With machines strung together like Christmas tree lights, daisy-chain was one of the earliest forms of topology and first used in the early days of computer networking. Though it’s still used today, over the years we’ve seen several other ways to arrange a network emerge, each with their own unique characteristics.
One type is a hybrid network topology, which combines two or more other network topologies, for example mesh, bus, ring, or star. Star-bus and star-ring are the most common examples of hybrid network.
But what are the pros and cons to this design choice?
The three widely agreed strengths of hybrid topologies are:
PROVIDES THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS
Network designers aim to build hybrid topologies so that the strengths of each topology are exploited and the weaknesses are reduced. For example, in a star topology, it’s easy to connect or remove devices without disrupting the rest of the network. Meanwhile, in a bus topology, multiple devices and peripherals are supported. It’s quick and easy to connect computers, printers, routers and other data devices.
So, in a star-bus topology, these and all the other advantages come into play. A hybrid topology lets you pick the aspects of different topologies that best suit your needs and then bring them all together in one solution.
TROUBLESHOOTING IS EASIER
With a hybrid topology, once you’ve identified where a fault lies, you can then separate the problematic part from the rest of the system. This lets you start fixing the problem without seriously disrupting the rest of the network.
As noted by Techwalla, hybrid networks are built in a modular fashion, which makes it much easier to add new hardware when needed. By connecting a new hub, network designers can increase storage and power relatively easily. As hybrid network concentration points are linked by just one cable, the process is as straightforward as fitting a landline telephone.
Like many endeavours, network infrastructure design is a balancing act, and with the power and flexibility of a hybrid topology come a few drawbacks:
Techwalla also point outs that lots of cabling is inevitably required to make the necessary connections:
While the cabling required to connect intelligent connection points of the network is small, it is also the most important part of the system. For this reason, redundant cables and backup rings are often required to maintain network reliability standards because any fray in the cable connection can cause the whole network to collapse. This can lead to a lot of cabling, requiring additional system cooling elements.
COMPLEXITY AND EXPENSE
Network design, even in its more basic forms, is a complicated process that requires knowledge of several areas, including computer science, financial analysis, and engineering. So, by combining two different topologies, a skilled and difficult task is made even more so. And, of course, after initial-design, a network also needs to be monitored and maintained.
High-end equipment is needed to manage the different types of network in a hybrid topology, since more advanced processing is needed. This makes it one of the most expensive network designs.
By being able to combine the best bits of constituent topologies, relatively easy troubleshooting and upscaling, hybrid topologies remain a powerful option.
Due to their high-cost and need for expertise, they are best suited to medium and large enterprises. While a small business probably wouldn’t really feel the benefits (but would feel it in the pocket), larger organisations are more likely to have the budget and network size to capitalise on this highly available and scalable topology.
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IT CONTRACTORS AND TECHNICAL PROJECT CONSULTANTS
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