What is a network architecture and why do you need to know?

Just as if you were designing a building, a network architecture is about creating a solid but sensible structure. When your network architecture is well thought out, it can streamline communications and allow your employees to operate more efficiently.

What is network architecture?

Essentially, network architecture is the physical design and connection of all your software, hardware and protocols components. It's how the different elements of your IT system are organised and communicate with each other to complete the tasks you require. 

There are generally two different types of network architecture – peer-to-peer (P2P) or client server. Which type of network architecture best suits your business comes down to the size of your operations and the resources at your disposal.

Your network architecture depends on your business.Your network architecture depends on how your business operates.

Peer-to-peer network architecture

In this type of network architecture, you can imagine all your computers or other devices as equal peers. They all communicate with each other, but there is no one computer in charge of all the others. All the computers are linked and share equal responsibility and privilege. 

This set up tends to work best in smaller environments, where they are not too many parts to the network in the first place. Peer-to-peer networks also suit small businesses because they're cheaper and easier to set up and maintain. Businesses don't need to invest in an expensive server or other sophisticated equipment. As each computer works independently, a problem with one does not necessarily cause issues throughout the network.

On the flip side, peer-to-peer networks do have some weaknesses. As each computer works separately, security and data backups are managed on a per-device basis. There are no network-wide backup or security capabilities. This can cause a headache for those in charge, or allow security flaws in one machine to expose your wider network. If your network is likely to increase in size, a very large peer-to-peer network can quickly become unwieldy and hard to manage.

Client servers have one centralised computer.Client servers differ from peer-to-peer networks in that there is one centralised computer.

Client server architecture

Central server networks work quite differently, with one computer being the hub that connects all other components. There is usually a central server that connects to all other devices, managing communications and information sharing. All of the other computers in the network are referred to as clients – hence the name.The server deals with all requests that come through the network, managing file storage, printing connections and user access. Even where one client needs to communicate with another, the data goes through the server first before being redistributed accordingly.

This centralised approach works really well where there is a much larger network of computers. All security concerns are managed through the main server, meaning that the entire network is protected in the same manner. The one server controls all of the networks resources, ensuring every element is working efficiently and controls data backups. This can lead to a more efficient network and better speed.

The drawback is that client server networks are more expensive to set up and need a dedicated network manager to support ongoing maintenance. They must have the right amount of memory and the network manager needs to understand how the operating system works.

For easy to understand advice about setting up the best network architecture for your operations, get in touch with the Biztech team. We offer expert advice, can help you set up your network and are available to manage any aspect of your IT provision.