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Network Configuration and Network Topologies

There are a variety of Network Configurations. It could be single

user versus multi-user; client-server; peer-to-peer; centralised; or
Single User Versus Multi-user
Single user systems are networks in which workstations designed for use by
one individual. Thus another person is not free to just long on to another
machine using their username and password. This might be preferable in
networks where security is a primary consideration. However if a users
machine goes down, it might be some time before that user is able to do any
useful work.
Multi-user systems may be networks where more that one users share a
workstation or are able to share a workstation. They might have a shared
username and password. It may also be that they all have their own
username and password but are able to use them at almost any work station
as the need arises. So even though each user might have their own
workstation, this might be necessary when users tend to move around the

This could be used in a database server, serving multiple workstations.
Using a client/server model reduces the amount of network traffic; provides
faster response times; gives greater data security; and reduces costs because
the workstation does not need to be as powerful. One or more computers act
as server(s) to the other computers on the network.

When a small number of computers need to be connected and security is not
an issue, then peer-to-peer is an appropriate configuration to use. It simply
attaches the computers to a LAN and makes the facilities of each computer
available to any other computer on the LAN. This is a cheap and simple
way to allow different computers to share resources such as printers and

files. Each computer stores files on its own storage device. Each computer
has both network operating system and application software.

Distributed systems allow one to organize computer systems together, that
hold data at various locations and combine them together to produce useful
information. In this manner systems can use the combined power of several
computers to produce the results. The most common protocol or distributed
systems is a client/server protocol. Basically the client computer requests a
service from a server. The server processes the results and returns the
results. On one network there might be several servers.

There are many network topologies to choose from; in fact a

network may consist of a combination of different segments. It
could use bus; star; ring; hybrid; Carrier Sense Multiple Access
(CSMA) or Fiber Distributed Data Interface (FDDI).
A bus network uses a common cable to connect all the computers. The
advantages are that: it is a very cheap means of networking as it uses the
minimum of cable; and it is easy to add or remove computers. It is cheaper
to implement than a star network because there is often less cable required.
These however can never be totally secure as data from one workstation
must pass many others. This should not be a problem under normal
circumstances; however it is quite possible for hackers to illegally
interrogate the packets of data as they go by. It is much harder to hack a star
network. Disadvantages are if the main cable fails, the network goes down;
it can take time to isolate faults; and the network degrades dramatically
when highly loaded. This is because everybody is sharing the same
communication link unless the bandwidth is high. This may be further aided
by compression techniques.

Carrier Sense Multiple Access (CSMA)

CSMA will normally use a bus architecture, the best known of which is
Ethernet. With this type of network all computers must sense the carrier
(bus) at all times. When a computer wishes to transmit it does so
immediately as long as it does not detect any data on the bus. If there is data
being transmitted then the computer has to try again later. Sometimes two or
more computers will start transmitting at the same time. If this happens then
a collision occurs. Collisions will be detected by the computers that are
transmitting and they will have to stop transmitting and try again later. If the
network is heavily loaded then there will be many collisions and
performance will deteriorate.

Star Networks
A star network will have a computer in the centre of the star running an
operating system that controls the network. This computer will go to each
workstation in turn to discover whether it has any data to be transmitted.
This process is known as polling. All other computers connect to it. If you
have a high speed computer controlling the central node then very fast
communication with all machines is possible. Some advantages of using the
star network are if one cable fails it affects only one computer; it is simple to
isolate faults; it is easy to add or remove computers; different computers can
transmit at different speeds; it is more secure as messages are sent directly to
the central computer and is not seen by the other computers. One
disadvantage is that it uses a lot of cable so is expensive to install.

Token Ring
In a ring network messages are passed around the ring in one direction only.
In a token ring one of the computers generate a token and sends it around the
ring. This protocol states that computers cannot transmit unless they receive
a free token (a token that does not have any data on it). When a free token is
received the computer attaches the data and sends it around the ring. This
protocol also require that the receiving computer return an acknowledgement
to state that the data has been received. When the sender receives the
acknowledgment then it must pass on a free token. This is less secure as
data intended for one recipient must pass through other machines to get to its
destination. Since there are no collisions this form of LAN allows high-

speed transmission. Collisions do not occur and so it is possible to calculate

the maximum time that a message will take to get through. Also very high
transmission rates are possible. Two disadvantages are that if the cable fails
then the whole network goes down. If any one computer fails it can bring
down the entire network.

Local area networks may consist of a combination of the above topologies.
So it is possible to have a bus backbone with star networks attached to it.

Fiber Distributed Data Interface (FDDI)

These types of network use fibre optic cables. There were limitations in
their use as not many NIC were equipped to accept data at the high rate
capable by a fibre optic cable. They are similar to the ring network
described earlier, however the work on a more complex dual-ring system.
Another type of network is a mesh network. It is common for long distance
networks. The mesh network may be fully interconnected or partially. For
links between cities, between military systems and other systems where high
reliability is needed, fully connected networks are used because there is a
great deal of redundancy built in.