Network Switches vs. Hubs: Advantages and Disadvantages

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Network Switches vs. Hubs: Advantages and Disadvantages

Whether running a large business or managing a small home office, deciding whether to use a network switch or hub is an important decision because it impacts the speed at which information is deliver across a network. They essentially perform the same function, serving as a central connection point for various nodes on the network. However, they are significantly unique in the way that their nodes communicate with the network. Although hubs rapidly are being replaced by the decreasing cost of their network switch counterparts, there are still some situations in which hubs are the preferred option.

When deciding whether to purchase network switches or hubs at retailers such as eBay, buyers should understand the differences between the two and learn when to use each component. Network switches and hubs come in a wide array of types, each one differing in the way that it transfers information across the network. Both network switches and hubs are similar in shape and each has a varying number of ports.

Defining Network Switches

Network switches connect multiple computers and other devices, such as printers, fax machines, and photocopiers to a single network. When connected, devices are able to exchange mail and other messages with each other. Network switches also allow client computers to store files on a file server. There are various types of network switches including unmanaged and managed. Managed switches are further divided into two categories: smart and enterprise. Each type has the ability to inspect packets of information sent on the network before routing it to its designated location based on the sender and recipient address. Network switches vary both their cost and in the number of ports supported by the switch. Those with a greater number of ports tend to be more expensive.

Advantages of Network Switches

There are many advantages to using a network switch for communication. Network switches handle network traffic successfully, while making efficient use of the available network bandwidth.

Packet Handling of Network Switches

The ability to route packages to designated end locations is one of the key advantages to using network switches. This is a great leap forward from hubs, which are only able to send packages without specification from one device to all other devices attached to their network. This ability to designate specific end locations prevents Ethernet collisions from occurring.

Collision Management of Network Switches

Collisions generally occur when multiple computing devices attempt to transmit information simultaneously. This in turn causes the signals to collide on the wire. The devices must then try to retransmit the data at a later time. In general, the more devices on a network switch, the greater number of collisions that are likely to result. Network switches eliminate collisions by creating a direct on-the-fly connection between the sending and receiving devices or computers. This improves performance and efficiency across the network, allowing for complete bandwidth availability.

Bandwidth Utilisation of Network Switches

Network switches allow for the availability of the full gigabit of bandwidth for each connection. This means that network performance remains unaffected by multiple devices working on the same switch. Network switches are therefore able to send and receive data at the same time, unlike hubs.

Problem Isolation of Network Switches

Each device operates on its own wire within a network switch. This makes it easier to pinpoint the area of concern if a problem arises on a given switch port. It also allows other devices to continue to function normally without disruption.

Disadvantages of Network Switches

While there are many advantages of network switches, buyers should familiarise themselves with the disadvantages of using this technology. Network switches tend to be difficult to install and use. They often require extensive training to repair if the network goes down. In addition, configuration is necessary when handling multicast packets, which can be complicated. Buyers should take extra precautions when running switches in modes that leave the network susceptible to security risks. These risks include spoofing of IP address and the capturing of Ethernet Frames.

Defining Hubs

Hubs, also known as Ethernet hubs, use Ethernet connections to join computers and other devices together on a local area network (LAN), such as file servers, workstations, and print servers. Once connected, data packets can be sent from one device to all other devices on the shared network. There are several types of hubs, including passive, manageable, and intelligent. Passive hubs make all data packets available to all other devices on the network. Intelligent hubs are able to take these data packets and route them to the correct port. Manageable hubs allow for the monitoring of data and for the individual ports to be configured.

Advantages of Hubs

There are many advantages of using hubs rather than network switches. These advantages include cost, simplicity, and speed.

Cost of Hubs

Hubs are generally less expensive than network switches. Therefore, buyers who are only using a few devices on their network with limited data transferring should consider this cost effective option. Unless large amounts of data are being transferred, packet collisions are not likely to occur.

Simplicity of Hubs

When compared to network switches, hubs are relatively easy use. Instead of analysing received data, hubs simply broadcast the information that they receive to all devices within the network. It then becomes the responsibility of the device to decide which information is meant for it.

Speed of Hubs

Due to their inability to analyse received data, hubs do less processing and are therefore able to communicate at a much quicker rate than network switches. Although many buyers prefer network switches for their ability to deal with devices with different speeds, the dual-speed hub allows for a change in speed, making it possible to receive information at one speed and send it to another device at a different speed.

Disadvantages of Hubs

As the number of devices connected to the hub increases, network performance and data transfer rates decrease substantially. Therefore, hubs do not allow much room for expansion. The number of Mbps of bandwidth is divided amongst each port. So, traffic problems and packet collisions tend to arise when using hubs. To resolve this issue, all ports go through a routine. Although a disadvantage, hubs now have a collision detection system. This system requires that each adapter checks for incoming information at the same time that it sends data, helping to prevent collisions.

Deciding Whether to Use a Network Switch or Hub

Although the majority of users prefer the added advantages of using a network switch, there are certain situations in which hubs are more suitable. A hub cannot become compromised by a single user that brings down the network, unlike unmanaged switches, which can become compromised by a single user. In addition, hubs are beneficial when using older ports, such as 10BASE2 and 10BASE5. These older ports are not compatible with network switches, but can be used to connect devices to modern networks. Hubs require much less management than network switches, so they are often still used for small networks, especially when running at 100 Mbps speed.

How to Buy Network Switches or Hubs on eBay

There is a wide selection of network switches and hubs on eBay. Buyers can search for these components from the eBay home page by entering keywords such as "network switch" and then narrowing down the results using the eBay filters. Buyers can refine the search by entering keywords describing the network management type, number of LAN ports, maximum data rate, the brand, and the condition. Using this method can save buyers from browsing through the large number of network switches and hubs that eBay has to offer by making the results more specific.

Advanced Search

Alternatively, buyers can choose to search for network switches and hubs using eBay's advanced search feature. Searching this way allows buyers to limit their results by item location or to items sold by Top-rated sellers. Top-rated sellers have been recognised by the eBay community for their high levels of customer service and good quality products.

Review the Item Listing

Buyers should inspect the condition of the network switch or hub carefully before purchasing, especially if the component is pre-owned. In the event that questions remain unanswered after reading an item's description, buyers are encouraged to use the "Ask a question" link located on each listing page. This allows buyers to communicate with sellers directly to gain further insight on the condition or description of an item. Most of sellers are happy to provide any additional information.

Conclusion

At first glance, deciding whether to purchase a network switch or hub may seem overly technical. However, once equipped with the proper knowledge and the advantages and disadvantages of each component, buyers find that the making the right choice for their needs is quite simple. When searching for a network switch or hub, buyers should first familiarise themselves with the differences between the two components in order to determine which is better for a given network.

Network switches are ideal for business operations that require a greater number of ports, dedicated bandwidth, and intelligent broadcasting. Data transfers and online gaming can congest a network quickly if using multiple computers simultaneously. So, network switches are better suited for these applications. Hubs are best suited for small networks with fewer than four connected devices. Although becoming more obsolete as the price of network switches continues to decrease, hubs are a simple, user friendly, fast, and cheap alternative. eBay sellers offer a range of network switches and hubs.

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