How Does a Cisco Switch Work?
Switches connect multiple devices to establish a proper network within a building or campus, such as computers, wireless access points, printers, and printers. This is why they are known as the building blocks for any network. The major role of switches is to enable connected devices to share information and talk to each other.
Though switches are an important element in the network connection, many people don’t know what they are and how they actually function. They only know that there is something that is required for establishing strong network connectivity in and around the premises.
In this post, our major focus would be the functioning of Cisco switches. It’s very similar to other network switches. But, before that, we will give a brief introduction to switches.
Simply defined, switches are networking hardware or a piece of a physical circuitry component, governing the signal flow. These switches allow the connection to be opened or closed. When the connection is opened, the switches allow a signal or power to flow through the connection. On the other hand, when the connection is closed, the switches stop the flow and break the circuit connection.
Types of switches
Simply designed, you can use unmanaged switches just by plugging them in. These switches will start working without any configuration. Unmanaged switches are often used in home networks or wherever a few more ports are needed because they are typically for basic connectivity. You cannot use unmanaged switches for a large-scale connection as the network gets disturbed. Also, management of unmanaged switches becomes difficult when used on a large scale.
Compared to unmanaged switches, the managed switches are more secure and come with more features. Most importantly, managed switches are more flexible because they give you configuration options to custom-fit your network. You can use managed switches as you like them. The best thing about managed switches is that they give greater control, helping you to protect your network better and improve the quality of service for those who access the network.
How are switches different from a hub?
Before switches, a hub was in the picture. Even today, some people prefer a hub over switches. There is a huge difference between switches and a hub for the network connection.
A hub connects several devices to share resources and this collection of devices is known as a LAN segment. In other words, a hub is the central connection point for devices in a local area network. The disadvantage of a hub in the network connection is that there is a limit to the number of bandwidth users can share on a hub-based network. If you add more devices to the network hub, the data will take longer to reach its destination.
On the other hand, switches connect LAN segments. They filter out traffic destined for devices on the same LAN segment. Compared to a hub, the switches are more intelligent. And because of their intelligence, the switches make more efficient use of their processing resources along with network bandwidth. No matter how many devices you add to switches, they will work effectively and efficiently because there are no limitations.
How are switches different from a router?
Many people confuse switches with routers. They sometimes refer to them interchangeably or pick the wrong option for the network connection.
Routers offer forwarding and routing of network traffic, so they are given this name. But, the thing is they do this with a different purpose and location.
To determine the difference between switches and routers, you should know and understand LAN and WAN. When devices are connected locally, it is through switches and when the networks are connected to other networks, it is through routers.
The general path for the internet connection is device, hub, switch, and router.
Sometimes, the functionality of the switches changes and they start acting as router hardware and vice versa.
How do switches work?
In the working of switches, you will come across the term media access control or MAC. Don’t confuse it with an Apple MAC laptop.
The switches use the MAC address. They do so to identify the attached device that is sending outgoing packets and where to deliver incoming packets. Here, the MAC address identifies the physical device and doesn’t change, unlike other IP addresses. The identification is strong and doesn’t change over time.
After a device sends a data packet to another device, the packet enters the switch. Next, the switch reads the header to know what to do with it. Here, the switch matches the destination address and sends the packet out through the appropriate ports, leading to the destination devices.
The working of a switch is not as easy as it seems. Even after all the right configurations, the chances of collisions between network traffic going to and from a switch and a connected device at the same time are very high. But, fortunately, most switches offer full-duplex functionality. Through this, packets coming from and going to a device have access to the full bandwidth of the switch connection.
How can you use a switch with a router?
The use of a switch with a router becomes necessary when you want to increase the number of ports that can fit into your router. You just need to connect the switch to the router through one of the ports on the router. This will increase the number of devices in the small office network that has a wired connection to the internet.