Switches vs Routers: What’s The Difference?

Switches vs Routers: What’s The Difference?


In today’s piece, we’ll present you with a brief overview of the basic building blocks of your network. You’ll gain an understanding of some of your core hardware, and how it plays into the growth and success of your organization. Let’s get started.

Networking Basics – Switches vs Routers

Let’s start by establishing two core definitions:


  • Network Switches are devices that control the flow of information through one’s network, allowing computers and other devices to connect to one another. The term “switch” comes from the fact that this is done through packet switching. (Source)
  • Routers, meanwhile, are devices that join multiple networks together.  They have the ability to filter and control traffic between networks, and can also be used to connect devices on the same network. What differentiates routers from switches is that they always connect to at least two networks, and are located at the point at which these networks connect. (Source, Source 2)


Managed vs Unmanaged Switches

Now that we’ve established the difference between switches vs routers, let’s talk about the two primary types of switch:


  • Unmanaged switches are “plug and play,” but cannot be configured. They tend to be less expensive than managed switches, as they have lower capacity and less flexibility. Generally, they don’t see much use outside of smaller, less intensive networking environments.
  • Managed switches are fully configurable, and can be monitored and adjusted at your discretion. Although the management method and degree of configuration varies, they are typically more expensive than unmanaged switches, but offer much greater flexibility.

Fixed Switches And Modular Switches

In addition to managed vs unmanaged, there’s one more dichotomy to be aware of:


  • Modular switches can be expanded on an as-needed basis, allowing you to adapt to changing networking demands. Modules could include additional ethernet ports, power supplies, or application expansions.
  • Fixed switches are, as their name implies, not expandable. They typically come with a fixed number of ethernet ports, meaning that they offer a limited degree of flexibility due to their lack of scaling.


Why Do Switches Matter To Your Organization?

Simple – switches and routers both lie at the core of how your business communicates and operates. They are an absolute necessity in modern enterprise, as they allow your employees to connect to the Internet, work remotely, and communicate with one another. Without them, your business cannot possibly remain competitive.

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