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I'm a networking newbie and I'm a little bit confused about the difference between the terms:

  • Zone
  • Sub-network
  • Topology

I've seen network diagrams where a business's network was divided into three main "zones", which seemed like just sub-networks: (1) Intranet (private subnet), (2) Extranet (protected subnet) and (3) an Internet with public-facing web servers (public subnet).

My understanding is that you only create these zones/subnetworks when you have a business need to do so (if you don't need an extranet, don't build one!). But within these zones/subnetworks, you structure the devices & nodes according to the topology that makes the most sense.

First of all, if anything I have said so far is incorrect, please begin by correcting me! And if "zone" is different than "subnetwork", please let me know how and why!

Assuming I am more or less understanding the gist of things, what devices are then used to connect zones/subnets with each other? For instance, how what network devices connect a laptop inside the intranet to an FTP server inside the extranet?

I guess at the root of this question is this: I understand that topologies exist at the network/sub-network levels to provide cabling/connection layouts. But in a situation where you have multiple sub-networks connected to one larger network, what topologies/patterns/devices/best practices, etc. apply to inter-subnet communication? Thanks in advance!

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closed as off topic by Spiff, Renan, Diogo, 8088, Nifle Jul 29 '12 at 21:22

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up vote 1 down vote accepted

The term zone is used widely for a variety of concepts. Don't put too much meaning into it.

But the process you speak of is common. You try to divide your whole network topology into subsections. Usually, this is due to security concerns (and, as you already noticed, only when required).

When you have separate networks, you always need a router that routes packets between the networks.

Just like you use a router to connect your home network to the internet, you would have a router to connect the intranet to the extranet (or the DMZ, or the internet, ...).

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