An Introduction to Network Switches

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One of our previous posts introduced routers and what they are. Essentially they filter out for malformed data packets and they get discarded before they enter your network infrastructure.

With the introduction of routers, keep in mind that they should ideally be placed at the forefront of your defense perimeters.

After data packets have been allowed to enter into your network infrastructure, a router then sends them to their final destination via the routing table.

In this post we introduce to you yet another type of networking device that you might find useful for your business – the Network Switch (or for short, “switch”).

What Is A Network Switch?

A switch can be technically defined as follows:

“A network switch is a networking device that connects devices together on a computer network by using packet switching to receive, process, and forward data to the destination device.”

wikipedia.org

In this regard, a switch can be considered as a sub-component to that of the router.

For example, it is the router that connects Wide Area Networks (WANs) together, and it is the switch that connects the Local Area Networks (LANs) together, and all of the devices that reside in them.

To further illustrate, suppose that company ABC has remote offices all over the world.  These remote offices will obviously be on a WAN that is different from the WAN that Company ABC is on. It is the router that connects these separate WANs together.

Further within a WAN, there will be smaller network segments (as mentioned, it is the subnet that uniquely identifies these segments) known as LANs. It is in the LAN that the various devices are networked among each other and communicate.

That might seem like a bit much, but when everything is put together correctly, everything “just works”. Computers and other devices are able to communicate with each other along with connect to the Internet, etc.

Moving along…

In our previous example, although the router can send the file directly to the recipient based from the routing table, it will be much more efficient from a network optimization perspective to forward it to the switch. Then from there, the switch can then transmit that file to the correct recipient.

This is exemplified in the illustration below:

As can be seen, it’s the switches (black boxes) that creates the network. From there it is then the router that connects the network by linking up the two servers together which are located in different WANs.

It is important to note that a switch should not be confused with a “Hub”.

In the above illustration the hub would actually send that specific file to all of the devices that interlinked together in the same LAN. But it is the switch that can intelligently make the decision as to where the file needs to be forwarded (or sent) to a specific device.

In this regard, a switch is often referred to as an “Intelligent Device” and tend to be way more efficient than hubs.

Conclusions

As you can see, beyond routers there are also network devices called switches. These can help expand your network while maintaining an efficient IT infrastructure.

With all of that said, we’ll examine a concept known as the Media Access Control (MAC) Address. This is another number that identifies a computer, in a way similar to that of the TCP/IP address – although in a much more unique way – in our next post.


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