In computing, the definition of a network is a group of two or more computers or systems linked together. For example, your home network might consist of several devices that connect to a central router, including your desktop, gaming consoles, laptops, phones, and other Internet-connected gadgets. A prime property of networks is their topology, or the way they are laid out, connect to one another, and communicate with one another. The main topologies of networks are:
- Mesh: every device, or node, is connected to one another. This is the most secure network that can handle the highest amount of traffic, but it's also the most expensive.
- Star: every device connects through a central hub. This allows for other nodes to stay online if one goes down, but if the central hub/server goes down, the entire network goes with it.
- Bus: every device is connected by one cable that acts as the backbone of the network. This also allows for other nodes to stay online if one goes down, but any problems with the cable render the entire network useless. It's the cheapest option, but not optimal for large networks.
- Ring: every device is connected in a circular fashion, and the data travels in one direction. This configuration is easy to install and manage, and can handle large volumes of traffic. Expanding the network is time-consuming, however, and if one computer goes down, so does the network.
- Tree: a hybrid topology that connects clusters of star networks to a single bus line. This helps to divide and manage a larger network, but can be just as easily taken down as a bus configuration.