Basic Networking: What You Need to Know

Routers and Switches: What's the Difference?

What you need to know about the building blocks of basic networking. (1:47 min)

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Routers and Switches: What's the Difference?

What you need to know about the building blocks of basic networking. (1:47 min)

Basic networking consists of two essential pieces of equipment: switches and routers. If you know how this hardware works, you'll have a fundamental understanding of basic networking as well. Knowing more about basic networking can help you make better decisions about the network design, services, and features your business needs to implement in order to thrive.

Basic Networking: Switches

Switches and routers are what basic networking is all about. Though they look similar and perform similar tasks, there is a difference.

Switches are the foundation of most business networks. A switch acts as a controller, connecting computers, printers and servers to a network within a building or campus. Switches allow the devices on your network to communicate with each other as well as with other networks. Through information sharing and resource allocation, switches save businesses money and increase productivity. There are two types of switches to consider as part of your basic networking building blocks: managed and unmanaged.

  • An unmanaged switch works out of the box but can't be configured. Home-networking equipment typically offers unmanaged switches.
  • A managed switch can be configured. You can monitor and adjust a managed switch locally or remotely, giving you greater control over network traffic and access.

Basic Networking: Routers

Routers connect multiple networks together. They also connect computers on those networks to the Internet. Routers enable all networked computers to share a single Internet connection, which saves money.

A router acts a dispatcher, analyzing data being sent across a network, choosing the best route for your data to travel, and sending it on its way. Routers connect your business to the world, protect information from security threats, and can even decide which computers receive priority over others.

Depending on your needs, you can choose from among routers offering different features, such as a firewall, Virtual Private Network (VPN), or Internet Protocol (IP) communications system.

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