Choosing A Network Switch

Network switches allow you to connect multiple devices to a computer network. They do this by using packet switching to receive, process and forward data to the destination device.

Types of Switches

Modular Switches

This type of switch is much more popular in settings where regular changes to the network configuration occur.

Expansion modules can be application-specific such as firewall, wireless or network analysis. Modules can also include additional interfaces, power supplies or even cooling fans.

Cisco Catalyst 6500 48-port
Cisco Catalyst 6500 48-port,

Take a closer look at the Cisco Catalyst 6500 here.

Fixed Configuration Switches

Unmanaged Switches – If you need a couple of extra Ethernet ports at home to help with your wired devices then unmanaged switches tend to be the ‘go-to’ switch.

Generally these switches can not be modified, however, you can get some with built-in diagnostics, energy saving capabilities and PoE (power over Ethernet).

BT 8-Port Gigabit Ethernet Switch
BT 8-Port Gigabit Ethernet Switch,

Smart Switches – Often considered to be a ‘light’ version of managed switches. These switches do require a certain level of management (security, QoS and security) and are less scalable. However, smart switches are a much more cost-effective alternative and are great for small scale deployments or low complexity networks.

Cisco Small Business 200 Series Smart Switch SG200-08P
Cisco Small Business 200 Series Smart Switch SG200-08P,

With smart switches you can segment the network into work-groups by creating VLANs, though the amount of segmentations is much lower than what you’d get with a managed switch.

Fully Managed L2/ L3 Switches – These switches provide users with the most comprehensive set of features. You can expect to see the highest levels of security and the most precise control/ management of the network.

Cisco Catalyst 2960X-24PS-L Switch
Cisco Catalyst 2960X-24PS-L Switch,

Features of a Network Switch


Switches come in various different speeds. The speeds are categorised as follows:

  • Fast Ethernet (10/100 Mbps)
  • Gigabit Ethernet (10/100/100 Mbps)
  • Ten Gigabit (10/100/1000/10000 Mbps)

The most popular speed on the market currently is ‘Gigabit Ethernet’ although ‘Ten Gigabit’ has been growing rapidly, especially within data centre environments.


Fixed configuration switches typically come in 5, 8, 10, 16, 24, 28, 48 and 52-port configurations. You’ll often find that these ports are a combination of fibre and copper connectivity. Fibre allows for data transfer of up to 40km, whereas the copper only allows for distances of 100 metres.

8-Port Gigabit Ethernet Switch
8-Port Gigabit Ethernet Switch

Power Over Ethernet (PoE)

It is possible to power devices over ethernet. This is great for devices such as IP phones, IP surveillance cameras or wireless access points.

Benefits of this are that you can have endpoints in areas where you might normally struggle to run a power outlet. A great example of this is being able to place a wireless access point within a wall or ceiling.

Check out our full range of network switches here. 




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