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Bus, ring, star or mesh: Which topology is right for you?

Dec. 5, 2022
Network topologies have pros/cons, depending on the application

Industrial Ethernet comes in many forms, depending on the network needs. The pros and cons of each network topology will guide users to the right choice.

  1. Bus topology is a network design in which every computer and network device is linked to a single cable or backbone. Different kinds of computer network cards can be connected to one another using coaxial or RJ-45 network cables.
  2. A ring topology is an arrangement of devices on a network that produces a circular data route. Every networked device is linked to two others by two points on a circle. A ring network is the collective name for the devices arranged in a ring topology.
  3. Star topology is a network architecture where every network component is physically linked to a central node like a router, hub or switch. The connecting nodes of a star topology function as clients, while the central hub serves as a server. A packet can be sent to other nodes in the network by the central node once it has been received from a connected node. A star topology is often referred to as a star network.
  4. Mesh topology is a network configuration in which every network device is connected to every other device on the network. Due to the configuration, if one of the connections fails, the rest of the transmissions may still be distributed. It refers to an architecture supporting wireless communication.

Also read: One Network Topology Is Not a Silver Bullet


One of the most traditional and basic network architecture types is the bus topology. All nodes in this network are joined by a single cable called the bus, making it possible for it to function. Branches or lines are the terms used to describe all other cables. Bus topology benefits include:

  1. It works nicely with a small network.
  2. It is the most straightforward network configuration for connecting computers or peripherals in a straight line.
  3. It requires less cable length than other topologies.

Bus topology drawbacks include:

  1. In the event that the entire network is down, it may be challenging to locate the issues.
  2. Troubleshooting specific device problems might be challenging.
  3. For big networks, bus topology isn't the best.
  4. On both ends of the main cable, terminators are necessary.
  5. The network becomes slower with more devices.
  6. A network failure or division into two occurs if a primary cable is destroyed.

How is bus technology used? One is the controller area network (CAN) bus. In manufacturing settings, CAN is frequently used on assembly lines because it enables efficient communication between equipment and operators during the assembly process.

Also read: Shielded and grounded industrial Ethernet


In a ring network, data packets go from one device to the next until they arrive at the final destination. A unidirectional ring network, which characterizes the majority of ring topologies, allows packets to move only in one direction. Others, known as bidirectional, allow data to flow in either direction. Ring topology benefits include:

  1. Packet collisions are less likely since all data travels on a single path.
  2. Each workstation's network connectivity may be managed without the use of a network server.
  3. Between workstations, data may move at quick rates.
  4. There is no effect on the network's performance when more workstations are added.

Ring topology drawbacks include:

  1. It may take longer than a star topology to transport data since every piece of data must go via every workstation on the network.
  2. If one workstation crashes, it will have an effect on the whole network.
  3. Ethernet cards and hubs/switches are less costly than the gear required to connect each workstation to the network.


The star network must be linked point to point, and each connecting node in star networks is kept apart from the other. The benefits of star topology include:

  1. 1. It improves communication between the devices and the network's central node.
  2. 2. It may provide signal reconditioning and amplification services.
  3. 3. The performance of other connected nodes in the network is unaffected if one of them fails. This makes it easier to add and remove individual components from networks.

The drawbacks of star networks are their size capacity. They are often kept small because too many devices jostling for access to the central node might degrade network performance.


In mesh topology, every computer in the network is connected to every other computer in the network. Some benefits of a mesh topology include:

  1. It manages heavy traffic since several devices can transmit data at once.
  2. The network or the data transfer are not interrupted when one device fails.
  3. Data transmission between existing devices is unaffected by the addition of extra devices.

Several drawbacks of mesh topology include:

  1. This network topology is less preferable because it is more expensive to implement than other network topologies.
  2. It takes time and effort to build and maintain the topology.
  3. The likelihood of redundant connections is high, which raises the costs and raises the possibility of decreased efficiency.

There are many network topologies, even including hybrid, allowing the use of multiple topologies together. Choosing the right one depends on the application and needs. 

About the Author

Shawn Cox | Contributing Editor

Shawn Cox is a licensed master electrician/PLC programmer. He was co-owner/operator of Bobby Cox Electric for 15 years and is currently employed by BMW Manufacturing as an ESA. Contact him at [email protected].

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