Topology of a LAN means its physical lay out. There are three
main types of Network Topology, namely,
Bus Topology, Star Topology and Ring Topology as shown in
Figures 1-3 below. There are two different
approaches to networking – Server-based and Peer-to-Peer
approach. In server-based approach there is a
centralized server machine that can serve users’ requests for
the sharing of resources on a network.
Contrarily, in peer-to-peer, the machines on the network have an
equal capability which means that they can
act both as a client and a server.
These provide central connection point for a LAN. They organize
cables and relay data signals to all
computers. There are ports on the back of a hub used to connect
computers. They come in different sizes
Repeaters regenerate signals. A repeater would amplify the
entire electric signal it receives. However, it has
no capabilities of directing network traffic.
A Bridge is a combination of hardware and software. It has its
own operating system. It helps to conserve
the bandwidth of a network. Bandwidth is the speed of a network.
It indicates how many bits can be
transmitted across a network in a given time. In case of a
bridge, the larger network is physically chopped
into smaller segments. A bridge can read the MAC (Media Access
Control) or physical address of a
computer on data packets. MAC address is printed on the Network
Interface Card. A bridge matches this
MAC address with the one stored in its table and judges that
which particular segment does a data packet
belong to and accordingly sends that packet to such a segment.
It does not allow other packets belonging to
other segments to spread to a particular segment and hence
conserves the bandwidth
. (See Fig.
A switch is also a combination of hardware and software having
its own operating system. Like bridges, the
switches are also used to increase the bandwidth of a network.
However, in case of a switch, a network is
virtually divided into small segments called Virtual LANs or
VLANs. Similar type of users can be grouped
into a VLAN despite that they have no physical proximity or
closeness. A switch would read the MAC
address on a data packet and match it with the list of MAC
addresses of the user machines contained in it. It
then sends data packets only to that machine on a VLAN to which
these packets relate. Packets belonging
to other VLANs are not allowed to enter into a particular VLAN,
hence bandwidth increases.
Routers use a combination of hardware and software to forward
data packets to their destination on the
internet. They are more efficient and sophisticated than bridges
and switches. They can divide large
networks into logical segments called Subnets on the basis of IP
addressing scheme. A router can
communicate with another router on the internet with the help of
Routing Information Protocol, and thus
it can build a routing table. This routing table contains
information about different network addresses and
different routes for delivery of data packets to a host machine
on a network. A router is a decision making
device. When a data packet arrives at a router it reads the
network addresses from the IP address on the
data packet and determines the shortest possible path through
which this packet can be delivered to its
Following diagram (Fig. 5) explains how routers on the internet
backbone forward data packets by
determining the shortest possible path for the destination. In
this example a client machine ‘A’ sitting on
network no. 140.57 sends data to a web server ‘B’ hosted at
network no. 100. ‘R1’ is the router attached to
network no. 140.57. After consulting its routing table it can
find that the shortest possible path for sending
data to machine ‘B’ is to forward data packets to ‘R2’, the
router attached to network no. 100. In case there
is a blockade then‘R1’ can look for the alternative shortest
path. Here, the alternative shortest path for the
delivery of data packets to ‘B’ can be R1-R3-R4-R2.
They are quite commonly used for connecting computers. They have
two main types – coaxial and twisted
pair. In twisted pair there are two further options – unshielded
twisted pair (UTP) and Shielded Twisted
Fiber optic cables
They are used on the internet. They deliver data at a very high
speed. They use glass or plastic filaments and
the pulses of light as a data transfer method.
Telephone and electrical wire networks
They can also be used for connectivity purpose.
Wireless options include radio connectivity (wi fi, bluetooth),
infrared connectivity and Satellite microwave
Address resolution protocols (ARP) and address resolution
Each computer on the internet prepares a list of its IP address
and corresponding MAC address using ARP.
Through RARP this information is forwarded to a network server.
When a data packet arrives at the
destination router, it inquires about the corresponding MAC
address form the network server, inserts it and
delivers the packet to that MAC address. A data packet therefore
needs both IP and MAC addresses to
reach its destination. (See Fig. 6 below)
Role of ISPs on internet
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are those organizations which
can provide internet connections, offer
services of web hosting, newsgroups and internet e-mail etc.
They work in a hierarchy. The ISP at the top of
the hierarchy which is connected with internet backbone is
called Internet Access Provider or IAP. An
internet trunk line or backbone passing through a metropolitan
area is also called Metropolitan Area
Ethernet (MAE). IAPs are connected to MAEs at points called
Network Access Points (NAPs). Trunk lines
allow IAPs to move data. The actual routing of data packets
takes place on internet backbone