Network Switches Vs Hubs

You’ve probably seen them either in your Comms room or tucked away in the far corner of your office next to your server, a device with lots of cables coming out of it and lights that flash on and off, sometimes green, sometimes orange. This device may appear innocuous, but in fact without it you wouldn’t have a network

So what is this technical marvel that keeps your network running. Hopefully it’s a network switch and not a hub.

What’s the difference? From the physical look, not much, only one might say Switch and the other Hub, but underneath they are entirely different beasts.

Yes they allow your machines to talk to each other, but that’s about all they have in common.

switch-netgear-hugepile

So let’s keep it brief.

A HUB tends to go at 100Mbps speed, and, (this is one of the caveats), that speed is essentially divided up between the number of computers connected to it. So, you have a 100Mbps Hub, 10 computers cabled into it, what speed does each machine communicate at? That’s right 10Mbps. Not quite what you had in mind when you purchased it we bet.

In addition HUB’s use a broadcast method, so when one computer wishes to communicate to another, the HUB gets the information and then broadcasts this information to all connected devices until the correct computer shouts out “Hey, that’s for me” at which point the HUB sends the data to that computer. The problem with this, is if two computers try to send information at the same time, you get network collisions, so computers have to resend their data. In the old days when data was not much, this was not a big issue, but now files are much larger and more data flows on the network and often the network will disconnect!

A Switch is far more intelligent. A 1Gbps Switch will allocate 1Gbps to each and every devices connected to it, (providing the attached node has a network card capable of going at 1Gbps), secondly it’s smart, it knows what device is connected to which socket, so when data from Computer A needs to get to Computer D, the switch does not broadcast the information, but rather sends it direct to that device, thus dramatically reducing network collisions and poor network performance.

So if your office network keeps falling over and your IT Technicians cannot figure it out, have a look at that little flashing device and if it says HUB on the top, perhaps go out and purchase a 100Mbps / 1Gbps Network Switch.

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