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» Understanding The Difference Between A Switch And A Router
Understanding The Difference Between A Switch And A Router
Switches and routers are special devices that enable you to make connections between and among computers, printers, peripherals, networked devices and/or other networks. A switch or a router has at least two ports into which you plug devices' cables to make the connection, but the similarities more or less end right there. What goes on inside these units is what distinguishes one from another. The terms are often used interchangeably, which is dead wrong, and using the devices incorrectly can result in a network that is just plain dead.
Switches do what simpler devices called hubs do, but much more effectively, which is why hubs are decreasing in popularity. A switch will essentially learn about the network traffic that flows into and through it, and remember what the particular addresses represent. For a basic example, a switch will sense traffic from Computer #1 arriving via Port #2, so it knows that any signals that are bound for Computer #1 will have to go out that particular port, as well. Whereas the older, simpler hubs send every signal everywhere, a switch only sends traffic exactly where it needs to go. Busy networks will run dramatically faster with proper switches installed.
Routers big and small
Routers are many orders of magnitude more complex than simple, straightforward switches, and there are many different models in many different form factors from which to choose. Routers can be anything from a small, paperback-book-size, four-port, wireless broadband router to the mammoth and powerful devices that are the traffic cops at the main intersections of the Internet itself. Without these intelligent appliances, there would be no World Wide Web as there is today.
Simply put, a router is specialized computer that is programmed for its various important functions. It needs to be aware of the network data, as well as manage and manipulate it in various ways when required, while it also works tirelessly to route data both quickly and correctly. Today's broadband routers use their special firmware (built-in software) to camouflage or hide computers behind what's called a firewall. All routers have the ability to configure the handling of the network traffic through some kind of user interface running on the administrator's computer.
Speed and connectivity
You will see a few terms that apply to both of these devices, the most important of which is network speed. Today's switches and routers are commonly capable of both current and legacy (a fancy word for old) speeds, and will often be labeled 10/100/1000. These figures refer to the number of megabits, or millions of bits, per second (mbps) the device can handle. You may have or see some older devices labeled with only one speed, which limits its use to devices operating at the same level. However, "gigabit" devices (1000mbps) are the most common now, and as 10/100/1000 devices they handle all speeds well.
A growing number of home and business networks have gone wireless, and the trend is accelerating all the time. The technical term for the wireless router protocols are 802.11b, 802.11g and the newest one, 802.11n. Wireless transceivers in these routers basically add more virtual ports to the device. Wireless or wired, routers are standard equipment these days, and falling prices combined with increasing technological sophistication will see to it that they continue to spread.
There are some people who think that switches will eventually disappear as far as home use is concerned, although large businesses and web server companies will need them for a long time to come because of the varied connectivity requirements of their operations. As the so-called digital convergence continues, routers may end up being combined with cable or DSL modems to eliminate multiple pieces of equipment in the standard home or small-business network. If past is prologue in this field, then we can expect both switches and routers to get smaller, better, faster and cheaper all the time.
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Date: Tue, 5 Jun 2012 -
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