What is a Switch?

24 port Internet switch with 24 ports on the front.
An internet switch is a crucial component to a network setup

More often than not my clients are confused by the many networking items that are around their offices or homes. And to their credit, it is really confusing, as to what all this stuff does and how to use it all. They all look very similar and do similar things. The key is they all are not the same and do not do the same things.

In a typical network setup (in a business environment) you will have the following devices before anything ever gets to a computer.

  • Modem

  • Router/Firewall

  • Switch

Let us work backwards and look at the switch, this is usually the last appliance that the data will touch before it comes to your computer from the internet or another machine in your network.

What do Switches do?

Switches do what the Router tells it to do. The Router is the boss is the network setup. Networks can be configured in all sorts of ways but you cannot do anything large scale without a switch.

Some switches can be configured as routers(not recommended). Routers can be switches or they can be routers and switches at the same time in a small setup.

All switches do is tell the router "I have 12 devices that attach to me and I need 12 addresses. The router decides what addresses to give to the devices attached to the switch. The switches job is to keep the traffic moving from point to point as the router has defined. If the switch does anything other than that it is then considered a router.

In recent years switches have gotten smarter. Many switches provide power to devices on the network. This is a convenient technology because a device can be powered by a single network wire with very little work. Switches can also turn devices on and off and a myriad of other functions.

Switches are great for adding ports. You can run one single network wire to a switch that has 12 additional port and run 12 devices from that switch. Without switches networks would never grow, they would be small and boring. Switches are in fact the backbone of a network.

It is important when purchasing a switch to realize the speed and capacity of the switch according to what the devices attached to it need. If you get an under capacity switch you will be stuck with slow computers on the end. Or a network that does not work at all.

Installing a switch can seem easy but you need to know how large of a capacity you need to run the devices attached.

If you need more information about a switch for your network or have another network related question contact us at DataCom Technologies.

To learn more about Switches or other frequently asked questions check out our

Nate Sheen

Nate Sheen owns DataCom Technlogies, an IT Managed Service company in Alliance Ohio.

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