Most business networks today use switches to connect computers, printers, phones, cameras, lights, and servers in a building or campus.
A switch serves as a controller, enabling networked devices to talk to each other efficiently. Through information sharing and resource allocation, switches save businesses money and increase employee productivity.
An unmanaged switch works right out of the box. It's not designed to be configured, so you don't have to worry about installing or setting it up correctly. Unmanaged switches have fewer features and less network capacity than managed switches. You'll usually find unmanaged switches in home networking equipment.
A managed network switch is configurable, offering greater security, flexibility, and capacity than an unmanaged switch. You can monitor and adjust a managed switch locally or remotely, to give you greater network control.
What is an unmanaged switch?
An unmanaged network switch is designed so that you can simply plug them in and they work, no configuration required. Unmanaged switches are typically for basic connectivity. You'll often see them used in home networks or wherever a few more ports are needed, such as at your desk, in a lab, or in a conference room.
A network switch is a hardware device that channels incoming data from multiple input ports to a specific output port that will take it toward its intended destination. It is a small device that transfers data packets between multiple network devices such as computers, routers, servers or other switches.
In a local area network (LAN) using Ethernet, a network switch determines where to send each incoming message frame by looking at the physical device address (also known as the Media Access Control address or MAC address). Switches maintain tables that match each MAC address to the port which the MAC address is received.
What is a managed switch?
Managed switches give you greater security and more features and flexibility, because you can configure them to custom-fit your network. With this greater control, you can better protect your network and improve the quality of service for those who access the network.
How does a network switch work as compared to a hub?
In the most basic networks, devices are connected with hubs. But there's a limit to the amount of bandwidth users can share on a hub-based network. The more devices are added to the network, the longer it takes data to reach its destination. A switch avoids these and other limitations of hub networks.
Network devices can be separated by the layer they operate on, defined by the OSI model. The OSI model conceptualizes networks separating protocols by layers. Control is typically passed from one layer to the next. Some layers include:
Aggregation, or distribution switches: These switches are placed within an optional middle layer. Edge switches connect into these and they can send traffic from switch to switch or send it up to core switches.
Core switches: These network switches comprise the backbone of the network, connecting either aggregation or edge switches, connecting user or device edge networks to data center networks and, typically, connecting enterprise LANs to the routers that connect them to the internet.
If a frame is forwarded to a MAC address unknown to the switch infrastructure, it is flooded to all ports in the switching domain. Broadcast and multicast frames are also flooded. This is known as BUM flooding -- broadcast, unknown unicast, and multicast flooding. This capability makes a switch a Layer 2 or data-link layer device in the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) communications model.