Ethernet switches enable multiple wired devices to connect to a single ethernet cable. They make it easier to expand your network with new computers, printers, and smart home devices.
Switches use 48-bit media access control (MAC) addresses to determine how to filter and forward traffic. They also keep a table that links MAC addresses to the ports they’re received on.
So, how does an ethernet switch work? Compared to hubs, Ethernet switches can offer much higher network speeds. Switches can handle high-bandwidth applications, including streaming video and 4K UHD content.
A switched network can also reduce the amount of latency, or delay, in data transmission. This is critical in HPC applications where low latency is vital for performance.
An ethernet switch works by processing identifying information in the frame header, decoding it, and then routing it to the proper port on the destination device. The switch can also perform various other operations on the packet, such as filtering, segmentation, and more.
Each Ethernet port on a switch operates in full duplex mode, doubling a link’s bandwidth. Data can be sent and received simultaneously, improving performance and efficiency.
A Gigabit Ethernet switch can offer up to 1000 Mbps, while Fast Ethernet offers up to 100 Mbps. In addition, some switches feature PoE support, which enables you to power devices like IP cameras and wireless access points with data over a single Ethernet cable. This can simplify installation and save on cabling costs. In addition, some switches come with advanced features that help you optimize your network, such as Quality of Service settings. These let you prioritise different types of network traffic. This can also improve performance and reduce the chances of outages due to hardware failures.
A bustling office with employees relying on a single internet connection can cause data packets to become bogged down, like rush hour traffic clogs highways. This is why Ethernet switches are so helpful. They’re like the intelligent traffic directors of a network, efficiently managing the data flow to ensure lightning-fast connectivity across multiple devices.
Switches offer multiple ports to connect devices to the LAN and provide more bandwidth than hubs, which limit the number of connected devices to one. Additionally, network switches create a separate collision domain for each port so that data packets don’t interfere with each other, unlike hubs that share one broadcast domain between all ports.
Many types of Ethernet switches in the market today cater to different needs and budgets. These include unmanaged, managed, and Gigabit Ethernet network switches. Unmanaged switches provide plug-and-play connectivity and support various speed and connection options (such as wired electrical or optical fiber). They use transparent bridging and do not require specific configuration on the switch or changes to the connected computers.
Unlike unmanaged switches, managed network switches allow users to set policies and operate the switch remotely. This includes access control, security, and performance monitoring. They can also support PoE-enabled network devices such as medical equipment, PTZ cameras, and industrial lighting. These advanced switches are the foundation of intelligent building systems and are essential for creating a highly connected, efficient work and living environment.
Unlike Wi-Fi networks, which can be open to outsiders (like neighbours), Ethernet switches provide an exclusive network that’s only used by devices that are physically connected to it. This minimises the risk of data loss or hacking.
To protect a network, switches filter out data from unauthorised sources by using MAC addresses. When a device on the network sends a packet, it broadcasts its MAC address to all ports connected to the switch. The switch looks for the MAC address on its records and then forwards the packet to the device that the MAC address belongs to. The switch also filters out multicast traffic by setting up collision domains.
Switches are available in various types, including unmanaged versions that offer plug-and-play connectivity without additional hardware. These models can operate at various network speeds, including fast Ethernet (10/100 Mbps), Gigabit Ethernet (10/100/1000 Mbps), and 10 Gigabit Ethernet. Some switches even support Power over Ethernet (PoE), which transmits electrical power to remote devices such as security cameras.
With intelligent switches that can deliver on the latest PoE standards and advanced capabilities, organizations can build resilient networks that help prevent data traffic collisions and ease bottlenecks. For instance, a company could deploy switches that use data from sensors to notify employees when their conference room has reached capacity. This information would help them comply with social distancing guidelines while keeping everyone safe and productive.
Switches offer less downtime than hubs because they can keep track of the devices that are wired to them. Network switches can then manage data traffic to prevent communication collisions, which reduces lag and increases performance.
Hubs are not able to do this. Each device has a unique Media Access Control (MAC) address. As frames are received on ports, hubs send them to every connected device — including other ports — which causes communication collisions that degrade performance. Switches use a table to manage data transmissions and ensure each device gets the necessary information without interruption.
Some Ethernet switches sit at the network core and manage all transportation within a corporate network. These are known as routing switches and operate at OSI Layer 3, managing traffic based on the IP addresses in each frame. This allows a business to route data to the correct destinations, making it easier for employees to work remotely and collaborate on projects. Some Ethernet switches also include an uplink port that connects to a router. Without this connection, all devices plugged into a switch cannot communicate with one another and the internet. This is a common issue in workplaces that need to utilize the latest technology and upgrade their cabling infrastructure. Adding an uplink port to a switched ethernet infrastructure helps businesses take advantage of Wi-Fi 6 and other new wireless bandwidth levels capable of delivering 1 Gbps at 100 meters or more.