Network switches are a common network infrastructure component. Here we’ll briefly introduce the five primary types of network switch available on the market: LAN switch, unmanaged switch, managed switch, PoE switch and stackable switch. All of these network switches have their own characteristics and are used in different network deployment.
- LAN switches
LAN switches, otherwise known as local area network switches, data switches or Ethernet switches, are usually used to connect points on a company’s internal LAN (local area network). It is their function to block the overlap of data packets running through a network by the economical allocation of bandwidth. Bandwidth refers to the amount of data to be carried from one point to another given a period of time. The LAN switch delivers the transmitted data packet before directing it to its planned receiver. These types of switches reduce network congestion or bottlenecks by distributing a package of data only to its intended recipient.
- Unmanaged switches
Mostly used in home networks and small companies or businesses, unmanaged switches permit other devices on the network to connect with each other, such as printer-to-computer or computer-to-computer. An unmanaged switch is the most basic type of networking switch as it has all of its programming built in. It is ready to work straight out of the box, so you don’t have to worry about installing or setting it up correctly. As a result, unmanaged switches have fewer features and less network capacity than managed switches.
- Managed switches
Compared to unmanaged switches, the advantage of managed switches is that they can be customised to enhance the functionality of a certain network. This offers greater security, flexibility and capacity. Furthermore, you can monitor and adjust a managed switch locally or remotely to have greater network control. Managed switches are more costly than unmanaged switches, but if your organisation has a large network it could be the best option for you. The scalability of these switches also makes them ideal if you know your organisation’s network will be growing.
There are two types of managed switches – smart switches and enterprise switches. Smart switches have limited features, but provide a web interface and accept configurations of basic settings. They are perfect for fast and constant LANs, which support gigabit data transfer and allocations. Enterprise switches have a wide range of management features and the capability to fix, copy, and transform and display network configurations. They are usually found in large companies which contain large numbers of connections, nodes, switches, and ports. Having more features than the smart switches, enterprise switches are usually more expensive.
- PoE switches
PoE Ethernet switches are a network switch that utilises Power over Ethernet (PoE) technology. When connected with multiple other network devices, PoE switches can support power and data transmission over one network cable at the same time. This greatly simplifies the cabling process. If you have a larger network, PoE can provide you with great flexibility by allowing you to place endpoints anywhere in the office. This is especially handy in spaces where it’s difficult to run a power outlet.
- Stackable switches
A large network may include multiple switches to expand the amount of devices that they can connect. To address this need, a stackable switch is a set of switches which have been stacked to serve as a single network switch that can be managed as one larger device (i.e. as though they were one entity). When switches are stacked their port capacities are combined, resulting in a larger total capacity. Many stackable switches have the versatility to scale up to allow for future network expansions. A major benefit of stackable switches is that in the event of a port or cable failure, the stack of switches will automatically reroute around the failure.
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