Mesh topology is a network set up where every device and computer are interconnected with each other. This structure allows for a majority of the transmissions to be distributed even if one of the connections fails for some reason. It is the most common example of how wireless networks work today.
It is possible to have a full or partial connection with mesh topology. The first option has every computer in the network connected to each other, so the number of connections can be calculated with a specific formula. You would use n(n-1)/2.
As for the second option, at least two computers in the network must have connections to multiple devices. This method is an inexpensive way to implement redundancies because if one of the primary connections or computers fails, the rest of the network can continue to operate normally.
Several mesh topology advantages and disadvantages exist, so it is critical to review each crucial point before deciding on how to set up the network.
List of the Advantages of Mesh Topology
1. This network can manage a high level of traffic.
When you decide to use a mesh topology, then you are using a system that doesn’t have hierarchical relationships. Any device in the network is allowed to attempt to contact any other one directly or by taking advantage of the routing capability of the devices. This process relays the message on behalf of the originator. Because there are multiple nodes in place to create this network, the traffic levels they can manage our significant when the installation setup is complete and correct.
The reason why this advantage exists is because of the amount of hardware needed to create the communications structure in the first place. If you wanted to connect six computers using this structure, then each device would require five network cards so that everything could communicate with each other in the LAN.
2. Failure in a single device won’t break the network.
Mesh topology is exceptionally resistant to problems. Each node in the network will receive and translate information. This structure provides you with a sufficient level of redundancy, helping to keep the network running, even if malfunctions occur. If one node goes down for any reason, then the network has the strength to use the other ones to complete the mesh so that you don’t suffer from a significant loss of productivity.
If links or computers go down when using mesh topology, then the multiple paths that exist to get data through allow for messages to continue moving.
3. Data transmission is more consistent because failure doesn’t disrupt its processes.
Mesh topology requires each node to connect to every other one in the network to create a successful set of pathways to use. That’s why data transmission is more consistent. Multiple nodes can go down for any reason, but there is still going to be a pathway available to send a message unless the intended recipient is not operational for some reason.
This advantage is further expounded upon due to the structure of each node. It can communicate with the other nodes directly if an in-range transmission is necessary or while passing by others to reach the targeted destination. Mesh topology doesn’t require synchronization between devices, creating a simple way to transfer data when necessary.
4. Adding new devices won’t disrupt data transmissions.
The structures of mesh topology allow users to add new devices without disrupting the transmissions that currently exist. Since every node can connect and speak with every other one in this setup, you’re not interrupting the flow of information by adding new equipment. You are essentially expanding the existing network to create new connections. That means there is less downtime and latency involved with this advantage.
The nature of this advantage means that the infrastructure needs of a mesh topology are rather minimal. All you need is the node or computer and the connectivity requirements. That means the deployment of new resources can happen quickly, and sometimes even at a lower cost than what you can find with traditional infrastructures.
5. Scalability is simple when choosing this topology.
Mesh topology doesn’t require the use of additional routers. It uses each node to act as a router instead, allowing you to comfortably and quickly change the size of the network. That means you could easily add new technology to any room in a corporate situation temporarily because of the speed at which the system operates. You could include printers, laptops, and similar devices that will automatically connect to your network.
Non-technical Applications have an opportunity to benefit from this key advantage. Mesh topology is useful for lighting in just about any office, other forms of electronics, and smart devices. You gain the ability to control the entire network from almost anywhere.
6. You can add range to mesh topology networks without difficulty.
The process of adding range to a mesh topology network is usually possible without a problem. You only need to connect the nodes to gateways so that messages can pass through to the rest of the network. This advantage allows the technology to begin the process of self-optimization. It will find the fastest delivery method for each message sent over the network.
You don’t necessarily need to build a mesh topology from scratch if this system is what you want to use. Downloading software development kits (SDKs) enables you to become a participant node in an existing mesh instead of trying to build an entire network from scratch.
7. Taking the network down is almost impossible.
The modern structure of mesh networks around the world means that it is almost impossible to take it down unless there is a global incident that wipes out all of the devices we use around the world. All of the connections work with each other to ensure that data transfers can continue to occur. Even if you manage a small at-home system with interconnected smart devices, it would take a complete disruption of your network to prevent you from using the features of each device. Even then, the strength of this advantage would still allow you to operate the individual items manually so that you could achieve the results you want.
8. A mesh topology doesn’t have a centralized authority.
When you use a mesh topology to send data, then you aren’t using a system that incorporates a centralized authority. That means you have an individual-based and secure method of communication that can let you remain anonymous if desired. You don’t need to run a firewall or any other software solution to maintain your privacy. Each node operates with equal authority to move information from the originator to the recipient.
9. Flexibility is built into the system.
If you encounter more disadvantages than advantages when using a mesh topology, then the flexibility of using a partial installation can overcome a potential shortfall. You aren’t forced to have a complete set of connections for each node. The network can get built with a partial web so that you can take advantage of the enhanced communication while adding a small level of risk to the installation in case interruptions occur.
This advantage allows a network to install at a lower cost, provide similar benefits, and create the levels of redundancy that are most beneficial for the overall system.
10. It can handle a large volume of data.
A network configured with mesh topology is capable of handling a more significant volume of information when compared to traditional systems. This benefit is possible because you have multiple devices that can work together and transmit data simultaneously. Instead of having a series of computers or nodes that operate independently of each other, this structure allows you to harness the power of all of them functioning together to generate results.
11. You can target specific areas to add strength to your network.
When you use a mesh topology to transfer data, then you can target specific areas of a building structure to reinforce the qualities of that system. Homeowners often use this structure to solve connection drops that can create issues with online access. You can bring message transfers to areas that don’t have it using this system as well, and control typically happens through a companion app that runs on your smartphone. It’s a system that is small, sleek, and highly usable, even if you might spend a little more to have access to these benefits.
List of the Disadvantages of Mesh Topology
1. The cost to implement mesh topology is higher than other selections.
The list of equipment that you need for a mesh network is quite extensive. It will not operate correctly unless you purchase the hardware, cabling, mounting equipment, and Internet bandwidth that’s necessary for a successful installation. Each node can be $100 or more, and high-quality outdoor routers can be significantly more. Then there are the maintenance needs and upgrades associated with this kind of system that add further costs to the lifetime investment figure for this system.
Then you need to consider the market forces and regulatory compliance issues that exist with a mesh topology. All of these problems come together for a significant disadvantage when reviewing the final cost of deployment.
2. It takes a lot of time and effort to build and maintain this topology.
Once a mesh topology network becomes operational, adding nodes to it is a fairly simple process. The disadvantage comes from the implementation of the network from the ground up. The work is complex and time-consuming, especially when you compare the processes to something that would be more traditional.
Latency issues always dictate where are you can place the nodes in a mesh topology network. You might need to add dedicated ones that serve the sole purpose of forwarding messages, and there can also be logistical issues to manage with that initial work. You may discover that new equipment is necessary throughout your location so messages will route correctly.
3. There is a high risk of redundant connections.
A mesh topology creates a system of redundancies because of the way the connections exist. The intent is to allow an exceptionally high level of backup resources because every node connects to every other one in the system. As more get added to the network, then the number of connections continues to grow exponentially. That’s why scalability can sometimes be a challenge with this setup. If you had 8 computers in the system, then a new installation would require eight network cards, and then each existing system would require new hardware to communicate with the added device.
4. Each node experiences an increased workload.
The nodes that operate within a mesh topology network have many more responsibilities than those that operate in other topologies. Each one must act as a router in addition to its role in sending messages. That means the system is more complex than some of the other options on the market today, creating more opportunities for a failure to arise.
The nodes must track messages from up to 10 neighbors within this system. Each one that gets passed along will contain an exponential increase in the amount of information that requires handling. Increasing the range of the system can add unwanted complications because of the data load that exists.
5. Latency issues are common in low-power mesh topologies.
Most low-power mesh topologies networks do not have the processing capacity to handle data transfers in a timely manner. Anyone who runs this set up could find themselves managing latency issues, which is the time it takes a message to travel from a node to a gateway. You might need to upgrade the entire mesh network if you encounter this disadvantage because the addition of power, memory, and bandwidth usually increases the transfer speed of messages.
If each node becomes another detrimental component of your budget planning process, then this type of network will likely be slower and more limited than what you need.
6. Each node requires an additional utility cost to consider.
Because every node in a mesh topology gets the responsibility to act as a router and an endpoint, the increased level of work causes a strain on localized power consumption. Each one draws more power than normal so that it can operate correctly. Although this disadvantage isn’t very problematic when the equipment gets wired directly into the electrical system, it can be an issue for nodes that are small or operate using battery power.
Battery life can directly impact the quality of the network. If a device runs empty on its power source, then the mesh topology can experience more routing overhead. When encountering this disadvantage, a lack of reliability can sometimes creep into the system to disrupt communications.
7. Maintenance needs are challenging with a mesh topology.
The issue that most IT departments and homeowners face when using mesh topology involves maintenance. Knowing when one of the connections goes down can be difficult to detect since the nodes are so interconnected with each other. Small jumps in latency might be the only symptom available to recognize that the need to hunt down a problem exists. This disadvantage becomes more significant with the size of the network in question.
If you need a high volume of information to go across a home or business consistently, then the cost and complexity of a mesh topology makes sense. When that structure isn’t a priority, then a more traditional system might be a better fit.
Mesh topology is one of the oldest forms of networking that is still in use today. It was developed over three decades ago to support military applications. Today, we typically see this network being used for home automation needs, smart buildings, and HVAC systems. It is through these methods that this network helps to support the internet of things.
When reviewing the advantages and disadvantages of mesh topology, it is essential to look at the potential node distribution points in a building or another destination. If there aren’t enough to process the messages, then linkage problems and chokepoints can occur. Some selections in this network can only transmit 30 feet between nodes, making it a necessity to have a dense deployment.
Mesh topology networks are short-range because of their design. If that fits your needs, then this option might make sense. If you need something more expensive, then an alternative selection will be necessary.
Blog Post Author Credentials
Natalie Regoli, Esq. is the author of this post and the editor-in-chief of our blog. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington and her Masters in Law from The University of Texas School of Law. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Natalie has almost two decades of experience as a lawyer and banker. If you would like to contact Natalie, then go here to send her a message.