A network switch is much like the electricity circuit in your home or office environment, forming a closed circle of devices that communicate with one another. It is a rather simple looking box that has numerous ethernet ports on it and usually some form of lighting to indicate activity on each port and if they are being used at any time. For most home users, a network switch will likely be installed near your router but this is not required if you are planning to run ethernet throughout your house. When you plug your computer into an Ethernet cable, the other end of that wire (eventually) goes to a switch. It makes sure that packets of data get sent down the wire with the right machine at the other end. Unmanaged switch, a type of plug and play Ethernet network switch, is typically designed for basic connectivity. Since unmanaged switch requires no configuration at all, it is often used in home networks or wherever a few ports are needed.
Compared with unmanaged switch, managed network switches can be configured and properly managed to offer a more tailored experience. It will usually bear the weight of the most comprehensive functions for a network. Since their rich features such as VLAN, CLI, SNMP, IP routing, QoS and etc., a managed network switch is commonly applied in the core layer in a network, especially in large and complex data centers.
Higher-end switches can handle more complex networking. They can keep track of TCP/IP networking. They can split themselves into multiple networks. They can filter traffic. Still, for the most part, they just handle sending traffic around inside a network. When it comes time to send data to other networks, you start dealing with routers. High-end switches kind are in sort of a grey area with low-end routers but it mostly comes down to whether you're on the 'same network' or 'separate networks'.
What is a Router and why is it different from a Switch?
A router is a device in your home or office environment that provides internet connectivity to all your devices in a network. A network is the connection that all the devices that are connected to the router (wirelessly or using RJ45/LAN Cables in the ports on the rear of the router). After connecting a router to the modem, you're then able to share that Internet connection among all of the devices in your network. Moreover, a router also serves as the front line of security, protecting your computer system and information from any intrusion and attack. Most routers are designed with four Ethernet ports, allowing you to plug in four devices and have them communicate via the switching function. Users demand more than four connections can either upgrading to a router with larger port count (up to 8 ports) or deploying a dedicated switch. Note that routers often contain the firmware that should be updated as released by the router manufacturer.
At the most basic level, a router deals with network traffic. It connects a modem to other network devices to enable communication between them and the Internet. In this way, the router directs incoming and outgoing internet traffic on that network in the fastest and most efficient way. A router usually connects to the modem via the “Internet” or “WAN” port over a network cable, then again via a network cable, to multiple network devices. Each router has a unique (external) IP address to receive data packages from servers worldwide, and every device on your network also gets a unique MAC address. When you try to access information online, your router maintains a table to keep track of which device requested information from where. Routers are best used when combined with network switches to allow a greater number of devices to communicate and arrive in multiple variations to suit home and business users alike.
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