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Dated: Jul. 07, 2012
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Networking In General
Overview of Wireless Network Topologies
In any network setup, network topology plays an important role without which network cannot be established whatsoever. In other words, whenever two or more machines are connected to each other, a topology is automatically formed. Unlike wired networks that have multiple topologies, wireless networks have only two topologies namely Infrastructure and Ad Hoc. Since wireless networks work on unguided media, it makes sense to have limited number of topologies while configuring the wireless network setups. Moreover, since wireless networks are a bit complicated configure as compared to the wired networks, it is essential for the administrators to have complete and in-depth knowledge of wireless networking before they finally start establishing wireless networks in production environments.
Another aspect, drawback, of wireless networks is that they are not as secure as wired networks are. The reason is that security in wired networks can be compromised if the computers are physically connected to the target (victim) computers via LAN or WAN. On the other hand, computers connected to the wireless networks can easily be hacked using any other wireless computer. Hackers need not to connect their computers to the wires in order to hack wireless computers.
Understanding Infrastructure Topology
Infrastructure topology in wireless networks is the one that has one wireless central device, technically known as Wireless Access Point or WAP. All wireless client machines such as laptop PCs, desktop computers with wireless NICs, WLAN enabled cell phones, etc transmit signals to and fro via WAPs only.
Wireless nodes can have enhanced transfer speed in Infrastructure topologies and can exploit the benefits of wireless devices at their full. The reason behind this is that nowadays WAPs support IEEE 802.11 b/g/n wireless standards that provide data transfer speed of up to 11/54/100+ Mbps respectively at the frequencies of 2.4 GHz.
Understanding Ad hoc Topologies
Unlike Infrastructure topologies, Ad hoc wireless topologies can be implemented without WAPs. The structure of Ad hoc topologies can be understood by thinking the topologies as peer-to-peer networks in which no servers are present. In such scenarios, every computer connected to the network is responsible for its own security and requires no permission from any authorized body (except from the target computer itself) if it wants to communicate with another computer on the network.
In the same way, in Ad hoc wireless topologies no WAPs are present and all wireless devices are directly connected to all other wireless devices (forming a kind of mesh topology between each other where every node is connected to every node on the network).
Although Ad hoc topologies are cheaper to implement and are easier to configure as compared to Infrastructure topologies, they provide reduced transfer speed that do not exceed 11 Mbps. Moreover, Ad hoc topologies do not provide the level of security as Infrastructure topologies do as Ad hoc topologies allow administrators to configure Wired Equivalent Privacy or WEP security only.
Infrastructure topologies are useful in production environments where there are several wireless devices that are to be connected to each other and that too at high data transfer speed. On the other hand, Ad hoc topologies are more preferred in homes or small network setups where numbers of wireless devices are limited and high data transfer speed is not essentially required.
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