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A switch is a device which – simply put – connects all the elements of your network. It acts as the bridge or control unit for computers, printers, servers, and all manner of other devices to communicate with each other.
Network switches are sometimes referred to as bridging hubs, switching hubs, and MAC bridges, and they are most commonly of the ethernet type.
A MAC (Media Access Control) address is the unique identifier every piece of hardware has assigned to it. They are reliable identifiers used to differentiate between devices sending and receiving data on the network.
Switches operate at Layer 2, and they learn the MAC addresses of the connected devices, allowing them to filter or forward decisions for every frame received correctly. Routers, on the other hand, route IP packets based on IP addresses at Layer 3.
The reason the switch is so powerful is due to a technology called packet switching. When a device sends a data packet to the switch, it can determine where the intended destination of the packet is and send it to that device alone. Network hubs, by comparison, send the packets on indiscriminately to all connected devices. By having the switch send data only to the intended device, the switch prevents overloading the network with traffic, conserving bandwidth, and performance for all users. They are essentially traffic cops managing busy crossroads.
Every port on a switch is in a different collision domain — so a switch is a collision domain separator — but all the ports on the switch are still in a single broadcast domain.
Switches might seem like an old technology that surely can be replaced with something new, but in fact, demand for switches continues to grow with more homes and businesses requiring better connectivity and higher capacity. IoT devices are increasingly being added to home, office, and industrial networks, and switches help manage bandwidth and relieve pressure from WiFi networks. As more businesses move to remote workforces, cloud switches are key for ensuring businesses can keep up with modern working methods while also ensuring their network users are well-served.
Industries that are going through rapid digital transformation, such as healthcare with virtual medicine solutions, and agriculture with connected farming devices, will continue to require the most reliable, stable, and fast connections between their various network devices to ensure the benefits of digital technology can be realized.
Depending on your network requirements, there are various kinds of switches that can be used, and there are many things to look for based on the spectrum of your needs.
There are many different ways to utilize your switches to fit with your key unique organization requirements.
Switch stacking allows for multiple switches to connect and behave as one single switch to better manage the flow of traffic in a network. This arrangement means the network administrator only has one touchpoint to manage, reducing complexity while also allowing for scalability and flexibility. For example, if you want to add capacity to your network and thus need more switch ports, you can simply add another switch to the stack without having to reconfigure the entire network.
Find out more about which switch is right for your business, and how D-Link can help you build a network fit-for-purpose, here.
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