Before we begin, I want to give you some information. There are many features to switches. It’s impossible to cover them all in one blog. Switches are extremely robust. The switch you choose may support certain features or not, depending on which model you have. It is important to find out which features the switch supports and ensure that it can perform all of your needs. Some switches can even support routing. These are layer three switches, but we won’t be focusing on them in this post. Instead, we will be focusing on Access Layer Switches, which are switches that clients plug into. These switches are more like a closet switch and can be found at layer 2.
Two ways to represent switches
Logical representation: (See above). You may have seen the icon above in IT. This is a logical representation for a common Ethernet switch. You’ll also see the exact same icon used to represent switches in diagram topology maps.
Physical Representation: (See Above) Another way to represent switches is to use a physical representation, such as the one you see above. You can actually see the front bezel, all ports, and what the switch physically looks like.
What a Switch Can Do for Us
A switch allows us to have wired network access for our devices such as our computers, laptops and phones, as well as wireless access points, printers, and servers. All these devices can be connected to the Ethernet network using a Cat5 and Cat6 cable.
Most Common Switch
An Ethernet switch is the most widely-used switch and the most common. Ethernet is what connects our users to the network. Our ethernet switches allow us to access the LAN. Fibre Channel switches are another type of switch that can be used to access storage area networks.
Managed vs. unmanaged switch: It is important to have a managed switch. A managed switch allows us remote access to the switch or local configuration changes. Unmanaged switches don’t allow us access to the switch to make changes or monitor it. Unmanaged switches are not what you want in an enterprise network or business grade network. You will always need a managed switch.
VLANs and Quality of Service: VLANs are essential for enterprise grade equipment. Your switches should support VLANs as well as Quality of Service (QOS). As you can see, we have different types of clients connected via the network. One of these is a Voice Over IP telephone.
You might be wondering, “What the hell does QOS do?”. We need to ensure that our phone calls have priority over all other traffic. Why? Why?
Number of Switch Ports. The most important thing that a switch provides is a list of ports that the host can plug into. There are four types of switches: 8 port, 12 port 24 port, 24 port and 48 port. These are the most popular switches. There may be other types. The managed switches are usually the 4 port switches. Why is it important to have a common number? You need to ensure that your switch is installed in a closet that can hold 40 computers.
Speed of ports: If you are hosting a host that requires Gigabit Ethernet connectivity you will want to make sure that your switch supports it. There are still switches that support Fast Ethernet, but they can still be found. You might accidentally buy a switch that allows you to do 100 Megabit per second, instead of the Gigabit that you need.
Power Over Ethernet can be integrated into our switches
Power over Ethernet: A Voice Over IP phone is an example of how they can get power. One way is to plug it into the wall using the power brick and get power from the wall. Power Over Ethernet, or POE, is the second way to get power to your Voice Over IP phone. Power Over Ethernet allows us to power Voice over IP phones through the cable it is connected to.
Uplink ports: If you look at our switch from the right, you’ll see a series of ports. These are uplink ports. You can support many things through uplink ports. Some enterprise grade switches support SFP, or some other type of transceiver that allows us plug in a fiber optic cable. We need to ensure that the switch supports the uplink port so that we can plug in a fiber optic cable to connect to our switch to the rest. Many types of connections can be supported by uplink ports, mainly copper and fiber.
Stacking Technology: This technology allows us to connect multiple switches to one another and then connect the backplane. This basically makes them one large switch. If you want stacking, make sure you buy a switch that supports stacking technology.
These are the most important features of an Ethernet switch. I want to reiterate that there are many other features on switches. However, as an access layer switch connecting to the network or clients, these are the most important. These are just a few of the many m