Characteristics of a Network

Many characteristics are commonly used to describe and compare various network designs. When you are determining how to build a network, each of these characteristics must be considered along with the applications that will be running on the network. The key to building the best network is to achieve a balance of these characteristics. Networks can be described and compared according to network performance and structure, as follows:

Speed: Speed is a measure of how fast data is transmitted over the network. A more precise term would be data rate.
Cost: Cost indicates the general cost of components, installation, and maintenance of the network.
Security: Security indicates how secure the network is, including the data that is transmitted over the network. The subject of security is important and constantly evolving. You should consider security whenever you take actions that affect the network.
Availability: Availability is a measure of the probability that the network will be available for use when required. For networks that are meant to be used 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, availability is calculated by dividing the time it is actually available by the total time in a year and then multiplying by 100 to get a percentage.
For example, if a network is unavailable for 15 minutes a year because of network outages, its percentage availability can be calculated as follows:
([Number of minutes in a year – downtime] / [Number of minutes in a year]) * 100 = Percentage availability
([525600 – 15] / [525600]) * 100 = 99.9971
Scalability: Scalability indicates how well the network can accommodate more users and data transmission requirements. If a network is designed and optimized for just the current requirements, it can be very expensive and difficult to meet new needs when the network grows.
Reliability: Reliability indicates the dependability of the components (routers, switches, PCs, and so on) that make up the network. Reliability is often measured as a probability of failure, or mean time between failures (MTBF).
Topology: Networks have two types of topologies: the physical topology, which is the arrangement of the cable, network devices, and end systems (PCs and servers), and the logical topology, which is the path that the data signals take through the physical topology.

These characteristics and attributes provide a means to compare different networking solutions. Increasingly, features such as security, availability, scalability, and reliability have become the focus of many network designs because of the importance of the network to the business process.


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