Complete Guide to Buying Network Switches

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Complete Guide to Buying Network Switches

A network switch is a device used to create local area networks (LANs) and is most often used to connect multiple devices together for home and business use. Network switches are used to create computer networks, but cannot typically be used to connect to the Internet. However, network switches can be used to enhance the number of Internet ports available, so they can be used for this purpose only.

Purchasing a network switch requires the buyers to consider their needs including type of Internet connection, number of ports, and whether they need an Ethernet or gigabit Internet switch. Other considerations include the price, the condition, and sometimes even the brand of the network switch. Managed and unmanaged switches are both popular as well, so this is also a consideration. Buyers should research their options and then purchase their network switch from an electronics or an online store.

Frequently Asked Questions Before Purchase

Many buyers have questions about their network switch, and it is important to ask these before purchase. Some of the most common questions revolve around the mistaken idea that network switches and routers are the same. Another common question is whether or not the switch is really necessary, but in most cases, this question depends on the individual requirements of the area.

How is a Network Switch Different from a Router?

A network switch creates a network between computers and devices such as printers and scanners. The router only connects computers to a network. While the difference might seem small, it does greatly affect what the device can be used for. Network switches are typically used to create home networks, office networks, or even local building networks by plugging all of the devices into the same switch so that they can be accessed from any of the devices connected. One example is that data can be easily transferred between devices on a network and that a printer can be used remotely if it is on a network.

Is a Network Switch Really Necessary?

Not everyone needs a network switch, so it is important to consider whether or not it is really necessary. Some modern computers and devices can be connected over Wi-Fi and via Bluetooth in small areas. However, these connections are less stable and often much slower than a physical LAN connection. Wi-Fi connections are also very slow for the transfer of data, which can be debilitating in an office where data is frequently transferred between computers or where large volumes of data are processed, shared, and moved around.

Set a Budget for the Network Switch

The next step to purchasing a network switch is to set a budget. Network switches van vary in price by as much as 1,000 per cent, with the cheaper options starting out at less than the cost of a meal in a restaurant while the more expensive can cost as much as a small car. For the most part, the smaller the area the network switch is intended for, the more affordable the switch is. Notably, a more expensive switch should feature better options, better specifications, and more powerful networking capabilities, so in some cases raising the budget is a good thing. Buyers should research their needs and perhaps settle on an individual brand that they would like to purchase in order to set their budget more effectively.

Choosing a Network Switch

There are multiple types of network switches including different brands, network switches with different features, and managed and unmanaged network switches. Usually, buyers can choose a brand by preference or needs, budget, or even by what Internet provider they use. Other options including features can be much more difficult to decide on. The type of network switch, the number of ports, and the individual features are all extremely important to buyers.

Different Types of Network Switches

There are two main types of network switches: managed and unmanaged switches. Both have their advantages and disadvantages so most buyers should look into both. Usually, unmanaged switches are more affordable but do offer less customisation and are sometimes less powerful. A notable difference between the two is that it is not possible to modify or change the settings on an unmanaged network switch. The following chart can be used to compare the two types of switches.

Type of Switch

Most Used For

Price

Ease of Use

Customisation

Automatic Connections

Managed Switch

Large Networks

Medium to High

Difficult

Available

Sometimes

Unmanaged Switch

Small Networks

Low to High

Very Easy

Not Available

Always

Generally, anyone looking for an easy setup and very low learning curve should go for the unmanaged network switch. While unmanaged switches offer little to no control over the network, they are commonly used by beginners, either for household or small offices use. Anyone looking for a very customisable switch with plenty of options and different capabilities should go for the managed network switch. Managed ports allow for in-depth control, including the use of each port so that some can be set for printers and some for computers or Ethernet. Managed switches are more difficult to learn so buyers should expect to take some time to familiarise themselves with the technology first.

Number of Ports of a Network Switch

The number of ports should also affect the purchase decision. Ports on a network switch typically range in number from five to 48, with multiple options in between. There are also larger options available although these are not commonly used except for very large networks. The number of ports determines the number of devices that can be connected to the network. An eight port switch is usually more than enough for a small office or household, although the exact number of ports does depend on the number of devices, users, and computers being connected. The more ports on the switch, the more expensive it is, so it is a good idea to calculate cost vs. practical value into the equation.

Determine Network Needs

Network needs can be used to determine everything from the size of the network switch to its features. Typically, buyers should look at what they are doing with the network to decide between gigabit and Ethernet Internet. Gigabit Internet is typically more appropriate for anyone who wants to transfer large amounts of data over the network. This can include small high-volume networks as well as larger ones with multiple users. If the switch is intended for lower use, megabit ports instead of gigabit might be more affordable and cost effective.

Core or Single Access Network Switch?

The final consideration is that some switches are intended to be used as core switches in a network with multiple network switches. Anyone who would like to install a very large and complex network must look for core switches. Most casual users such as home and office users can look for a single access switch. An access port is a port where another network switch can be connected and some network switches have multiple ports. Importantly, any switches connected to the main switch are slower than the main. Most users only need a switch with no access ports. Buyers who purchase a core switch should also purchase their additional switches at the same time.

Buying a Network Switch on eBay

eBay is an excellent place to purchase a network switch because you can choose any type of switch and purchase in new or used condition, depending on your budget and preference. Models range from the very affordable to the very expensive so you can choose something that suits your exact needs. You can search on eBay by typing in 'network switch' or by specifying the exact type of network switch you are looking for such as 'Linksys network switch'.

Every buyer should pay close attention to the item details and read the listing description. Sellers on eBay come from all over the world and sell both new and used items. Reading the description ensures that you, the buyer, know what you are getting. It is also important to check estimated shipping time and cost of shipping as both can vary greatly depending on seller and seller location.

Conclusion

Network switches are used for setting up networks but they can be confusing to purchase for many buyers. With different options, including numbers of ports, different types of Internet, and even different types of ports, buyers might not know what they need. For most buyers, a single access switch is likely to be a good decision, although anyone looking to build a larger network should purchase a core switch with multiple access ports. Choosing the number of LAN ports is also important as most switches have anywhere from eight to more than 48 ports.

Buyers can also choose between managed and unmanaged network switches, although most casual users should choose the unmanaged. Managed switches are suitable for very large and customized networks while unmanaged are better for beginners who would like an easy to use device. Finally, buyers can decide whether they would like to purchase a new or used switch, and whether to purchase it from an electronics store or an online store like eBay.

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