what kind of network do i need

what kind of network do i needAs your business grows, so will your technology needs. By laying the foundation of a strong business network infrastructure, your employees will be able to access the files and share resources needed to be productive. To address everyone's data-access needs appropriately, we'll need to create a computer network so that the various separate devices (known as nodes) can "talk" to one another and swap data.

A network topology is the logical arrangement of the various elements (links, nodes, etc.) that make up a computer network. The three most common types of topologies are the ring, the bus, and the star. Throughout this tech tip, we will be taking a look at the main characteristics of each of these topologies, when one would generally choose to use each type, and the advantages and disadvantages of each.

ring network maintenance and support Georgetown TX RING
A ring network topology is one in which a continuous, circular (ring-like) data path is formed with each node in the network connecting only to the node on either side of it. Since there is only one data pathway in a ring network, information must travel from node to node, with each node handling and passing on the data as it travels from its source to its destination. A ring network is rather simplistic in design, which has both advantages and disadvantages.

One main advantage is that there is not a lot of specialized hardware required to get a ring network set up and running. All that is really needed is the computers and a means of connecting them together. The flip side of that though is that there is now no centralized device responsible for the management of the network as a whole, and that if one node experiences downtime, the entire network will cease to function. A broken node, or link, means a broken ring, which means no data can be transported. The simplistic design of the network also makes troubleshooting failures and adding additional nodes quite easy, with the tradeoff being that the addition of every new node increases the overall communication delay of the entire network. This would seem to suggest that ring network topologies (if ever used) are better suited to handle smaller networks.

bus network maintenance and support Georgetown TX BUS
A bus network topology is one in which all of the nodes within the network are daisy-chained linearly off of a single data link (the bus). Data transmission within a bus network is much more of a free-for-all than in a ring network. In a bus network, every node on the network receives all broadcasted traffic (nodes only keep what is meant for them) and every node has equal broadcasting priority. Like the ring network discussed previously, the bus network topology has its own set of advantages and disadvantages.

One of the biggest disadvantages of a bus network can be seen in the way it handles data transmission. With every node on the network receiving all traffic and being able to freely send whenever they feel like it, collisions, and in turn network slowdowns and down time, are inevitable. It is important to note though that this can be mitigated by using some form of media access control technology (a bus master or some form of Carrier-Sense Multiple Access (CSMA) protocol for example) to govern and manage data transmission on the bus. In addition to that, since all of the nodes share the same bus, and therefore bandwidth, the more nodes that are added to the bus network, the slower the whole network will become as a result. The fact that a bus network is based off of a single backbone cable can often make it difficult to identify the problem if the entire network is down - and the entire network will go down if there is a problem with the main bus or the terminators on either end of it. It is not all doom and gloom when it comes to bus networks though. Setting up a bus network is relatively easy, requiring less specialized equipment and cabling than a star network (see below), for example, and adding nodes to it is very simple. A bus network by itself can be another great solution for smaller networks.

star network maintenance and support Georgetown TX STAR
A star network is one in which all of the nodes of the network are connected to one central node (a switch, for example) that serves as a conduit for all transmitted data on the network. Since everything in a star network revolves around a central point, this type of network allows for easy installation and configuration, as well as troubleshooting, of network nodes. In addition to that, star networks grant the ability to easily segment larger networks when paired with a bus network (the bus/star hybrid network is probably the most common network in existence today and is ideal for large networks). As far as data trafficking goes, the centralized model of the star network allows for the greatest level of efficiency of the three network types discussed today. This is because data is only passed through three points (origin, central point, destination) and not through every point on the network.

The centralized nature of the star network can cause some problems though. While the network itself is designed to keep operating if a node fails, the entire network will be useless if the central hub goes down. In addition to that, if the central hub is not spec’d correctly it can actually serve as a bottleneck and slow down the communication ability of the entire network. There is also the cost of the hardware involved in a star network to consider. Switches can be quite expensive pieces of hardware, but most businesses feel that the cost is worth it for the modular nature and reliability that star networks can provide.

Mesh network maintenance and support Georgetown TX MESH
A mesh network actually comes in two varieties – partial mesh and full mesh. A full mesh topology is when every node on the network is connected to one another. A full mesh topology creates the greatest amount of interconnectivity and redundancy available, meaning that a single node can fail and overall network transmission capabilities will not be impacted. A partial mesh follows the same principals of implementation as a full mesh, but, as the name implies, only some of the nodes are fully connected, while others are limited. In addition to the reliability and redundancy mentioned earlier, the high level of interconnectivity found within mesh networks allows us to manage high amounts of traffic, as multiple devices can transmit/receive data simultaneously. Mesh network also allow us to add extra nodes without fear of disrupting current transmissions from other devices.

On the flip side, the high level of interconnectivity between each node within a mesh network can make initial set up rather expensive and time consuming, especially if we are relying on physical cable runs. The same can be said for adding new nodes in the future. Such a high level of interconnectivity can also increase the chance for redundant connections, which can reduce overall efficiency of the network, and can make troubleshooting/managing the overall network difficult.

It can be challenging and costly to maintain your business’ network system, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be. This is where CTTS comes in, our expertise in networking and cybersecurity can help your business achieve all of its technology-related goals, including regular network maintenance. You might be surprised by how many benefits proactive network maintenance can provide for your organization. Give us a call today for a free network assessment: (512) 388-5559.


By Brandon Kaylor
Desktop Support Technician
Central Texas Technology Solutions