Why Should I Use a Mesh Topology for My Network?

Network topology refers to the manner in which nodes and their lines of connection are configured in a single system of communication.

To clarify, a node refers to point in a network in which data is either redistributed or is an endpoint, and can be workstation, router, or some other device.

Mesh network topology is a versatile form of a network configuration in which a series nodes are connected to each other in a net.

In a full mesh network, all nodes are directly connected to every other node in the network. In partial networks, however, some nodes are connected to every node in the system, while a few others are only connected to the few that they communicate with.

Such a system can be configured any number of specific ways and at several levels of scale including a local area network, virtual local area network, and wireless local area network.

Mesh Topology Advantages and Disadvantages

As with any other form of network, there exist a series of pros and cons to using a mesh system. Since, as we’ll see later, this type of network can be applied in a myriad of ways. You will learn how distinct advantages and disadvantages revolve around the rate of traffic being set through the system and how stable the system is as a whole.

To begin, given the fact that all (or at least several) nodes are connected to all others, this system is incredibly redundant.

As a result, if one node in the system breaks down, others can still pick up the slack. Along with that, since data can be routed many different ways and that this type of network is typically formed entirely out of wireless signals, this system is great for when direct line-of-sight signals are briefly blocked or when creating a network using physical wired connections is not possible.

Since this system, in many ways, mimics a miniaturized version of the world wide web, in which there is no central server to which data must be run through, LANs run faster.

In fact, the larger a mesh system gets, the faster the network becomes. However, this type of system is still being developed, and modern standards still haven’t been established yet. Further, since this type of system is dependent on wireless connections, signal reliability can be an issue.

As a consequence, delays in audio and video streaming or transferring other kinds of data can be an issue, especially when mobile nodes comprise part of the network.

Mesh Network Applications

Although still new, mesh systems have seen a vast panoply of applications everywhere including the private and public sphere on a variety of scales.

Industrial Building and Equipment Monitoring

One of the most common uses of a mesh network is to control and monitor a building’s lighting, HVAC, and other utilities.

In addition to managing the systems vital to an office building or hotel, this system can also be incorporated into a security system.

Aside from saving the user money on the costs of wasted energy and the wiring it would take to set up a traditional network, the lack of wires also means that neither accidents nor intruders can disable the system by disabling one or a few nodes.

Moreover, on top of connecting and regulating a building’s utility and safety functions, a mesh system is superb for monitoring complex sub-systems unique to a particular business.

Examples of these systems include sensors which provide torrents of data to monitors on the functionality of mining equipment, the status of railroads, and the production rate of manufacturing robots. Besides the status of machines, a mesh system is great for physicians and supporting staff in hospitals to monitor patients.

In any of the cases above, besides the money saved on wiring, this network saves money on labor as well as a considerable amount of time since machines, infrastructure, or people can easily be examined from a distance rather than in person.

Government Services and Emergency Communications

Not being limited to a single building, a mesh network can even be arranged on a city-wide level. This range of communication is great for police, fire departments, and other government service workers. For other examples, an ad-hoc mesh network was set up during Hurricane Sandy for storm survivors and during the Hong Kong student protests of 2014 in order to restore internet connectivity.

Home-Based Network

Referring to an example that is literally in the home, a mesh system is ideal for a domestic environment. In addition to giving you lightning fast access speed between devices in your local network as well as to the internet, this system also eliminates wi-fi “dead zones.” Consequently, this setup is particularly useful for large homes or those who have multiple internet users. To make things even better, some of the best mesh Wi-Fi kits cost only a few hundred dollars and can be set up in a matter of minutes.

Is a Mesh System Applicable to My Needs?

Given the somewhat unrefined state of contemporary mesh networking, a custom mesh system can be a little tricky to put together and may require some level of technical expertise to manage if the system is complex enough. However, for most applications on a medium- to small-sized scale, a mesh system is an excellent network layout to use.

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