The Complete Buyer's Guide to Network Switches, Routers, and Hubs

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The Complete Buyer's Guide to Network Switches, Routers, and Hubs

Nothing moves on a network withoutnetwork switches,routers, and hubs. They are fundamental parts of any home or office arrangement and transfer data packets from one device to another. Without them, computer users would not be able to print, share files, download music, stream video, or play games as part of a large group of devices linked together. Even as most computer users understand that life is wretched without the connection, at the same time many cannot tell the differences between network switches, routers, and hubs. Technicians and salespeople further compound this confusion when they use the terms interchangeably. Alas, they do not know either.

No matter. This guide quickly clears up that fog and familiarises readers with each device, then goes a step better with important points to ponder when shopping for network switches, routers, and hubs. Whether one opts for brick and mortar shops or 24-hour online stores like eBay for their purchases, the tips offered here can turn their buying experience into a satisfactory one.

Differences between Network Switches, Routers, and Hubs

While they all look pretty much like boxes, the similarity between the network switches, routers, and hubs ends there, because there are some distinctive differences when it comes to function. Hubs act as a connection point for devices in a network and are the simplest and easiest to use. They have very little proficiency as they move packets of data from one segment to all other segments indiscriminately. This places them on the lower end of the price spectrum, because they cause traffic on the network.

Network switches, with their mid-range prices, are a lot faster, more powerful, and more efficient than hubs and they allocate the total available bandwidth to any port. They are smart enough to identify where the data is coming from, filter, and forward it to the specific device that it needs to go to.

Routers are the most complex, secure, and intelligent of the lot and cost a pretty penny. Not only can they do what switches and hubs do, but they also determine the best path to forward data along multiple networks and use protocol to communicate with each other. The table below shows the characteristic features of each type, their advantages, and disadvantages.

Type

Features

Advantages

Disadvantages

Hubs

Simple, act as a connection point for devices in a network

Cheapest option, easy to use

Little aptitude, broadcast data from one segment to all others, cannot filter, cause traffic on network

Network Switches

Intelligent, filter and forward data packets to specific device

Mid-range prices, faster and more efficient than hubs, allocate total bandwidth to any port

Cost more than hubs, not as intelligent as routers

Routers

Complex, work with multiple networks, use protocol to communicate with other routers

Most intelligent, routing determines the best path to forward data, secure

Most expensive option

From the table above, it is easy to see that hubs, network switches, and routers differ greatly in function. While complexity, speed, performance, and intelligence increases from the first type to the last, there is also a corresponding rise in the cost for a consumer.

Points to Ponder when Shopping for Network Switches, Routers, and Hubs

The following factors are what one must think over when shopping for network switches, routers, and hubs to get the most value for their pennies and pounds. They include the budget, technology, speed, number of ports, size and style, and security, and help to narrow down the choices to one that is perfect for a consumer's personal requirements.

Budget

A small budget can be a damper when all the dazzling new technology on the market begs consumers to splurge, though budgets are precisely what help them to keep their heads and shop within their means. Even for consumers with large disposable incomes, budgets work to focus them on getting value for their money based on the specific features that are more important than price considerations. A low budget is workable, too, if the shopper expands his or her net to include switches, hubs, and routers in second-hand condition that work as well as the new ones at a fraction of the cost.

Technology

Most hubs and network switches work over a physical Ethernet connection, sometimes with features for Universal Serial Bus (USB) communication technology. Network switches also work over a Fibre Channel (FC) but this is chiefly for large-scale and high-tech storage in companies. Routers have the option of running with either a connection wired through Ethernet or a wireless one over Wi-Fi. The wireless router is the most popular choice for many computer users since it creates a wireless signal to which all devices within its range can connect, without the need for cables or wires.

Speed

Speed is everything to the wired world, with 1 gbps or 1000 mbps currently more standard than not on most networks. However, consumers should not heedlessly rush out to buy the device with the highest speed, since the speed of the Internet connection also affects the final speed available to the user, and the Internet Service Provider (ISP), not the router, hub or switch, determines this. What the speed of the router, switch, or hub does is to improve the speed of internal transfers on the network, such as sharing of files and streaming music. Most new routers and switches have a feature that automatically detect speeds and efficiently adapts them to sudden changes.

Number of Ports

The total number of devices that need connecting on the network determines the number of ports on the switch, router, or hub one plans to buy. It is wiser to buy one with a corresponding number of ports or even have ports to spare than to opt for one that does not suffice just because it is cheaper. Ultimately, they might have to go shopping again, and there goes the original savings.

While more ports often mean a bigger price, there are ways to work around this even if one is constrained by their budget: for example, adding switches and hubs to routers, or using stackable network switches. The process of adding ports is quite simple and requires little skill. Technophiles might choose to add another router to an existing one, although they need to change the settings to avoid conflict between the two routers.

Size and Style

Network switches, routers, and hubs come in all shapes and sizes, from the compact home model to the industrial giant, so shoppers should think of how much room they have and buy one with a form factor that fits. Some designs offer flexibility in their port configuration and are ideal for large work groups because they are able to expand. As many office and homeowners install switches, hubs, and routers in highly visible areas of the home or office, consumers ought to factor in style as well when shopping. A sleek and shiny router or switch has more aesthetic value than a clunky and ill-placed eyesore.

Security

Since hubs broadcast their data segments to all devices, this leaves them open to network sniffing, where an outsider can capture frames of the data segments and view their content. Network switches are not so vulnerable and can offer additional safety measures through IP filtering, hardware filters to block unwelcome traffic, and port security. Routers usually come with a built-in security feature called a firewall that blocks malicious content from accessing the network or individual computers. Since many use Wi-Fi technology, they also have encryption to secure the network from hackers, identity thieves, and piggyback riders. Managed switch, hub, and router networks provide very good defence position from attacks as opposed to unmanaged ones that have slipshod security because they are mostly hands-off.

A Note on Brand-Matching with Routers

Brand-matching refers to when a consumer buys a router from the same brand that manufactured their network adapters or Wi-Fi boosters, a practice most common with wireless technology. Networking gurus believe that the similarity between the router and existing pieces of hardware in a network smoothes out any potential function and compatibility kinks that sometimes occur when using different brands. Better connections mean faster speeds and a chance to upgrade devices from the same manufacturer, as well as a more secure network. While mixing and matching brands works well enough if the router and adapter use the same networking standards, they are not without a few connection headaches.

Buying Network Switches, Routers, and Hubs on eBay

Now that the differences between network switches, routers, and hubs are clear, buying one on eBay should be as pleasant as a stroll through Regent's Park. Optimised for easy and fast shopping with a secure payment system that lets you pay without reaching for your wallet, the site has a massive collection ofnetwork switches,routers, and hubs in varying sizes, technologies, brands, port numbers, and speeds. You can browse through the listings at your convenience, or if time is of the essence, filter through with the options available to narrow the results.

Whether you are shopping at your leisure or in a hurry, however, take time to read the descriptions for network switches, routers, and hubs in the listings to confirm that they are what you need. Look through the photos and ask questions as well as read up on the seller's feedback from other buyers just like you. After all, you do want your money's worth, and should always know what you are buying and from whom. When in doubt, go for eBay top-rated sellers who live to satisfy their buyers with quality items, fast dispatches, and sometimes free shipping offers.

Conclusion

Network switches , routers, and hubs keep the Internet world going round because they connect computers, workstations, printers, scanners, and game consoles to each other, allowing the movement of data back and forth. When a consumer shops for one to replace, repair, or to upgrade their network for better speeds and efficiency, then they need to look at some important points to settle on their ideal network switch, router, or hub. For instance, their budget affects what they can and cannot afford, while the number of devices they would like to connect on a network determines the number of ports their switch or router should have. These points, along with speed, technology, size, and style, are excellent guideposts for buying a network switch, router, or hub anywhere because they guarantee good value.

The last, and easiest, decision that a shopper needs to make is to choose between buying in brick and mortar computer shops, or in convenient online stores such as eBay, where they can sit back and wait for the seller to ship it to their doorstep.

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