Part 1: An overview of network diagrams

Network Diagrams Guide

What is a network diagram?

Network diagrams are used to visually explain computer or telecommunication networks. They show the various components of a network and how they relate to one another.

A network diagram can be as simple as a single application or as complicated as an entire enterprise. And they are used to represent all kinds of networks including home networks, wireless networks, LAN networks, activity networks, and more.

We divide network diagrams into two types: physical and logical.

Physical network diagrams show the physical layout of the devices that make up a network, similar to a floorplan. This includes cables and hardware.

Logical network diagrams show how information flows through a network and how devices communicate with each other. This includes subnets, network devices, and routing protocols.

Network diagrams uses

Network diagrams are used to show how a large project or task can be broken down into a logical series of subtasks. They provide another way to analyze company projects.

Network diagrams can be used to:

  • Plan the structure of a home or office network
  • Determine the sequence of tasks that need to be completed for a project
  • Update an existing network
  • Troubleshoot network bugs or errors
  • Comply with requirements
  • Act as documentation for internal/external communication, onboarding, planning, etc.
  • Track components or devices
  • Depict steps taken to implement a project
  • Propose network changes to stakeholders

And so much more!

Network topologies

There are a few basic arrangements most network diagrams follow. These arrangements, or topologies, can describe either the physical or logical aspects of a network. While the logical and physical topologies of a particular network may resemble one another, they don’t have to. For example, a network that exists as a star topology physically may follow a bus topology logically, as is the case for a twisted pair ethernet network.

Each type of topology will have its advantages and drawbacks, making it important to pick the typology that fits your circumstances. The type of typology you choose will affect the performance and stability of your network.

Bus topology

A bus topology is also often referred to as a backbone, linear, or ethernet topology. Nodes are connected to a central “bus” with exactly two endpoints.

Bus topology is easy to configure and requires less cable than any other topology. However, if the central bus breaks down, so does the whole network, making it difficult to identify and troubleshoot the problem.

Bus topology

Ring topology

A ring topology, as you might guess, is made up of nodes connected in the shape of a circle. Information is sent through the circle until it reaches its destination.

Similar to the bus topology, unfortunately, when one node fails, the whole network fails. However, although bandwidth is shared across all the devices and connections, ring networks can outperform bus-based networks. Plus they are the easiest topology to re-configure, i.e. to add or remove devices.

Ring Topology

Star topology

Star topologies are one of the most common arrangements. All nodes connect to one central hub or switch through which all information passes.

These topologies are more reliable than either bus or ring topologies because individual nodes can fail without affecting the rest of the network. This also makes it easy to take down any individual node for repair. However, if the central hub fails, the entire network will stall. Plus, cable costs tend to be higher for star networks.

Star Topology

Mesh topology

There are two types of mesh topology: full mesh topology and partial mesh topology. In a full mesh topology, each node is directly connected to every other node. In a partial mesh topology, nodes are only connected to the nodes they interact with most. Each node in this type of network diagram relays data for the network.

Mesh Topology

Tree topology

Tree topology is a combination of bus and star topology. Most networks employ some combination of topologies to form a hybrid topology.

Tree Topology

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