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What Is a Collapsed Backbone?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 31 March 2014
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    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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A collapsed backbone is a type of network structure or configuration that is sometimes used in the creation of local area networks or LANs. The configuration often includes the use of switching or routing hubs as part of the overall design, with a central point of origin providing the feed for all the hubs. While very easy to set up and maintain, there are drawbacks to this arrangement that can lead to a completed failure of the network if that central point of origin is adversely affected.

Sometimes known as a backbone in a box or an inverted backbone, the collapsed backbone makes use of cable connections from the point of origin to a series of hubs. The hubs in turn are connected to various destinations within the network. Data is transferred from the center through the hubs an on to the destinations, and then is sent back to the center of the network. When the backbone is configured properly, this arrangement can work very efficiently, making it possible to quickly deal with any malfunctions at a given hub by rerouting the transmissions through the remaining hubs.

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Another benefit of the collapsed backbone is the ease of maintenance. Since there is a single point of origin for the network, there is the one location to manage. The general configuration also makes it possible to easily diagnose any issues that could be interfering with the function of the network, implement any contingency efforts necessary to keep the flow of data moving, and quickly resolve the issue. Since the monitoring of a collapsed backbone is relatively simple, it is often possible to run diagnostics that help to identify potential issues and make repairs before any type of system disruption occurs.

While there are a number of benefits to a collapsed backbone, one key liability has to do with the failure of collapse of the central point of origin for the network. Should any factor interfere with that central point, the entire network may be rendered inaccessible until the issue is identified and repairs are complete. Many networks using this particular configuration will include one or more redundant backbones that are periodically updated to communicate with all the hubs on the network, making it possible to switch functionality to a backup source while the main box at the central point is repaired. Doing so helps to ensure that there is no loss of productivity due to an equipment failure and that valuable data is also preserved and readily accessible to authorized personnel.

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