Ring topology

Updated: 11/12/2023 by Computer Hope
Ring topology

A ring topology is a network configuration where device connections create a closed circular data path. Each networked device is connected to two others, like points that form a circle. Together, devices in a ring topology are called a ring network. The term "token" describes a segment of information (like a packet) sent through that circle. When a computer on the network can decode that token, it receives data. The picture shows a ring topology with five workstations (nodes).

In a ring network, the token travels from one node to the next until it reaches its 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, which is called bidirectional.

Ring topologies may be used in LANs (local area networks) or WANs (wide area networks). Depending on the network card used in each computer of the ring topology, a coaxial cable or an RJ-45 network cable is used to connect them.

Token Ring and ring topology history

Ring topology graphic representation.

In the past, the ring topology was most commonly used in schools, offices, and smaller buildings where networks were smaller. However, the ring topology is seldom used today, being switched to another network topology for improved performance, stability, or support.

Are Token Ring and ring topology the same?

Token Ring and ring topology are similar concepts, but they're different. Token Ring is a network protocol, and ring topology is a network configuration in a ring. While a network may use a Token Ring, it doesn't necessarily mean it utilizes ring topology.

Ring network terms

  • Ring-attaching device - Any device connected to a ring network.
  • Ring interface adapter - A device that connects to a ring network to assume the role of a node. The adapter can accept, decode, error check, and perform fault detection.
  • Ring latency - The time, measured in seconds or in bits at a given data transmission rate, for a signal to propagate once around a ring network. The ring latency includes the signal propagation delay plus the sum of the propagation delay through each node.
  • Ring sequence - The ring sequence is the order of devices connected on a Token Ring network.
  • Ring in - When a node receives data on a Token Ring network.
  • Ring out - When a node sends data on a Token Ring network.
  • Ring status - The ring status is the current state of a device on a Token Ring network.

Advantages of a ring topology

  • All data flows in one direction, reducing the chance of packet collisions.
  • A network server or central node isn't necessary to control network connectivity between each workstation.
  • Data can transfer between workstations at high speeds.
  • Additional workstations can be added without impacting the performance of the network.
  • With heavy network loads, it can perform better than bus topology.

Disadvantages of a ring topology

  • The major disadvantage of a ring topology is if any individual connection or workstation in the ring is broken, the entire network is affected. However, using a dual ring or a switch can remedy the issue.
  • 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 hardware needed to connect each workstation to the network is more expensive than Ethernet cards and hubs/switches.
  • If a device in the ring is added or moved, or if its configuration changes, it can break the network.

BNC, Decode, Network terms, Node, Ring, STP cable, Token, Topology