Network switches are computer networks’ building blocks, making up the core of any network setup. In order to understand what they do, it’s important to know how they work and how they differ from other networking devices like routers and hubs.
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What is a Network Switch?
A network switch is a central device that connects multiple computers and servers so they can share resources and data. They are often called Layer 2 switches because they only process data at the second layer of the OSI (Open Systems Interconnection) model.
Network switches read MAC addresses, which help identify every computer connected to the internet. The switch sends any data intended for that specific address straight to the appropriate machine without going through all other devices.
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What Problems Do Network Switches Solve?
Switches are a great way to expand the network while simplifying connectivity. They connect different network types, such as wired and wireless; reduce data collision in high-traffic areas; and reduce power consumption on devices that may be turned off most of the time (like printers), offering protection from cyberattacks.
A network switch connects users, applications, and equipment across a network. Doing so allows for increased communication and collaboration between users. In addition, a network switch can help improve security by isolating traffic and keeping it from traveling across the entire network.
It can also help improve performance by reducing congestion and providing a dedicated path for traffic. Using a network switch can be an important step in improving organizational efficiency and productivity.
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How Does a Network Switch Work?
A network switch is a computer networking device that connects devices on a computer network using packet switching to receive, process, and forward data to the destination device. A network switch appears as a node in network topology and works with other devices, such as routers and firewalls to create complete networks.
Network switches use Layer 2 of the OSI model and work at the data link layer (Layer 2). Switches operate at this level because this is where frames are used to identify each frame with its MAC address.
Once an incoming frame has been analyzed and its MAC address found, the frame can be forwarded to the appropriate port to be delivered to its final destination. MAC addresses are used by the switch to determine where to send data.
When the switch receives a packet from one of its ports, it examines the MAC address in the packet’s header. If this MAC address matches an entry in its list of MAC addresses for ports connected to it, then it will send the data to this port.
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Benefits of Network Switches
A network switch allows communication between devices by forwarding data packets between them. It prevents frame collision by using the MAC address of the recipient to filter frames before they are forwarded. Other benefits include:
- Network switches improve the speed and performance of a network.
- They can help increase the security of a network by providing features like port security and MAC filtering.
- They can help simplify networks by reducing the need for multiple hubs or routers.
- They give users more control over their network traffic flow.
- They can make managing networks easier by providing users with a single management point.
- Most modern switches are fully manageable via an IP connection, so there’s no need to visit each machine individually to make changes.
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Types of Switches
Network switches are an essential piece of equipment in enterprise network infrastructure. They make sure that data from one device can reach another. A network switch consists of input, output, and forwarding tables. The forwarding table determines which data packets to send out based on MAC addresses. There are several types of network switches:
- KVM: A KVM switch is a hardware device that enables users to share their computer’s keyboard, video monitor, and mouse among two or more computers or servers without requiring them to turn off one machine before using another.
- Managed: A managed switch provides advanced features such as VLANs (virtual local area networks), QoS (quality-of-service) support for managing traffic flow between devices, and 802.1X authentication for improved security and remote configuration capabilities.
- Unmanaged: Unmanaged switch switches are not configurable. They can be a low-cost alternative if all that is needed is basic functionality like connecting PCs in the same workgroup.
- Smart: A smart switch has added intelligence, enabling automatic detection of data streams and automated forwarding traffic based on administrators’ policies.
- PoE (power over Ethernet): A PoE-enabled switch distributes power from an outlet to one or more PoE-compatible devices, eliminating the need for bulky power adapters.
What is the Difference Between a Switch and a Router?
A router is a device that connects two or more networks, while a switch is a device that connects computers within the same network. Switches allow communication between devices on the same network by forwarding data packets to the correct destination. Routers use routing tables to determine where to send packets, while switches use MAC addresses to forward data.
What is the Difference Between a Switch and a Hub?
A hub is a device that allows multiple computers to connect to each other. A switch is a device that allows multiple computers to connect to each other and controls traffic flow between them. Switches are faster and more efficient than hubs because they can send data directly to the computer that needs it, rather than broadcasting it to all connected devices. They allow more advanced features like QoS for latency-sensitive applications like voice over IP (VoIP).