What Is Switch (Network)?


Switch is a network device or function which mainly used to switch frames or packets into different transmission mediums or cables. Traditional switches work in the OSI Layer 2 and switch frames according to the source and destination addresses into different ports. The switch is a crucial part of a computer network. Even switch can provide different protocol support in most of the cases switch is closely coupled with the Ethernet protocol and the term switch is mostly used to express the Ethernet Switches. Even switch history goes back to the 1960s the modern ethernet switch is created in 1990 by Kalpana.

Switch Functions and Features

In the first years, the switch was used for a single function in order to switch frames between different ports but with the advancement of the switch they provided more features and functions. Below we will list some of the most popular and useful functions and features of the switches.

Packet/Frame Switching is the main function and features of the switch. Switch have multiple ports and switch a incoming packet/frame to the destination port.

Increase Signal is functioned by connecting mutiple switches where packet or frame signal will be created and increased in each switch.

Security can be configured according to the different parameters and technologies like MAC address, Port number, VLAN, etc.

Bonding will merge the bandwidth of the two or more physical ports like a single logical port which will increase the bandwidth.

Bandwidth Management for set limits abut upload and download bandwidth for specific port.

Switch Types

With the new features and functions different types of switches are created. Below you can find differen types of switches.

Unmanaged Switches provides basic features with no or little management capabilities. They are plug and play which means there is no need for configuration for work. Unmanaged Switches are used in for personal or small office environments.

Managed Switches provides intermediate level switch features like serial console, telnet or SSH access, SNMP, VLAN, STP, etc with the web-based management interface. Managed switches are the most popular switch type in the enterprise environment.

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Smart Switches are between Unmanaged and Managed switches which provide a basic web interface for management with less capability and features.

Enterprise Managed Switches are the high-level switches which provide a full set of management capabilities and features like CLI, SNMP agent, web interface, config backup and restore, stacking, load balancing, and availability.

24 Port Switch

Switch Components

Swithces consist of multiple components like mainboard, ports, power supply etc.

Mainboard is the main component where other components are connected and the switching function and operation are executed. Network ports transmit received frame/package to the mainboard and the mainboard decides the switching operation which port will be used. Also, switch firmware and software runs on the mainboard of the switch.

Network Port is the most important part of a switch where the hosts or computers connects to the switch via this ports. Generally RJ45 type plugins are used for Ethernet protocol connection between switch and computer. Cable is CAT-5 or CAT-6 type. In some cases for uplink port fiber can be used with different connectors like SFP, SFP+ etc.

Management Port is a port used to manage and configure switch. Management port can be a serial port or Ethernet port but generally used with RS238 protocol.

Power Supply i used to provide power to the switch and its components.

Firmware or Software is used to run different functions as software for switching, management, protocol operations.

Switch vs Hub

Switches can be compared hubs where both of them provide very same physical look. But their function is a bit different.

  • The switch checks the source or destination address of the package but Hub does not make a check.
  • The switch provides extra and advanced features where the hub is a dummy with no features devices.
  • The switch provides high-level performance where hub performance is very low especially in high traffic network environments.
  • The switch is more secure than a hub where hub provides easy access to network traffic for attackers.
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Switch vs Router

Switch and Router are different devices with different functions. Actually they complete each other for an enterprise-level network. Below we will compare the switch and router for similarities and differences.

  • Generally, the switch has a lot more network ports than a router.
  • Generally switch works on Layer 2 where router works on Layer 3.
  • The switch is used for packet/frame switching on single network LAN where Router is used to route packets in different networks.
  • Generally switch is cheaper than a router.
  • Switches provide fewer features than routers.

Layer 2 Switch vs Layer 3 Switch

In networking, there are two terms Layer 2 Switch and Layer 3 Switch. As we know switch works on Layer 2 according to the OSI reference model. But with the advancement of the networking devices and different needs, some switch are created with basic routing or Layer 3 features. These switches with Layer 3 or routing capabilities are called Layer 3 Switches. Layer 2 Switch is a standard and normal switch with switching related capabilities.

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