How Do I Know Which Network Switches Are Right for My Small Business?
Staying connected within the firm and the outside world through well-planned networks has become a part and parcel of almost all kinds and sizes of businesses. And switches play a fundamental role in the creation of networks. Switches are the network equipment that helps connect different devices on the network and allows resource and file sharing seamlessly. If you are an entrepreneur, looking for network switches to buy and don’t know much about them, this easy and short guide can help you make an informed choice.
What is a network switch?
A switch is a network device that connects devices such as computer systems, printers, and wireless access points, within a network and allows them to communicate through the exchange of data packets. It operates at the Data Link Layer (also called Layer 2) of the OSI model and can be used to manage physical networks and software-based virtual devices as well. This high-speed device receives incoming packets and redirects them through the ports that lead to the devices the packets are meant to reach.
In addition to the Data Link Layer, some switches can also operate at the Network Layer (commonly known as Layer 3) where routing is carried out. Switches are the basic component of networks that are based on Ethernet, Fiber Channel, InfiniBand, and more.
How does a network switch work?
When connected with a device, the switch memorizes its media access control (MAC) address – a unique code that is coded into the device’s network interface card (NIC) that is attached to the Ethernet cable that is, in turn, attached to the switch. Here, the MAC address helps identify the physical device instead of the network layer IP address. The switch uses the MAC address to determine where it is getting packets from and where it needs to redirect those packets.
Thus, when a device sends a packet to another device, this packet first comes to the switch. The switch reads the header of the packet to know what needs to be done. Then, the switch matches the destination address(es) and redirects the packet through a suitable port that gives a pathway to the destination.
Switches, typically, come in three different types, namely, managed switches (suitable for businesses), unmanaged switches (suitable for home-based networks), and Intelligent switches (suitable for smaller networks).
How do I find the best network switches for my small business?
When searching online, you will notice that Fortinet switches and Cisco switches are the most popular switches among businesses. But to determine which of them is best for your small business, you need to keep in mind the following factors:
The number of users you need to connect:
In this scenario, a user is not only just a person or computer. You also need to consider other devices such as printers, VoIP phones, CCTV cameras, and wireless access points that need to be connected. When you have a high number of users, you will need more ports and faster data transfer speeds.
When you need to place Access Points (APs) in locations where it is difficult to have traditional power outlets, you need to look for an alternative way. Some APs can be powered through Power over Ethernet (PoE). So, in such cases, you need a switch with Ethernet ports that support PoE needs of your network.
Though network switches don’t boost the network speed, the wrong choice can slow down your network greatly. If you need data transfer with high speed, you need ports that can handle that speed. So, look for 10/100/1000 GbE ports. These ports are designed to automatically decide and use the fastest speed shared by source and destination devices. If you can work with low speed, then 10/100 ports might be enough for you.
Managed vs. Unmanaged:
If you need switches to connect the devices installed within your organization, your choice should be managed switches. Unmanaged switches are plug-and-play and, therefore, you cannot make any changes or configure them according to your needs. On the other hand, managed switches can be configured, monitored, and used to manage devices on your network. This will allow you to optimize your network performance and security. In some cases, you might also find Intelligent switches a suitable choice.
Network switches are not cheap devices and when buying them, it is better to create a proper budget plan. Since network switches offered by Cisco and Fortinet vary in terms of prices, it is better to compare their prices and see which of them makes the most cost-effective choice for you.
Fortinet Switches vs. Cisco Switches: Which makes a better option?
Cisco and Fortinet, both are the leading brands that have a fair share in the market. Since you need to make a choice between them, here are some insights for you based on what their users feel.
Installation and Deployment
Both Fortinet Switches and Cisco switches are ranked highly for ease of deployment and installation. However, you still need professionals to handle switches no matter if they are from Fortinet or Cisco.
Cisco Ethernet switches offer excellent security features and are extremely reliable. However, their users have claimed that they are not user-friendly and could use built-in routers. On the other hand, Fortinet switches are very user-friendly and are appreciated for their simplicity.
Service and Support
While Cisco receives mixed reviews in terms of service and support, Fortinet switches’ users report being highly satisfied with the support they get from Fortinet.
Price and ROI
When it comes to pricing and ROI, Fortinet switches win over Cisco switches as Fortinet switches are reasonably priced.
If you need Fortinet switches or Cisco switches, and require guidance to pick the right type and features that meet the demands of your business network, please feel free to connect with us via WhatsApp at +971585811786.