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How Star, Bus, Ring & Mesh Topology Connect Computer Networks in Organizations

How Star, Bus, Ring & Mesh Topology Connect Computer Networks in Organizations

How Star, Bus, Ring & Mesh Topology Connect Computer Networks in Organizations

Computers in a network are connected in some logical manner, referred to as network topology or network architecture. Learn about the different types of network architecture.

Network Topology

Computers in a network have to be connected in some logical manner. The layout pattern of the interconnections between computers in a network is called network topology. You can think of topology as the virtual shape or structure of the network. Network topology is also referred to as 'network architecture.'

Devices on the network are referred to as 'nodes.' The most common nodes are computers and peripheral devices. Network topology is illustrated by showing these nodes and their connections using cables. There are a number of different types of network topologies, including point-to-point, bus, star, ring, mesh, tree and hybrid. Let's review these main types.


Point-to-point topologyis the simplest of all the network topologies. The network consists of a direct link between two computers. This is faster and more reliable than other types of connections since there is a direct connection. The disadvantage is that it can only be used for small areas where computers are in close proximity.

Bus topologyuses one main cable to which all nodes are directly connected. The main cable acts as a backbone for the network. One of the computers in the network typically acts as the computer server. The first advantage of bus topology is that it is easy to connect a computer or peripheral device. The second advantage is that the cable requirements are relatively small, resulting in lower cost.

One of the disadvantages is that if the main cable breaks, the entire network goes down. This type of network is also difficult to troubleshoot. For these reasons, this type of topology is not used for large networks, such as those covering an entire building.

In star topology, each computer is connected to a central hub using a point-to-point connection. The central hub can be a computer server that manages the network, or it can be a much simpler device that only makes the connections between computers over the network possible.

Star topology is very popular because the startup costs are low. It is also easy to add new nodes to the network. The network is robust in the sense that if one connection between a computer and the hub fails, the other connections remain intact. If the central hub fails, however, the entire network goes down. It also requires more cable than bus topology and is, therefore, more expensive.

In ring topology, the computers in the network are connected in a circular fashion, and the data travels in one direction. Each computer is directly connected to the next computer, forming a single pathway for signals through the network. This type of network is easy to install and manage.

If there's a problem in the network, it is easy to pinpoint which connection is defective. It is also good for handling high-volume traffic over long distances since every computer can act as a booster of the signal. On the downside, adding computers to this type of network is more cumbersome, and if one single computer fails, the entire network goes down.

In mesh topology, every node has a direct point-to-point connection to every other node. Because all connections are direct, the network can handle very high-volume traffic. It is also robust because if one connection fails, the others remain intact. Security is also high since data travels along a dedicated connection.

This type of topology requires a lot of cables and is, therefore, expensive. Many of the connections are also redundant since there are several different paths for data to travel from one node to another.


Tree topologycombines multiple star topologies onto a bus. Hub devices for each star topology are connected to the bus. Each hub is like the root of a tree of devices. This provides great flexibility for expanding and modifying the network.


A hybrid topologyuses a combination of two or more topologies. Hybrid networks provide a lot of flexibility, and as a result, they have become the most widely used type of topology. Common examples are star ring networks and star bus networks. Tree topology is one specific example of a star bus network.

Consider, for example, a multistory office building. The network could consist of a bus running vertically through the building to provide network access to each floor. Each floor could use one or more star topologies to connect all the computers on each floor.

Which One to Choose

Different topologies serve different purposes. Which topology to use for a network depends on a number of factors, including:

  • The type and number of computers and peripheral devices being used
  • The anticipated speed of data transfers
  • The types of applications running on the network
  • The required response time of the networks
  • Costs

For example, a local area network for a small office may use a star topology since it is easier to expand, and the cost for cabling is only slightly higher compared to other types. A larger office with many more devices may rely on bus topology to save on cabling cost. Wide area networks cover much larger areas and may include several local area networks. The topology for the WAN is likely to be a hybrid: one approach for connecting the various LANs and one or more different approaches for the individual LANs.

Lesson Summary

Network topologyrefers to the layout patterns of the interconnections between computers in a network. It is also referred to as network architecture. A number of different layout patterns are possible, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. The most common types are point-to-point, bus, star, ring, mesh, tree and hybrid.

Learning Outcomes
After you've completed this lesson, you should have the ability to:

  • Define network topology and nodes
  • Describe the different layout patterns in network topology
  • Identify the advantages and disadvantages of each type of layout pattern
  • List some factors to consider when determining the best type of network topology

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