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Topology in Network Design - Images Source (
Think of a topology as a network's virtual shape or structure. This shape does not necessarily correspond to the actual physical layout of the devices on the network. For example, the computers on a home LAN may be arranged in a circle in a family room, but it would be highly unlikely to find a ring topology there.

Network topologies are categorized into the following basic types:

  • Bus
  • Ring
  • Star

Bus Topology

Collision in Bus

This animation starts with machine 2 and machine 5 both trying to transmit simultaneously.

Bus using Hub

An Ethernet hub changes the topology from a 'bus' to a 'star wired bus', here's how it works

Bus using Switch

To overcome the problem of collisions and other effects on network speed, a switch is used.

Bus networks (not to be confused with the system bus of a computer) use a common backbone to connect all devices. A single cable, the backbone functions as a shared communication medium that devices attach or tap into with an interface connector. A device wanting to communicate with another device on the network sends a broadcast message onto the wire that all other devices see, but only the intended recipient actually accepts and processes the message.

Ethernet bus topologies are relatively easy to install and don't require much cabling compared to the alternatives. 10Base-2 ("ThinNet") and 10Base-5 ("ThickNet") both were popular Ethernet cabling options many years ago for bus topologies. However, bus networks work best with a limited number of devices. If more than a few dozen computers are added to a network bus, performance problems will likely result. In addition, if the backbone cable fails, the entire network effectively becomes unusable.

Ring Topology

Token Ring Operation using a Hub


In a ring network, every device has exactly two neighbors for communication purposes. All messages travel through a ring in the same direction (either "clockwise" or "counterclockwise"). A failure in any cable or device breaks the loop and can take down the entire network.

To implement a ring network, one typically uses FDDI, SONET, or Token Ring technology. Ring topologies are found in some office buildings or school campuses.

Star Topology

Many home networks use the star topology. A star network features a central connection point called a "hub node" that may be a network hub, switch or router. Devices typically connect to the hub with Unshielded Twisted Pair (UTP) Ethernet.

Compared to the bus topology, a star network generally requires more cable, but a failure in any star network cable will only take down one computer's network access and not the entire LAN. (If the hub fails, however, the entire network also fails.)

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