A ring topology is a network configuration in which device connections create a circular data path. Each networked device is connected to two others, like points on a circle. Together, devices in a ring topology are referred to as a ring network.
In a ring network, packets of data travel from one device to the next until they reach their destination. Most ring topologies allow packets to travel only in one direction, called a unidirectional ring network. Others permit data to move in either direction, called bidirectional.
The major disadvantage of a ring topology is that if any individual connection in the ring is broken, the entire network is affected.
Ring topologies may be used in either local area networks (LANs) or wide area networks (WANs). Depending on the type of network card used in each computer of the ring topology, a coaxial cable or a RJ-45 network cable is used to connect computers together.
In the past, the ring topology was most commonly used in schools, offices, and smaller buildings where networks were smaller. However, today, the ring topology is seldom used, having been switched to another type of network topology for improved performance, stability, or support.
Advantages of ring topology
- All data flows in one direction, reducing the chance of packet collisions.
- A network server is not needed to control network connectivity between each workstation.
- Data can transfer between workstations at high speeds.
- Additional workstations can be added without impacting performance of the network.
Disadvantages of ring topology
- All data being transferred over the network must pass through each workstation on the network, which can make it slower than a star topology.
- The entire network will be impacted if one workstation shuts down.
- The hardware needed to connect each workstation to the network is more expensive than Ethernet cards and hubs/switches.