Understanding Network Representation For Networks

Understanding Network Representation For Networks

Network architects and administrators must be able to show what their networks will look like. They need to be able to easily see which components connect to other components, where they will be located, and how they will be connected. Diagrams of networks often use symbols, like those shown in the figure, to represent the different devices and connections that make up a network.
The image shows symbols used in network diagrams. At the top are the following end devices: desktop computer, laptop, printer, IP phone, wireless tablet, and TelePresence endpoint. In the middle are the following intermediary devices: wireless router, LAN switch, router, multilayer switch, and firewall appliance.
At the bottom are the following network media: blue waves depicting wireless media, a solid black line depicting LAN media, and a red lighting bolt depicting WAN media.
A diagram provides an easy way to understand how devices connect in a large network. This type of “picture” of a network is known as a topology diagram.
The ability to recognize the logical representations of the physical networking components is critical to being able to visualize the organization and operation of a network.

In addition to these representations, specialized terminology is used to describe how each of these devices and media connects to each other:

  • Network Interface Card (NIC) – A NIC physically connects the end device to the network.
  • Physical Port – A connector or outlet on a networking device where the media connects to an end device or another networking device.
  • Interface – Specialized ports on a networking device that connect to individual networks. Because routers connect networks, the ports on a router are referred to as network interfaces.

Note: The terms port and interface are often used interchangeably.

Topology Diagrams

Topology diagrams are mandatory documentation for anyone working with a network. They provide a visual map of how the network is connected. There are two types of topology diagrams: physical and logical.


Physical Topology Diagrams
Physical topology diagrams illustrate the physical location of intermediary devices and cable installation, as shown in the figure. You can see that the rooms in which these devices are located are labelled in this physical topology.


The physical network topology shows six rooms, each highlighted in a light yellow box, with various networking devices and cabling. On the left side is the server room labelled room 2158. It contains a router labelled R1 mounted on rack 1 shelf 1 with six cable connections.

A cable at the top connects to a cloud labelled Internet. A cable to the left connects to a switch labelled S1 mounted on rack 1 shelf 2. S1 is connected to three servers: a web server mounted on rack 2 shelf 1, an email server mounted on rack 2 shelf 2, and a file server mounted on rack 2 shelf 3.

A cable connected to the bottom of R1 connects to a switch labelled S2 mounted on rack 1 shelf 3. S2 has two connections leading to a printer and a PC in the IT office labelled room 2159.


R1 has three cables to the right connected to three switches located in room 2124. The top switch is labelled S3 and mounted on rack 1 shelf 1. The middle switch is labelled S4 and mounted on rack 1 shelf 2.

The bottom switch is labelled S5 and mounted on rack 1 shelf 3. S3 has a cable on the left connected to a laptop in a room labelled class 1 room 2125. S4 has a cable on the left connected to a laptop in a room labelled class 2 room 2126. S5 has a cable on the left connected to a laptop in a room labelled class 3 room 2127.


Logical Topology Diagrams

Logical topology diagrams illustrate devices, ports, and the addressing scheme of the network, as shown in the figure. You can see which end devices are connected to which intermediary devices and what media is being used.


The logical network topology shows devices, port labels, and the network addressing scheme. In the middle of the picture is a router labelled R1. A port labelled G0/0 connects to a cloud at the top labelled Internet.

A port labelled G0/1 connects at the left to a switch labelled S1 at port G0/1. S1 is connected to three servers. S1 and the servers are highlighted in a light yellow circle with the network written at the top. Port F0/1 on S1 connectes to a web server. Port F0/2 on S1 connects to an email server. Port F0/3 on S1 connects to a file server. Port F0/1 on R1 connects at the bottom to a switch labelled S2. S2 connects to a printer and a PC, all of which are highlighted in a light yellow circle with the network written on the bottom.


At the left of R1 are three additional connections, each connecting to a switch at port G0/1 which is than connected to a laptop at port F0/1. Each switch and laptop are highlighted in yellow and the network address is shown.

Port G0/0 of R1 connects at the top to a switch labelled S3 on network Port G1/1 of R1 connects in the middle to a switch labelled S4 on network Port G1/2 on R1 connects at the bottom to a switch labelled S5 on network


The topologies shown in the physical and logical diagrams are appropriate for your level of understanding at this point in the course. Search the internet for “network topology diagrams” to see some more complex examples. If you add the word “Cisco” to your search phrase, you will find many topologies using icons that are similar to what you have seen in these figures.

Networks of Many Sizes

Now that you are familiar with the components that make up networks and there representations in physical and logical topologies, you are ready to learn about the many different types of networks.
Networks come in all sizes. They range from simple networks consisting of two computers to networks connecting millions of devices.
Simple home networks let you share resources, such as printers, documents, pictures, and music, among a few local end devices.
Small office and home office (SOHO) networks allow people to work from home or a remote office. Many self-employed workers use these types of networks to advertise and sell products, order supplies and communicate with customers.
Businesses and large organizations use networks to provide consolidation, storage, and access to information on network servers. Networks provide email, instant messaging, and collaboration among employees. Many organizations use there network’s connection to the internet to provide products and services to customers.


The internet is the largest network in existence. In fact, the term internet means a “network of networks”. It is a collection of interconnected private and public networks.
In small businesses and homes, many computers function as both the servers and clients on the network. This type of network is called a peer-to-peer network.
Small Home Networks
Small home networks connect a few computers to each other and to the internet.
small home network consisting of a monitor, computer tower, keyboard, mouse, speakers, and printer located in a cabinet

LANs and WANs

Network infrastructures vary greatly in terms of:

  • Size of the area covered
  • Number of users connected
  • Number and types of services available
  • Area of responsibility

The two most common types of network infrastructures are Local Area Networks (LANs), and Wide Area Networks (WANs). A LAN is a network infrastructure that provides access to users and end devices in a small geographical area. A LAN is typically used in a department within an enterprise, a home, or a small business network.

A WAN is a network infrastructure that provides access to other networks over a wide geographical area, which is typically owned and managed by a larger corporation or a telecommunications service provider. The figure shows LANs connected to a WAN.

The network topology shows three LANs connected via a WAN link in the centre. A legend shows that LANs are highlighted in yellow and WANs in light purple. The WAN is located in the centre of the diagram. It contains a cloud symbol labelled cloud with red WAN connections to three routers. Each router is located partly in the WAN and partly in a LAN.
At the bottom left is the Central LAN. It contains a server, two multilayer switches, two LAN switches, and four PCs. At the bottom right is the Branch LAN. It contains a switch, a server, a printer, two IP phones each connected to a PC, and a wireless access point with wireless connections to a laptop and a smartphone.
At the top right is the home office LAN. It contains a wireless router with a wired connection to a printer and wireless connections to a laptop and a monitor.
Action Point
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I know you might agree with some of the points that I have raised in this article. You might not agree with some of the issues raised. Let me know your views about the topic discussed. We will appreciate it if you can drop your comment. Thanks in anticipation.


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