If you are curious about the differences between a switch, hub, router, hub and switch, this article is for you. Today we will explain in simple terms how the main network devices work and the differences between them.
Classification of network equipment
All network equipment is divided into passive and active.
Active network equipment is responsible for controlling data streams or converting signals and needs a power supply. Active networking equipment includes switches and routers. These devices are characterised by a kind of «intelligence».
Passive equipment is not characterised by intelligence and neither is the need for power supply. It is designed to distribute the signal and reduce its level to the required value. Passive equipment has a simple design and is easy to install in a system. Passive equipment includes patch panels, sockets, optical dividers and cable systems.
Representatives of network equipment
You will most often encounter routers with routers, commonly referred to simply as routers. This is probably the most «intelligent» of the network devices and has the most tasks and configurable settings. Its main task is to forward and route packets from one network to another. Most models are also designed to create a Wi-Fi network for wireless connection to the Internet.
Devices called «Wi-Fi adapter» and «wireless access point» are often mistakenly confused with routers.
A Wi-Fi adapter is an auxiliary device that is connected to a computer to connect wirelessly to a network.
Access points are a little more complicated. The fact is that they often have an identical appearance to routers, and you have to take a closer look to tell them apart.
Access points do not create a network, they simply extend the one to which they are connected. They are often installed in public places, cafes and parks.
The next piece of networking equipment is a switch.
These devices are nodes in a cabling system that connect the elements of a network. A switch is simpler than a router and performs different tasks. A switch is based on a switching table in which port numbers and corresponding MAC addresses are recorded. Data packets arriving at the switch contain information about who is the sender and who is the receiver of the data. The device is able to handle several requests simultaneously, sending data to the right address instantly, which greatly reduces network traffic.
In practice, switches are most often found in the technical rooms of apartment buildings. It is the switch that is connected to the cable that is plugged into your home computer or router.
The main difference between a switch and a router is its inability to create a Wi-Fi network and the lack of a WAN port because a switch is designed only for LAN operation (but a switch usually has significantly more LAN ports than a router).
Some switches are equipped with a power supply function. They are called PoE switches.
Power over Ethernet (PoE) — power supply technology via mains cable.
These switches are used to connect devices that need to be powered via the same cable as the data signal. They are used for SIP telephony, IP camera-based video surveillance systems and access points.
Devices such as hubs almost obsolete.
A hub — is a device that, in a star topology cabling network, receives data packets on a port and forwards them to all other ports.
A hub differs from a switch in that it transmits packets to all ports other than the port on which the packet arrived, rather than distributing them based on a switching table. Hub-based networks are thus «littered» with unnecessary traffic. Another difference is that hubs operate at the speed of the «weakest» connected device, while in a switch the speed can be set separately for each port.
- There are considerably fewer types of network equipment (2 times as many) than there are obscure words for them.
- Don't confuse a router with an adapter and an access point when buying a router for your home.
- A switch can be useful for extending your home network (next week we'll tell you how to make a switch from an old router).
- The hub information was for general information, in practice you are least likely to encounter it.