What Do Network Switches Do And How to Choose the Best One?

What Are Network Switches?

A network switch controls where computer signals go. When computers send signals and information to each other, routers and switches make sure the information goes to the right computer.

A switch can differentiate between information meant for computer A and information meant for computer B. When it receives data, it sends it to the right device.

What Are Network Switches

Protecting your switches is an important part of cybersecurity. Hackers often shut down a company’s servers to get the company to pay them money to stop the attacks. Switches are vulnerable without the right measures to protect them.

How Is a Switch Different From a Router?

While a router is necessary for internet traffic, switches are for local networks. Switches are usually only necessary if there are a lot of computers in a building and there is a local network. If there are a few computers in a home, a router is enough; a building with dozens or hundreds of computers needs switches.

Routers send data from network to network. There can be networks within networks, and a router sends information from a larger network to a smaller one. Switches send data to individual devices, not to smaller networks.

MAC Addresses vs. IP Addresses

While IP Addresses are for the internet, MAC addresses are for computers within a network. On the internet, IP Addresses help signals find the right destinations. Within networks, switches use MAC addresses to send signals to the right devices.

Any computer or smartphone that connects to the internet uses an IP address. IP addresses have a string of characters, such as “” which identify a device and help other devices on the internet know where to send the signal. A computer’s IP address often changes – it does not keep the same IP address for its whole life.

MAC addresses, on the other hand, are permanent. Any laptop, desktop, or tablet has the same MAC address for its whole existence. MAC addresses are only used in smaller-scale computer networks; they are not used for global internet traffic.

Layer 2 vs. Layer 3 Switches

Most switches are level 2 switches. Layer 2 switches send signals within local areas networks. A layer 2 switch has a list of MAC addresses of different devices in its network and sends signals to the right physical locations.

Layer 3 switches, on the other hand, are for sending signals between different networks, not only within the same network. A building might have several local area networks, so a layer 3 switch is necessary to send signals between them.

Layer 3 switches can also communicate with several different types of devices at once. For example, a layer 3 switch might send signals to printers, laptops, desktops, VOIP phones, wireless access points, and servers. There are also “layer 2+” or “layer 3 lite” switches; they are somewhere between the two in their range of functions.

You do not need to use layer 3 switches in situations when they are not necessary. If you merely need to send signals within a local area network, a layer 2 switch is enough. If you have multiple buildings and each building has a local network within it, you need a layer 3 switch to send signals to the right buildings.

Network Switches Are the “Brain” of a Network

When you are setting up a network, you need someone who can use the right switches and set them up the right way. If the network is not set up properly, the right computers will not receive the right signals, and your network won’t work.

Some switches have a lot of ports – for example, enough for up to 48 devices. There are more differences between different switches than how many ports they have and whether they are level 2 or 3 switches.

Unmanaged vs. Managed Switches

Unmanaged switches are simple and easy to use. You can immediately plug devices into unmanaged switches and have them work properly. However, managed switches give you many more options than unmanaged ones.

Managed switches allow you to change how your network works, including.

  • Controlling LAN traffic.
  • Prioritising certain channels.
  • Keeping smaller groups of devices segregated.
  • Allow you to fix problems remotely.

Another advantage of managed switches is that they allow for data recovery if your network fails. While unmanaged switches do not have these advantages, they are simple and easy to set up. You should buy Aruba switches if you need their advantages.

The main advantage of unmanaged switches is that they are cheaper. You can get unmanaged switches for only $50 or $100, managed switches can cost you $1500, $2800, or more. If you are setting up an uncomplicated network for a small business, unmanaged switches are good enough.


Managed switches offer better security than unmanaged switches. Managed switches let you monitor your data and shut down active threats.

On another level, the power that managed switches offer can be used against you. If a malicious person takes control of your switches, they could use them to steal your data or shut your network down.

Protecting Network Switches From DDoS Attacks

Even with a small network, you might want to go with managed switches to defend against attacks. An attacker might target a small business if they see an opportunity to steal financial information.

As well as stealing information such as credit card numbers, hackers can shut a business down and then demand money to stop the attacks. These attacks are known as DDoS (distributed denial of service) attacks.

Why Are DDoS Attacks Dangerous?

You can lose a huge amount of money if your network gets temporarily shut down. You can lose money because of.

  • How much will you have to pay people that can stop the attack?
  • How much business will you lose when your servers are shut down?
  • How many customers will you lose when your business is shut down?
  • Will the attack hurt the reputation of your company?

Given all of that, security is crucial. You might need managed switches with security features if your business is something that a hacker could realistically target. As well as getting switches with security features, you should invest in powerful security software that can detect and stop most attacks.

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About the author

Sophia Britt

My name is Sophia and I live in the suburbs of Chicago. I offer real world experience to readers on how to save and smartly spend their money. Plus offer advice on organization, career, business, travel, health, home, education and life.