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What is a switch vs. a router?

Switches create a network. Routers connect networks. The two pieces of equipment look similar and perform some similar functions, but each has its own distinct function to perform on a network.

What is a switch?

To understand basic networking, you first need to understand what a network switch is and how it works.

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.

Different types of Ethernet switches

Next, you’ll need to understand the different types of Ethernet switches and their capabilities. There are two basic types of switches to choose from as part of your networking basics: 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.

 

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What is a router?

Routers, on the other hand, 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.

Routers connect your business to the world, protect information from security threats, and can even decide which computers receive priority over others.

Beyond those basic networking functions, routers come with additional features to make networking easier or more secure. Depending on your security needs, for example, you can choose a router with a firewall, a virtual private network (VPN), or an Internet Protocol (IP) communications system.

Want to learn more?

Security

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Get how-to’s, checklists, and other tips to help you meet those demands and to help your business scale and thrive.