Designing Your Business Network Topology: Why Is It Important Today?

September 26, 2022

By Mark Allen, GM Premises, Identiv Network Topology image Network topology is related to how a computer network is organized. When creating a network topology for your business, it is important to think of it in terms of both being a physical network and a logical network. The physical aspect of a network topology refers to the physical signal transmission channel, meaning the wires, cables, etc. The logical network refers to the way in which data strategically passes across the network between each device, no matter how they are connected physically between each unit. In order to manage a computer network well, it is important to understand both the physical and logical topology to ensure that your system is running efficiently. 

Why is network topology so important today?

When designing the computer network of a business, functionality is a high priority. The design of the network topology can easily increase performance and data efficiency, as well as enhance how resources are allocated across departments while lowering operational costs. A diagram of the network topology designed using software can be useful for diagnosing problems with network connectivity issues, evaluating network slowdowns, and general troubleshooting.  Creating a secure, long-lasting, local area network (LAN) topology that is easy to maintain should be a top business consideration. What type of network topology you choose for your business can depend on the size of the network and other operational requirements.  Types of network topology

Different types of network topology

When deciding upon which kind of network topology is best to use for your business, the answer is not always simple, depending on your business priorities. It is possible to design your network topology based on a combination of logical and physical network topologies in order to create a network that is powerful, easy to maintain, and secure above all else. 

Bus Network Topology

True to its name, a bus topology connects all the devices on a network along a single cable that runs in one direction to the opposite end. It can also be labeled a “line network topology'' or “backbone network topology”. The data flow travels along the cable path in one direction.  This topology is a cost effective solution best suited for smaller networks. It is easy enough to add more nodes to the network simply by adding more connections. On the other hand, bus network topology design also tends to move slower when more connections are added. This design is also more susceptible to challenges because it runs on a single wire to transmit data. When the cable fails, the entire network goes down. 

Mesh Network Topology

A mesh network topology is a detailed framework of connections between devices. In this design, data can only be transferred between two units. Mesh architecture tends to be scalable due to the fact that each node works as a router. New nodes can be added without interrupting data flows. Should there be a problem with any of the nodes, the network’s availability will continue to function.  A mesh network requires considerable power usage as all nodes in the network must always be active. The cost of planning, designing and cabling this type of network can also increase depending upon your business needs. 

Star Network Topology

The star network topology physically resembles a star, made up of a central node and several other devices directly connected to it. In this topology, the devices do not directly communicate with one another. What happens in this configuration is that each device sends messages to the central node, which will then send a message to the other systems or a specific destination in the system, depending upon how the network is designed.  This network topology tends to be less expensive for a business because each device only needs one I/O port and is connected with the central node via a single link. This network design also tends to be quite reliable in that if one cable or device fails then it does not interfere with the function of the rest of the design. This also means that other devices can be easily added or removed without network interruptions. However, the remainder of the network will fail if the central node is not functioning. 

Ring Network Topology

The ring network topology features nodes in a circular ring. Data is able to move in one route or both directions throughout the network. A device is connected to the two units on either side through two dedicated point-to-point links, forming a ring of devices. This design tends to be efficient during the transmission of data without errors because it allows only one station on the network to send data at one time. It also tends to be a cost effective solution and fairly simple to construct. The point-to-point connectivity of the nodes makes it easier for a technician to locate network problems or misconfigurations.  Technicians should also look out for problems with data transmission. If one of the nodes goes down, then the entire network fails due to the data being transmitted in one direction. In addition, because all the devices on this network design share bandwidth, adding more devices can cause the network to slow down, or cause it to go offline altogether.

Tree Network Topology

Also known as star bus topology, tree topology is made up of a parent-child hierarchy where star networks are interconnected via bus networks. The central node acts as a “tree trunk” for the network, with nodes that branch out in different directions.  Nodes are connected to only one other node. This design is easily scalable for a growing business network. If one of the other nodes are damaged or stops working, the other nodes can continue to function with delays. This makes the troubleshooting process very simple for a trained technician. However, if the central node fails (i.e., the root of the tree network), then the entire network goes down. 

Hybrid Network Topology

Hybrid topology combines two or more different topologies that results in a topology that combines all the benefits and drawbacks of all the above topologies. This is the kind of network topology that is found in large corporations where each department has a specialized network topology that is designed to adapt to their network usage demands.  This design is highly flexible and scalable, allowing new devices to be added without much (if any) interruption to the network. Errors in the network are also easy to pinpoint and troubleshoot. However, these kinds of networks are usually planned, designed, and managed by highly trained staff and can be expensive to maintain. In closing, all businesses should assess their size and needs when creating a secure, long-lasting LAN topology before moving forward with a solid plan for securing that company’s data.