FAQ About Network Switches

Networking devices, such as network switches, can be a bit confusing. Technical terms and industry jargon can often be hard to understand. Thankfully, Best Buy is here to demystify network switches for you.

What is a network switch?

A network switch is used to create a network. It enables networked devices, such as computers, printers, and servers, within the same building to talk to each other. Switches allow devices to connect directly to each other across a network.

Isn't that the same thing as a hub?

No, not exactly. Hubs create networks linking PCs and peripherals and enabling them to communicate. But a hub can’t manage precisely where information needs to go. Instead it replicates the data and spams the entire network, sharing information with all users to find the intended host. This causes unnecessary traffic on your network, wasting bandwidth.

OK, so a switch is more like a router?

Nope. A router connects 2 or more networks, choosing the best path for information to travel. For example, a router can link a computer network to the internet, so users can share the connection. But you might think, "Well, my home computer uses a router to connect to the internet so I could just use a switch." Again, nope. Your home computer is still a network, even if it's a network of 1. In order to connect to your internet service provider (ISP), which is another network, you need a router, not a switch.

Ah, then a switch is just a fancy modem?

Sorry, no. A modem is responsible for encoding and decoding data so that it can pass between your home network and your ISP. That's it.

What are the benefits of using a network switch?

A network switch is much smarter than a hub. It can direct traffic much better using less bandwidth so your network runs more efficiently and you can be more productive. While you can use a router to connect your devices on your network, switches can handle traffic faster than routers, meaning less latency on your network. A switch can't replace either a modem or a router, as these two devices do different things, but a switch can work together with modems and routers to make your network more efficient.

What should I consider when buying a network switch?

Here are a couple of things to keep in mind: The first thing is stackability. Some switches can be stacked, that is connecting 2 or more switches to function as a single network device. So if you have a switch with fewer ports that is stackable you can add more switches as your network grows.

The other thing to consider is whether you want an unmanaged switch or a managed switch. An unmanaged switch works right out of the box and doesn't need to be configured. These types of switches are ideal for home networks. A managed switch is configurable allowing you to monitor and adjust it, locally or remotely. With greater control you can spend less time managing your network and more time sipping on lemonade in the shade.

Want more info about network switches? Check out this resource:

Networking Buying Guide