Written by Uhro

Advice on switches

Network switches are available in all shapes and sizes, but which one is suitable for you? The most important questions to ask yourself are how many devices you plan to connect to it and where you want to use the switch. There are of course other things to keep in mind, as switches can be very advanced. On this page, we explain the most important choices you can make in order to pick the switch that's most suitable for you.

1. How many devices do you want to connect?

Network switches

The number of devices you plan to connect is a big factor in choosing the right switch for you. One of the ports on the device is used for the connection to the router. If you want to connect another 5 devices, you need to buy a switch that has at least 6 network ports. Don't forget that you need sufficient ports if you want to expand the network using that same switch. You can always choose to hook up another switch.

2. What are you going to use the switch for?

Switch at the office

What properties your switch needs to have depends on where you plan to put it. If you want extra network ports in your living room or under a desk in an office, choose a compact device that you can mount on a wall or place under a table. A wider switch won't be as suitable for that purpose, but their advantage is that you can mount them in a server rack. Also think about whether your switch will need a fan. If you sit close to the switch, the humming noise might be a nuisance. In a server room a fan is usually recommended; it disperses the heat more easily.

3. What network speed do you need?

Network speed

These 3 network speeds are the most common ones: Fast Ethernet, Gigabit Ethernet, and 10-Gigabit Ethernet. Gigabit Ethernet is the most popular standard. That network speed is often used by routers and network devices. With 1,000Mbps or 125MB per second, you can transfer a 2-hour HD movie across the network in a little over 16 seconds. Although the name might make you think otherwise, Fast Ethernet isn't very fast. This standard is 10 times slower than Gigabit Ethernet. 10-Gigabit Ethernet is 10 times faster than the latter, but not many devices support this standard yet.

4. Want to configure advanced functions on your switch?

Advanced functions

VLAN - With VLAN, you can create virtual networks. That way, you can decide exactly who has access to what part of the network per network connection. You can for instance create a shielded network for visitors or external employees. Quality of Service - With QoS, you can give priority to network traffic that's important to you. For instance, you can give VoIP the highest priority to ensure you remain reachable by phone, or prevent streams from being interrupted. LACP - With the help of LACP, you can link two or more network ports to each other. A suitable NAS or server will then be able to communicate with the rest of your network at higher speeds.

5. Do you want to supply power to devices via the switch?

Power over Ethernet

An increasing number of devices can be powered via a network cable. IP cameras and IP phones, as well as access points and even thin clients. These devices support Power over Ethernet (PoE) and that means they don't need a socket. That gives you more freedom to decide where to put an IP camera or acces point. If you want to supply these devices with power via the network cable, make sure to choose a switch with Power over Ethernet.

6. Do you want to connect a fiber optic cable to the switch?

SFP Module

A switch with a slot for SFP or GBIC modules can be connected directly to a fiber optic connection. That way, you can connect directly to your internet service provider or connect two switches to each other over larger distances. Create a super fast connection between 2 branches of your company, for example.


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