A tree topology is a structure type where computers, terminals, servers, and peripherals get connected in a shape that’s reminiscent of branches on a tree. It is a common way to organize corporate networks and information stored in a database.
What makes this topology option unique compared to other network setups is that only one connection exists between any two connected nodes. Since any two items only have that one mutual connection, it creates a parent-child hierarchy in the system.
It is sometimes referred to as a star bus topology because elements of both options are found in the design of a tree topology. If there are multiple networks that require a connection, then a line comes from the primary cable to create a space with central nodes that connect to each other and the other terminals in their space.
Several tree topology advantages and disadvantages are worth considering when looking at this specific setup for a computer network.
List of the Advantages of Tree Topology
1. It provides an extension of star and bus topologies.
The tree topology creates an extension for star and bus topologies. That means it can connect these independent networks to a larger, system-wide design that still maintains the hierarchical structure that some businesses require. It is a useful design for when the other two options don’t have the same ability to reach scalability because it creates an alternative that uses existing resources.
If several star or bus topologies already exist, then a tree topology can form by running a single backbone cable that connects them all. This advantage can significantly reduce the time it takes to build a needed network while managing retrofit costs.
2. The expansion of the network is possible through a simple process.
The expansion of a tree topology is a straightforward process. The only thing that’s necessary is to run a connection cable to the new terminal or peripheral from the existing connection. You can run that line from the backbone, a hub, or to another terminal or peripheral. As long as one connection exists, the new line can expand the reach of the network by creating another simple point of access.
3. The whole network gets divided into segments.
Most tree topologies get divided into several star networks. Then the workstations connect to a hub that serves as the link to the backbone cable. That makes the entire system easy to maintain and manage because administrators have multiple layers of defense to use. Each star can operate independently from the rest of the network as needed, or it can connect directly to the rest of the system to facilitate communication or collaboration.
This segmentation makes it easier to assign personnel to inspect problems or provide help desk responsibilities. Each person can get to know the quirks of their part of the network and provide fast, meaningful assistance when issues arise. When managed properly, the uptime of a tree topology is competitive with any other design option.
4. Detecting errors and correcting them is a straightforward process.
When a tree topology remains at a manageable size, then finding an error in the system is rather simple. With each terminal connecting directly to another, a hub, or the backbone cable, it is easy to find where a disconnect occurs. That means less time gets spent from a maintenance standpoint trying to find where a fault occurs.
Although a problem in the backbone cable can be a challenge to find on large systems, the divided network into star systems and hubs still creates a trail of breadcrumbs to follow. Most people can remain productive on their local system while the maintenance work occurs, reducing productivity gaps.
5. Each segment in a tree topology receives point-to-point wiring.
You don’t need to worry about multiple wiring connections when designing a tree topology. It works like a main trunk with branches. That means a single line runs from the backbone cable to a hub where singular connections to each terminal or peripheral occur. You can also run a direct line to an individual computer from the network spine to create a direct link to the rest of the system.
This design eliminates the need for extra cabling during the installation process. Installers only need to run a point-to-point cable to build the stars in each hub or when using a T-connection for a direct line.
6. If one segment gets damaged, the rest of the network remains unaffected.
The point-to-point connections make it easier for maintenance personnel to locate damaged segments. If one terminal doesn’t have network access, then investigators can look to see if the next link in the connection chain does. That process can continue until the damage gets found. This process can even work to locate problems with the backbone cable since the stars and buses will have complete access below the breakage point while the others do not.
7. Each station has immediate access to the next one on the network.
Every computer, terminal, and peripheral on a tree topology has immediate access to its neighbor with the point-to-point design. That makes it a lot easier to have multiple devices connected to a central hub to maintain high productivity levels. The stars can have their own printers that the one “branch” off of the backbone cable uses. Others can access it as needed, but then each space also has its own peripherals to use.
That gives users the benefits of local use and the flexibility to use other systems when there are enough data packets on the network to create a traffic jam.
8. There is more support available for tree topologies from vendors.
If you need new hardware for some reason when supporting your topology, then the tree framework is one of the better options to use. The hybrid approach between the bus and star designs enable you to work with a variety of vendors and equipment providers. It opens more doors for your maintenance personnel to access the hardware needed to maintain the system adequately without much effort.
This advantage allows you to enhance the future expandability of the network because it eliminates the issues in traffic broadcasting and hub point limitations.
List of the Disadvantages of Tree Topology
1. A tree topology relies heavily on its main bus cable.
A tree topology relies on a basic structural system to provide services throughout the entire network. All of the point-to-point connections create weak areas that could become vulnerable as the installation ages. If one point breaks, then the rest of the topology behind that area is now inaccessible to the rest of the network.
This disadvantage can become quite problematic if the incident occurs in the backbone cable. If a break happens before the rest of the branches of the tree topology, then the entire system won’t function correctly – even though everyone could still communicate with each other on the other side of the fault.
2. When multiple nodes and trees are on a network, maintaining it can be a challenge.
The size of a tree topology can begin to work against it once enough scalability occurs. It takes more time to maintain the point-to-point connections, investigate faults, and manage the individual stars. When only one backbone cable is being used to facilitate information movement, then the speed of the network can get bogged down when a majority of the terminals and peripherals are in use.
3. The scalability of the network depends on the type of cable used.
One of the considerations that a tree topology design must consider is the type and length of cable used to create the point-to-point connections. You’re naturally limited in each segment length to the type of cabling used to create the system in the first place. That’s why this option is the most difficult to configure and wire when looking at the other topologies. If you need an expansive system with limitless scalability, then the wiring requirements are going to be massive and costly when pursuing this design.
4. Tree topologies must usually follow the 5-4-3 rule.
Another consideration to take under advisement when creating a tree topology using Ethernet protocol is called the “5-4-3 rule.” One of the aspects of this protocol requires that a sent signal must reach every part of the network through the cable within a specific time. Every repeater or concentrator that a signal uses to distribute data will add more time to the network. That means there can only be a maximum of five segments between any two nodes, connected through four repeaters or concentrators.
Then only three of the segments may be populated segments if they’re made of coaxial cable. This disadvantage doesn’t apply to other network protocols or where fiberoptic cabling and fiber backbones are present.
5. The installation of a tree topology is difficult.
Because you’re using star and bus configuration principles when designing a tree topology with linear characteristics, this option tends to be the most difficult installation process of any topology system. The scalability is worth the investment in most situations, even if the length of each segment is limited by the type of cable being used for the connectivity work.
Cost is often the limiting factor when deciding what topology to use. Because the cabling requirements of the tree topology incorporate star and bus requirements, the initial investment is going to be extensive.
6. There can be security issues with a tree topology.
All of the workstations positioned in a tree topology can see the data that gets sent along the network. Each terminal has access to every other one when the connections are working correctly, which means there is minimal security available to this design. If someone can get into the building and access an open station, then they can compromise the entire network in seconds.
That means the businesses that use tree topology designs must incorporate password protections and other workstation-based security protocols to limit information access. Physical security options at the front door can also limit unauthorized access. If someone within the system wanted to create havoc, there wouldn’t be much in the way to stop that person.
The tree topology design derives its foundation from star and bus topologies. Although it is an uncommon design that gets used for networks today, it is still an option to consider in specific circumstances when hierarchical communication and scalability are necessary between two or more networks.
It typically works well for small networks that require minimal attention. Once it gets too large, many of the benefits that are possible with this design typically go away.
That’s why a consideration of the advantages and disadvantages of tree topologies must happen in advance. The parent-child connections it creates can be useful in some situations, but it can be a costly experience since it requires a massive amount of cabling for proper installation.
Brandon Miller has a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a seasoned writer who has written over one hundred articles, which have been read by over 500,000 people. If you have any comments or concerns about this blog post, then please contact the Green Garage team here.