Regardless of whether you’re new to the field or already an expert, if you’ve ever been confused about the differences between a network switch vs router, you’re not alone. Network switches and routers can look very similar physically, yet they have their own characteristics and perform very different functions on a network.  

What are the main differences between a network switch vs router?

In simple terms, switches create a network of devices whereas routers connect multiple networks together. More detailed explanations about network switches vs routers can be found below.

What is a network switch?

A network switch (also referred to as a switching hub, bridging hub, or a MAC bridge) is used for making wired networking connections. It works by connecting multiple devices together using packet switching to receive, process and forward data to the destination device. Network switches allow devices on your network to communicate with each other, as well as with other networks. When purchasing a networking switch, considerations like speed, port count, size and reliability are all important aspects that must be taken into account.

There are five main types of switches used in networking: LAN switch, unmanaged switch, managed switch, PoE switch and stackable switch. Each has their own functions and are used in different network deployment. To learn more, please read our FAQ: what are the different types of network switches?

What is a router?

A router is a hardware device designed to connect wired or wireless (WiFi) networks. It works by receiving, analysing and moving incoming packets to another network, such as the Internet. Routers can also convert the packets to another network interface, drop them and perform other actions relating to a network. Routers are usually connected to a local area network (LAN) or a wide area network (WAN) and can be capable of connecting more than two networks.

Routers can also come with additional features to make networking easier or more secure. For example, you can choose a router with a firewall, a virtual private network (VPN), or an Internet Protocol (IP) communications system.

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