A mesh network is a type of local network in which the individual devices (called nodes) within the infrastructure connect directly, dynamically and non-hierarchically to as many other nodes as possible and cooperate with one another to create one virtual network that can efficiently route data between clients. These have become enormously popular among consumers in the past few years, particularly as more people opt for agile or remote working environments. Some of the most popular consumer vendors of mesh networks includes names such as Google, TP-Link and Netgear, but there are many others.
At enterprise scale, mesh networks contain larger, more robust hardware that often includes separate routers, bridges, switches and other devices that operate as nodes. In these cases, a node acts as a gateway and connects directly to the main network asset (such as a server or the Internet); then, each additional node talks to one other and expands the wireless coverage. So while only one node is physically connected to the external resource, every node is able to send data back and forth at equal speeds.
Mesh networks are appealing to large enterprises because they are highly scalable and the network connection can be spread out among dozens or even hundreds of wireless mesh nodes, allowing the network connection to be shared across a large area.
How a Mesh Network Works
Fundamentally, a mesh node is a small radio transmitter that operates in a manner similar to a standard wireless router, using common 802.11 Wi-Fi standards to interface with devices and other nodes. Nodes within a network are programmed with specific software that tells them how to interact with the larger network and handle information. For example, a mesh network that utilizes dynamic routing will automatically select the quickest and most secure node path for data packets that are travelling through the system.
Dynamic routing, also called adaptive routing, is a process where a router can forward data via a different route or given destination based on the current conditions of the communication circuits within a system.Wikipedia
Mesh Network Advantages
While there are many advantages to using a mesh network, these are the top four that could impact an IT team’s decision to implement one.
- Increased stability. No longer will a single point of failure impact the entire network; if one node fails, the system can dynamically reroute communications through remaining functional nodes.
- Increased security posture. External attacks on single nodes can be isolated from the rest of the network.
- Increased range. Devices within a mesh network can retransmit signals further and can connect thousands of sensors over a wide area, providing the ideal solution for large venues like concert halls, sports stadiums, and festivals.
- Decreased costs. Mesh networks often require minimal infrastructure and are therefore cheaper to deploy and maintain (when compared to traditional networks).
Mesh Network Disadvantages
Despite the overwhelming advantages of this type of network, it is important to consider the disadvantages as well, as it may not be ideal for all situations. Here are the some disadvantages to consider.
- External pressures. Market and regulatory forces can make mesh networking difficult to deploy in some areas.
- Complex management. Intricate mesh networks can be challenging to manage and troubleshoot, often requiring specialized technical knowledge.
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