferred at once. If the used gets faulty the entire network fails.

Star Topology

A star topology is probably the most common topology. In this topology each node is connected to a HUB. All transfer of data and communication is done through this hub switch.

Advantages: It offers flexibility of adding or deleting of workstation from the network. Breakdown of one station does not affect any other device on the network. An additional computer can be added to the network easily without much of efforts.

Disadvantages: The whole system depends on the hub switch. If the hub switch fails the entire network fails.

Ring Topology In this type of topology computers are connected in a circular chain with each computer connected to the next. The last computer is connected to the first.

Advantages: More reliable as it is not dependent on a single hub as in case of star topology If one line between any two computers breaks down, alternate route for communication is possible. It can span over large distances as each node regenerates messages as they pass through it.

Disadvantages: There is a delay in communication if any of the computer fails. There is no privacy It is not so popular due to its more complicated software.

Mesh Topology A cable from one computer is connected to all the computers in the network. Eg: If there are 4 computers there must be 12 cables 3 coming from each computer (n-1).

Advantages: The data will never fail to be delivered.

Disadvantages: It is a very expensive and a complicated setup as lots of cables are required for connecting the computers.

Hybrid Topology This type of topology is just a combination of various networks. The exact shape and structure depends on the need of the company. In some cases this kind of a setup may have components of ring, star and mesh topology.

Network Hardware (Network Devices)

The data that is transmitted between PCs should be channeled properly so that data reaches its destination.

The various hardware used in data transfer are shown below: 1) Network Interface Cards (NICs) 2) Network Linking Devices:- Hubs, Bridges, Switches, Routers Network Interface Cards (NICs) The card is the first contact between the machine and the network. This is a printed circuit board fixed into one of the slots on the motherboard. The network card provides a port to which a network cable can be connected. The cable in turn can be connected to various devices in the network so that communication can be enabled. Network Linking Devices These are external devices that are used to link various devices in the network. HUB: It is a small box to which various devices are connected to enable communication. It gathers signals from various network devices. Amplifies the signals and sends them to connected devices which ensure that the devices on the network receive correct information. Bridges: its a device which connects 2 or more LANs. It amplifies the signal and then forwards the data from one LAN to another. Switch: It is similar to a HUB where all the devices are connected at one point in order to ensure communication. A switch is more efficient and intelligent. It inspects the date as and when they arrive. It determines the source address and destination address of the data. It is the responsibility of the switch to ensure that data is sent to the appropriate device. Routers: It is a device that is used to connect 2 or more networks. It selects the best path for fast data transmission. As and when the network traffic changes the router can redirect the data into less congested routes. They are expensive and difficult to maintain. Gateway: It is a device that is used to connect 2 or more dissimilar networks that use different communication protocols. The protocols of one network have to be converted into protocols of another network.