Star topology is a network configuration that uses the shape suggested by its name. The ease of installation makes it one of the most common setups that get used today. Every node will connect to a central network device that operates as a server. The peripheral devices become clients with this design.
Network cables link the computers together to facilitate communication. The network card used in each computer will determine the exact products used to create the topology. Although the number of connections is theoretically limited by the processing power of the central device, an indefinite number of connections are also possible.
If you are familiar with Ethernet or ARCNET connections, then you have a basic understanding of this networking approach.
Several star topology advantages and disadvantages are worth considering when you’re in the middle of a setup process. These are the critical points to review before starting the installation work.
List of the Advantages of Star Topology
1. Star topology features a better fault tolerance.
When a star topology experiences a cut cable or a NIC failure, then it will only affect one node. This advantage is due to the nature of the installation as each device connects independently to the central core. One cable run connects the nodes to each other. Although this approach is someone expensive compared with other designs, the cost issues are usually outweighed by the advantage of improved fault tolerance.
The only way to take down all of the devices at once is to compromise the central core. Since this equipment is not readily available to the average person, it is a safe network that businesses of any size can use to support their needs.
2. You can extend the reach of the network by creating multiple stars.
Star topology has natural limitations that come into play when setting up the network. The reality of this approach is that you will run into physical limitations eventually. Either the cable length will not be suitable for your needs or the number of ports available for use will all be supporting the system.
When you use star topology, then you can extend the length of the network by configuring multiple stars with a central core device in the middle to serve as a server. The backbone of the network must have enough power to support all activities for this approach to be useful.
3. Star topology systems are highly scalable.
If you need to grow your network for some reason, then adding a new device is a straightforward process. All you need to do is connect the new computer to the central device through cabling. When you have too many items working with a single-core, then you can expand to new stars to continue gaining the benefits of this structure.
Computers get added or removed from the central connection point. That makes it easier to replace a malfunctioning unit to maintain your productivity levels.
4. You can connect multiple device types through star topology.
If you have a hub or switch that is capable of sending data packets to various equipment types, then this network option is useful for a diverse variety of applications. Most businesses will use star topology as a way to link workstations to different printers, copiers, and other stations. You can also have a server connect with the central hub to maximize the reach of each connected device.
As long as the equipment is compatible with your cabling and the software or hardware of the central hub, then you can connect an entire office with this setup rather easily.
5. It doesn’t create bottlenecks where data collisions occur.
Because each device connects to the central core with its own cable when using star topology, the likelihood that data collisions will occur is quite minimal. That means the performance levels of this system are exceptionally high when compared to other network designs. Although there can be times when it performs slowly due to high traffic levels, you typically have direct communication between devices. That means workers have less downtime to manage when using this setup.
6. Some businesses may benefit from a wireless star topology system.
If your central hub supports a wireless connection, then you can avoid the mobility issues that star topology typically provides. You won’t have the same limitation on the number of devices you can connect, although you can program a limit into the core if you prefer. That means you can work in any room in the building while still having access to your network. This advantage also opens the door for workers who prefer to use tablet PCs or mobile devices during the workday.
Wireless star topology systems can help you to avoid the cost of cabling. Since most devices come with WLAN cards already, you can avoid many of the expenses that a traditional approach would create using this technology.
7. You can take multiple approaches with star topology systems.
When you design a star topology network, then you can choose to use a switch, an active hub, or a passive one. If you use a passive one, then the signals pass through without any intervention, which means no time is necessary to modify the data packets. Active systems perform additional functions that help it to work as a repeater in addition to its central core duties.
If you use a switch with a star topology network, then it will read the destination address of the data message. Then it will transmit the information to the intended receiver. It will route or bridge the data will serving network management duties.
8. Star topology avoids point-to-point connections.
Although you will lose some of the overlapping connections that result in a high level of reliability in other topologies, the star design creates a more streamlined approach that maintains fast communication. This flexibility allows you to install it in whatever way suits your company well since you don’t need to worry about all of your devices communicating with one other with the presence of the central hub.
That means a star topology system is useful for networks of almost any size. There are no risks of signal reflection within the network, creating a secure way to transmit data packets with its uni-cast communication and point-based connections.
List of the Disadvantages of Star Topology
1. If the central core fails, then so does the entire system.
The central switch, hub, or core of a star topology system is the critical point of the network. You can sever cables to it without compromising the rest of the network, but it must remain functional for data movement to occur. If a failure happens for any reason, then all of the devices connected to it will not receive a network connection. You can still perform offline work in this scenario, but it can reduce your opportunities for collaboration immediately.
Once a failure occurs, the only repair solution might be to replace the entire hub. That can be a pricey proposition, even if the cabling is still useful.
2. Star topology is very expensive to install.
The most expensive aspect of the installation of topology is the cabling work needed for the system. Although the star design is quite reliable, it also requires each device to receive a direct connection to the central hub. That makes it the most expensive choice to consider, which is why some small businesses look for alternatives.
The goal of this expense is to save money by increasing productivity and reducing the time it takes to hunt down maintenance issues. Since you know a disconnected device has its cable compromised in some way, less downtime typically occurs. Some companies may not find ways to recoup the entire cost of this installation until several years down the road.
3. You must have additional equipment available to make the topology work.
Star topology doesn’t work unless you have a hub or switch serving as a central core. If you run multiple stars, then each one requires this connection so that the entire system can work together. This design process adds more to the cost of installation, and it creates several vulnerabilities within some designs. If you took out the primary hub with an installation involving multiple stars, then you could sever the primary communication tool. The other systems could still speak with each other, but all of them would lose access to a central database for collaboration.
4. Your mobility is adversely impacted by this system.
Although wireless star topology systems are available today, most of them still rely on wired connections. That means the limited length of the cable restricts the movements of individual workers. They cannot take their workstations with them to stay productive. If they choose to print something on the network, then they must leave their workstation to retrieve the item. This up-and-down can reduce productivity levels dramatically over time because you’re bound to sit at a specific distance from the central hub.
5. It can be challenging to attach mobile devices to the system.
It is easy to add new workstations and equipment assets to a star topology network. What isn’t as simple to use in this respect is a smartphone or another mobile device. Some tablet PCs don’t come with the capability to connect to this network either. Most central hubs lack a port that allows you to use the Internet with this system, forcing you to rely on a cellular or Wi-Fi connection to stay online.
That means it isn’t as easy to collaborate on projects if you have workers in mobile or remote offices. Your wired connections will struggle to communicate outside of your agency, and the same problem affects those who try to connect with your LAN without inside access.
6. The cables in a star topology system can be prone to damage.
The wire or cable used to create a star topology network creates more exposure for potential damage. It must go behind walls, under floors, and through other obstacles to reach the intended workstations or peripherals. When the LAN requires installation work on the exterior of the building, then it can become susceptible to changing weather conditions or wildlife impacts.
These issues can alter the reliability profile of some star topology networks. You can avoid this disadvantage in some ways by adding a protective barrier around the cables, but there will always be some accidents that happen.
7. Wireless star topology systems have low data transfer rates.
If you need a network that can manage a heavy load, then a wired star topology system is a better option than a wireless one. A WLAN will always move more slowly, which means the risk of a bottleneck rises. You must also perform manual settings if you want to impose limits on the network, which means spending even more time on the system instead of being productive with your latest project
Wireless systems can also be complicated when trying to diagnose a problem in the network. That’s why the cost of cable is sometimes worth the investment, especially if no one in your organization would describe themselves as being technically inclined.
A star topology is a system that works well for Local Area Networks when multiple connection points are necessary for a network. The central hub might be expensive to install, but the data packet movement is typically faster because it is self-contained.
If the star design is effective, then the speed benefits are worth considering. When there the central hub doesn’t have the capacity to manage the size of the network, then bottlenecks can start forming. It can be an issue that eventually leads to a failure at the central site. Since it is a single point, that means the entire network can go down if issues occur at that one point.
Every business has unique needs to meet. These star topology advantages and disadvantages can point the way toward the decision you need to make for your network
Natalie Regoli, Esq. is the author of this post and the editor-in-chief of our blog. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington and her Masters in Law from The University of Texas School of Law. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Natalie has almost two decades of experience as a lawyer and banker. If you would like to reach out to contact Natalie, then go here to send her a message.