How to Select Between 5, 8, 16, and 24 Port Network Switches

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How to Select Between 5, 8, 16, and 24 Port Network Switches

A network switch is a device used to hardwire multiple computers into a single network. Home Internet users connect through a router either wirelessly or with Ethernet cables. Routers have a 4-port switch on the back that can accommodate up to four devices. A user that requires more ports can purchase an network switch to link as many devices as he or she needs to. Devices connected with a network switch have the capability to connect to the Internet and share data.

The need to link computers makes a switch a necessity when maintaining computer networks at home or in the office. Finding the right network switch involves providing enough ports to accommodate multiple users and devices. The transfer speed, switch size, and intended function are just a few of the factors buyers must consider before shopping for network switches. eBay hosts thousands of listings for network switches in a variety of configurations. Before going onto eBay to search for a network switch, a buyer first needs to determine if a 5, 8, 16, or 24 port network switch is best for his or her needs and which features are required for optimising the user experience.

Choosing a Network Switch

Prior to looking for a network switch of any size, buyers must evaluate several factors to determine which size and type of network is best suited to meet their needs. The number of users directly affects how many ports are required. In addition to computers, shoppers must also consider the fact that printers and other devices may need to be connected to a network. Once the number of users and devices have been tallied, buyers must also consider speed requirements. Some switches are able to process data faster than others. A final consideration is the purpose of the network switch. Core switches and access switches serve two very different purposes.The sections below detail how to pick a network switch with the right number of ports.

Network Switch Functions

The network switch can be employed to function in one of two ways. When setting up a small network with only one or two switches, the switches function as access switches. An access switch refers to any type of network switch where individual users connect. Large scale networks often require switches to connect other switches. These are called core switches. Since they are sending and receiving large quantities of data, core switches should support a gigabit Ethernet network.

Number of Users and Ports

The first factor to consider is how many devices need to be networked together. A router has only four switches, so multiple computers, printers, and other devices need a network switch to tie everything together. Counting the number of devices beforehand is a crucial step when buying a switch. Home networks can typically get by with a 5-port network switch , but a home that needs to add just one additional device in the near future needs to upgrade to the 8-port switch . Small offices with a few employees should start with a 16-port network switch, but a business that is looking to expand its operations soon needs a 24-port switch.

Buyers are encouraged to buy a switch with enough ports to meet the demands of either the home or office network. Purchasing a network switch with too few ports and not enough capacity will prove ineffective, and one that is too large can be a waste of money. It is prudent to have an extra port or two available for future demand, but using a 16-port switch for two computers and a printer is unnecessary.

Speed Requirements

If multiple computers are sharing the same Internet and data, one must consider how fast the network switch is able to send and process data. If the expectation is that large quantities of data need to be transferred via the switch, then a buyer should find one supporting gigabit Ethernet connectivity. However, higher speeds come with higher price tags. Should the network users need the computers and devices for basic functions like web browsing and office suite printing, a 100 megabit model is sufficient.

Other Considerations When Selecting a Network Switch

When it comes to evaluating network switches, knowing the features and capabilities of the switch is equally as important as knowing how many are required. The next decision to make is between a managed and unmanaged switch, and the number of ports often plays into which type is required. Network switches are also sold in Layer-2 and Layer-3 models. Familiarity with the capabilities of each aids in the decision-making process. How the network switch forwards data packets can sway buyers one way or another. There are three forward modes, and each mode has its advantages.

Managed or Unmanaged

Network switches are classified into two categories: managed and unmanaged. A managed switch refers to any network switch that can be accessed and programmed by a network manager. These switches can be managed on site or remotely. A managed switch is typically used in larger office settings. There are a variety of 16 port managed network switches available from leading manufacturers such as Cisco and Dell. An unmanaged switch does not allow a manager to change any settings. It functions according to factory specifications. An unmanaged switch is ideal for home use where modifications are not necessary.

Switch Size

The switch size is directly related to how many ports are required. Form factor and modular switches are two popular designs. The form factor switch has enclosed chassis and the ability to upgrade the device is limited. Form factors can have up to 48 ports, and are commonly used for homes and smaller networks. A modular switch is built for larger configurations and allows for more options when assigning port configurations.

Layer-2 and Layer-3

Network switches are also divided into Layer-2 and Layer-3 categories. Layer-2 switches are the less complex models. They process and send data at the data link layer to the correct device. Level-2 switches are ideal for novice networkers in homes and small offices. Layer-3 network switches allow much more control over how the network is structured. With Level-3 models, data is processed at the network layer, which allows the network administrator to segment data and grant certain machines access. An office with several departments might want a Level-3 switch to separate accounting from HR, while still granting both departments access to the email server.

Forward Mode

Another characteristic to check for when buying a network switch of any size is how it forwards information. There are three modes a network switch uses to send information: store-and-forward, cut-through, and fragment-free. The chart below summarises how each one functions.

Forward Mode Type

Features

Store-and-Forward

Ideal for office settings; error checking and filtering for packets; small delay in sending and receiving packets, since they are read before forwarding

Cut-Through

No error checking for packets; good packets and error packets are quickly forwarded to the appropriate destinations

Fragment-Free

Minimal capability to correct error packets because the switch removes packets below a certain size

Buyers searching for a switch allowing the conversion between LAN speeds, then the store-and-forward mode is the best choice. If LAN speeds are of no concern, then cut-through and fragment-free forward modes are efficient options.

Price

Choosing the right switch often means finding one within one's budget. There is a direct correlation in the type of capabilities and features and the price of the network switch. The more ports there are, the higher the price of the switch. Special features and increased capacities also influence the price. The better and faster a network switch can send and receive data, the more a buyer must pay for it. For many, these upgrades and capabilities are essential for keeping the network running smoothly. It is a good idea to set a budget prior to shopping. Should a high quality switch be outside the buyer's budget range, he or she should consider models that are several years older but with the same capabilities.

Hot Swapping

Hot swapping network switches have the capabilities of minimising downtime when switching out modules. There are a number of network switches that allow users to change out modules of the same type and continue to operate. Buyers who have a mandatory 24 hours a day, 7 days a week business should invest in a network switch with hot swapping.

Buying Network Switches on eBay

Purchasing the right network switch on eBay involves knowing the number of ports you need as well as which features are crucial. Using keywords in your searches helps you eliminate listings for network switches that would not be relevant to you. Homeowners looking for an '8 port network switch' can also use more keywords to narrow down results even further. For example, 'managed 8 port network switch ' or 'Layer-2 8 port network switch' are queries that provide more focused searches. Check out eBay's Search Tips page for more help with optimising your search.

Know the Seller

When purchasing an important piece of equipment, like a networking switch, you should take a minute to do some research on the person you are buying from. Get to know your seller by looking at his approval rating and feedback. A seller with happy customers has a high approval rating and can boat complimentary feedback from previous buyers. For a better shopping experience, choose a network switch from one of eBay's top rated sellers. Look for the top rated seller seal next to the username in the item listing.

Conclusion

When choosing a network switch, one of the most important factors to consider is the number of devices that need to be linked. There should be at least one port per device. Most home networks and small offices can get by with a 5- or 8-port network switch. A small office may need a 24-port network switch or even larger, depending on the equipment. Most switches allow for more switches to plug into them, but this could create a bottleneck effect for those using a single port for other devices.

Shoppers should also understand that a network switch is only as good as the network manager. With a little know how, a small home network is straightforward to set up. An unmanaged switch for the home should be sufficient for the majority of users. However, an office with an IT professional on staff typically requires a network switch with more capabilities. From counting devices to considering individual network needs, finding the right switch is simple if one determines essential requirements prior to shopping.

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