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Types of switches in Computer Network

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Prerequisite – Network Devices, Switch functions at layer 2, Difference between layer-2 and layer-3 switches 

Switches are the connectivity points of an Ethernet network. These are small devices that can receive data from multiple input ports and send it to the specific output port that takes data to its intended destination in the network. There are different types of switches in a network. These are: 

Unmanaged switches: These are the switches that are mostly used in home networks and small businesses as they plug in and instantly start doing their job and such switches do not need to be watched or configured. These require only small cable connections. It allows devices on a network to connect with each other such as a computer to a computer or a computer to a printer in one location. They are the least expensive switches among all categories. 

Managed switches: These types of switches have many features like the highest levels of security, precision control, and full management of the network. These are used in organizations containing a large network and can be customized to enhance the functionality of a certain network. These are the most costly option but their scalability makes them an ideal option for a network that is growing. They are achieved by setting a simple network management protocol(SNMP). 

They are two types: 

(I) Smart switches: These switches offer basic management features with the ability to create some levels of security but have a simpler management interface than the other managed switches. Thus they are often called partially managed switches. These are mostly used in fast and constant LANs which support gigabit data transfer and allocations. It can accept the configuration of VLANs (Virtual LAN). 

(II) Enterprise-managed switches: They have features like the ability to fix, copy, transform and display different network configurations, along with a web interface SNMP agent and command-line interface. These are also known as fully managed switches and are more expensive than smart switches as they have more features that can be enhanced. These are used in organizations that contain a large number of ports, switches, and nodes. 

  1. LAN switches: These are also known as Ethernet switches or data switches and are used to reduce network congestion or bottleneck by distributing a package of data only to its intended recipient. These are used to connect points on a LAN.  
  2. PoE switches: PoE switches are used in PoE technology which stands for power over Ethernet that is a technology that integrates data and power on the same cable allowing power devices to receive data in parallel to power. Thus these switches provide greater flexibility by simplifying the cabling process. 

There are several types of switches used in computer networking, including:

Unmanaged Switches:

Advantages:

  1. Simple to install and operate. 
  2. Inexpensive

Disadvantages:

  1. Lack of control over network traffic. 
  2. Limited security and performance.

Managed Switches:

Advantages:

  1. Control over network traffic.
  2. Enhanced security and performance.
  3. Remote management and monitoring capabilities.

Disadvantages:

  1. More expensive than unmanaged switches.
  2. Requires technical expertise to set up and configure.

Layer 2 Switches:

Advantages:

  1. Fast and efficient traffic forwarding. 
  2. Can help reduce network congestion.

Disadvantages:

  1. Limited control over network traffic.
  2. No support for Layer 3 protocols.

Layer 3 Switches:

Advantages:

  1. Advanced routing capabilities.
  2. Network segmentation.
  3. Increased performance and scalability.

Disadvantages:

  1. More expensive than Layer 2 switches.
  2. Requires technical expertise to configure and manage.

Last Updated : 20 Mar, 2023
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