What are the different types of network switches?

When you are setting up a network for home, you need a router. But when you set it up for offices and data centers where there are hundreds of computers, you need networking switches. A networking switch is responsible for connecting the devices within a network. The connected devices could be computers, routers, printers, wireless access pointers, and likewise.

A networking switch in local area networks is essential as it enhances LAN bandwidth, manages network traffic, sets filters and access control, and much more. But there are different types of switches available, and there are different features to consider while purchasing a networking switch. We will discuss in detail every aspect of the networking switch so that you can have a clear.

How Does Network Switch Work?

A network switch acts as the middleman between data packet transmission. Therefore, when a source sends a data packet to a destination in a network, the data packet goes directly to the network switch. The network switch reads the data packet header to locate the destination’s MAC address. Thereafter, it pushes the data packet to the appropriate port to go to the destination.

A network switch basically creates a sub-network between the source and the destination for data transmission and communication. The sub-network is terminated as soon as the objective is completed. Different techniques are used to find the best route for data transmission between source and destination for faster operation.

Three layers of networking switches are used in a large network, and they are as follows.

  • Edge Switches – These switches link different devices in the network, starting from computers to access points. They are basically responsible for handling traffic in the network.
  • Aggregation Switches – These switches are in the intermediary layer and connect to edge switches. They are basically responsible for transmitting traffic from one switch to another, and it can be an edge switch, another aggregation switch, and even a core switch.
  • Core Switches – These switches link edge and aggregation switches as well as routers and subnets. They are the backbone of the network, where switches are used for internal communication.

Types of Network Switches

KVM Switch

KVM stands for keyboard, video and mouse. This type of switch is used to connect a keyboard, mouse or monitor to multiple computers. These switches are often used to control groups of servers while saving desktop space by eliminating cables.

A KVM switch is an ideal interface for a single user that needs to control the functions of multiple computers from a single console. These devices can often be programmed with keyboard hotkeys that let you easily switch between PCs. With the addition of a KVM extender, the reach of the switch can be extended several hundred feet by transmitting DVI, VGA or HDMI video signals. This configuration allows for local and remote access to the machines. A complete KVM solution lets you easily centralize server maintenance and management.

Managed Switch

A managed switch is a switch that requires some oversight by a network administrator. This type of switch gives you total control over the traffic accessing your network while allowing you to custom-configure each Ethernet port so you get maximum efficiency over data transfers on the network. Administrators can tweak these devices for optimal data rate as new devices and users are added to the network through commands such as bandwidth rate limiting and port mirroring. Managed switches are also typically the best network switches to support the Gigabit standard of Ethernet rather than traditional Fast Ethernet.

Many administrators use managed switches to create virtual local area networks (VLANs), which allow you to further segment your network and control the traffic burden for each type of connected device. Another benefit of a managed switch setup is that the majority of managed switches are designed with Spanning Tree Protocol (STP). This enables administrators to perform quality of service (QoS) duties and access the switch remotely to make adjustments without having to be in the same physical location as the switch.

Unmanaged Switch

Unmanaged switches are generally made as plug-and-play devices and require little to no special installation beyond an Ethernet cable. The setup of this type of switch relies on auto-negotiation between Ethernet devices to enable communication between them. The switch will automatically determine the best data rate to use, switching between full-duplex mode (where data is received or transmitted in two directions at the same time) or half-duplex mode (where data is received or transmitted two ways but only one direction at a time).

While some unmanaged switches may be accessed remotely, most will require the admin to physically make broad changes when setting up the switch. If you want a switch that will perform the basic functions of network efficiency without the need for customization, unmanaged may be the best the type of network switch for you. 

Smart Switch

Another popular type of switch in networking is the smart switch, also referred to as an intelligent switch. These devices are a type of managed switch with only a select number of options for management. Rather than providing the full management functionality of a managed switch, a smart switch may only provide functionality to configure a handful of settings, like VLANs or duplex modes.

If your network will not require a full set of customization, a smart switch can be a good option. These devices are often more affordable than full managed switches while still offering more customization options compared to unmanaged switches.

PoE Switch

PoE stands for power over Ethernet. A PoE switch distributes power over the network to different devices. This means any device on the network, from PCs to IP cameras and smart lighting systems, can function without the need to be near an AC access point or router, because the PoE switch sends both data and power to the connected devices. However, not all devices are compatible with every PoE switch. Be sure to check if your PoE switch is compliant with the 802.3af/at standard and if the device you want to connect can support that.

Stackable Switch

You can make a cluster of switches work as a single switch and thereby, optimizing the network in the process. Therefore, it leads to link aggregation and grouping and it simplifies network administration and helps in network scalability.

Features to consider when buying a switch

When determining which type of network switch will be best for your business, keep the following considerations in mind:

Budget. Managed switches can be more expensive than smart or unmanaged switches.

Customization. Do you need to perform extensive customizations and manage or prioritize network traffic? If so, a managed switch may be necessary. If you only need to perform some basic customizations, a smart switch can be a good choice. If you don’t require any customizations at all, choose the plug-and-play functionality of an unmanaged switch.

Speed. No matter which type of switch you decide on, be sure that the speed configurations match your needs. Look for Fast Ethernet, Gigabit Ethernet, Ten Gigabit or faster speeds depending on your needs, although most businesses will find that Gigabit Ethernet helps network performance.

Ports. If you will only have a few devices on your network, a limited number of ports may suffice. If your network needs are greater, however, be sure to choose a device with the appropriate number of ports. Some switches have up to 52

Stackability. If your network is expanding fast, a stackable switch can be a great option for fast configuration. Stackable switches allow you to configure multiple switches as if they were one, eliminating the need for troubleshooting individual switches. If the power fails or there’s a problem with a port, a stackable switch will re-route around the problem.

Power. If you want to power your devices with your switch, be sure to select a PoE device. As mentioned above, these devices provide network functionality and power.

Takeaway

Getting started with the right networking device talk to Hubtech support team who understands your specific requirements. You’ll get a secure, reliable, affordable network customized to meet your needs today.

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