Part of the Network administration glossary:

A ring network is a local area network (LAN) in which the nodes (workstations or other devices) are connected in a closed loop configuration. Adjacent pairs of nodes are directly connected. Other pairs of nodes are indirectly connected, the data passing through one or more intermediate nodes.

The illustration shows a ring network with five nodes. Each node is shown as a sphere, and connections are shown as straight lines. The connections can consist of wired or wireless links.

The ring topology may prove optimum when system requirements are modest and workstations are at scattered points. If the workstations are reasonably close to the vertices of a convex polygon (such as the pentagon shown in the illustration), the cost can be lower than that of any other topology when cable routes are chosen to minimize the total length of cable needed.

A break in the cable of a ring network may result in degraded data speed between pairs of workstations for which the data path is increased as a result of the break. If two breaks occur and they are not both in the same section of cable, some workstations will be cut off from some of the others. When system reliability is a critical concern, a bus network or star network may prove superior to a ring network. If redundancy is required, the mesh network topology may be preferable.

A token ring is a widely-implemented kind of ring network.

This was last updated in September 2005
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

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