A flat network is a type of computer network architecture that aims to reduce maintenance, administration, and cost through its simplicity. Read on to learn more about how flat networks function and how they can work for different business and personal use cases.
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What Is a Flat Network?
Typically, a flat network consists of a central hub linked to servers, workstations, and printers. It does not need any intermediary hardware, such as a router. A flat network is different from hierarchical network architecture, a type of network that is separated into distinct layers, with each layer having a defined role in the network.
Features of a Flat Network
The topology of a flat network means there is no need to separate or segment the network, but a mixture of switches and hubs might be used to connect the devices in the network to each other. Typically, all devices on a flat network are part of the same broadcast domain.
In most cases, the devices also share network bandwidth. There is no need for multiple routers, as low-cost hubs provide additional connectivity for any devices that need to be added to the network.
Read more about The Risks and Rewards of Flat Networks on Enterprise Networking Planet.
What Are the Benefits of a Flat Network?
A flat network is ideally suited for smaller networks where complex troubleshooting or security is not needed. The ease of implementation and management on a flat network is the primary advantage of this type of network architecture.
Because of their simple setup, flat networks are most commonly used in home networks that have a simple design and require no intensive computer security features. As switches are not needed in a flat network, it is affordable to set up and maintain the network over time.
A flat network also makes adding, moving, and removing network devices straightforward. For example, if a desktop needs to be moved from one desk or building to another, simply unplugging the desktop and plugging in the Ethernet jack at the new location will suffice for setup.
What Are the Potential Drawbacks of a Flat Network?
A flat network is good for a home or a simple small office, but for a corporate network, there are several potential risks and security vulnerabilities. It is easy for a hacker to remain undetected on a flat network because so many devices are communicating with each other in an unstratified environment. The security system has to work harder to identify anomalous traffic or behavior in this kind of network design.
Another major issue with a flat network is performance, as there is an increased processing burden on the key switch that handles all network traffic.
Finally, the simplicity of a flat network can also be a disadvantage when it comes to troubleshooting. Finding the root cause of a problem can be challenging because there is no network segmentation that differentiates users and devices.
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