Lesson 9 Introduction to Networks Student Resources

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Network topology is a way to describe the “shape” of the interconnections between computers.

Image retrieved from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image:Japanese_classroom.jpg on June 21, 2012.

In a bus topology, every computer is connected to a central cable that has a terminator at each end. It is easy to connect computers to a linear bus, and it requires less cable than a star topology.

However, if the central cable breaks, it divides the network into two separate sections. This gap will mean that computers on opposite sides of the break won’t be able to communicate. Also, if the entire network shuts down, it’s difficult to locate the problem. In addition, since there is only a single network line, any message sent from one computer to another must travel over that one line. As more and more devices are connected to the bus, the chance increases that more than one device needs to use the network at a time. This creates message contention—another main drawback of a bus network. If two devices attempt to use the bus at the same time, it creates a collision that must be handled, as neither message is able to make it across the bus. These factors make the bus less desirable than other topologies.

Today, this type of network topology isn’t used very often except on large-scale networks connecting many smaller networks. Even then, this is only a conceptual picture of what a bus topology looks like; bus topologies are almost never physically configured this way.

The World Wide Web employs this topology, connecting major service providers together. The central cable is called the “backbone.”

This is a ring network topology. Each node connects to exactly two other nodes. This forms a continuous single path—a ring—for signals to travel through each node. A main benefit of this setup is that it is very organized. And since the data travels all in the same direction, it can travel at high speeds. A main disadvantage of this type of network is that if one computer goes down, the entire network is impacted and cannot function. Because of this, ring topologies are less popular today than they once were.

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