Types of Network Switches

In this article, we will discuss different types of network switches used in networking. A switch in networking means a high-speed device that receives the incoming data packets and redirects them to their destination on a local area network (LAN). Switches are one type of connectivity point of an Ethernet network.

The different types of switches in a network are:

  1. KVM Switches
  2. Fixed-Configuration Switches
    • Unmanaged switches 
    • Managed switches
    • Smart Managed Switches
  3. Enterprise managed switches
  4. Ethernet Switches or LAN Switches
  5. PoE Switch
  6. Modular Switches
  7. Data Center Switches
  8. Stackable Switches

Different Types of Network Switches

1. KVM Switches

KVM stands for “K-keyboard, V- Video, and M-Mouse“, The KVM network switch is used for making connections with the keyboard, and mouse, and it monitors many computer systems. This switch manages multiple servers and also saves PC space by eliminating wires.

These switches provide a simple interface to the individual user for handling numerous functionalities of multiple systems with one console. The KVM network switches have special keys on the keyboard in order to easily connect your computers to the keyboard and mouse. It is possible to scale the reach of the switch several hundred feet by using of KVM extender by transmitting DVI, VGA, or HDMI signals. KVM switch can access the local and remote machines.

2. Fixed Configuration Switches

The fixed configuration switches do not have options for further expansion. It has a fixed number of ports and therefore, it is cost-effective.

The Fixed Configuration switches have three configurations. They are-

2a. Unmanaged Switches:

Unmanaged switches are used to provide basic connectivity. Unmanaged switches are the most commonly used switches in home networks and small businesses because they can be plugged in and they instantly start doing their job. Unmanaged switches do not need to be configured or watched, that is why they are designed to be plug-and-play. Unmanaged switches require only small cable connections. Unmanaged switches allow devices on a network to connect with each other such as a computer connected to a computer or a computer connected to a printer in one location. Unmanaged switches are the least expensive switches among all categories

2b. Managed Switches:

Managed switches have many features like the highest levels of security, precision control, and full management of the network. Managed switches provide the greatest scalability. Managed switches are used in organizations that have a large network. Managed switches can also be customized to enhance the functionality of any given network. Managed switches are usually deployed as aggregation or access switches in very large networks or as core switches in smaller networks. Managed switches are achieved by setting a Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP). Managed switches are the most costly option but their scalability makes them an ideal option for a network that is growing. Managed switches are of two types:

2c. Smart Switches

Smart Switches are also called partially managed switches. Smart switches offer basic management features with the ability to create some levels of security. Smart switches have a simpler management interface than the other managed switches. Smart switches are used in fast and constant LANs (Local Area Networks) that support gigabit data transfer and allocations. Smart switches can accept the configuration of the VLANs (Virtual Local Area Networks).

3. Enterprise-managed switches

Enterprise-managed switches are also known as fully managed switches. Enterprise-managed switches have features like the ability to fix, copy, transform and display different network configurations, along with a web interface SNMP agent and command-line interface. Enterprise-managed switches are more expensive than smart switches as they have more features that can be enhanced. Enterprise-managed switches are used in organizations that contain a large number of ports, switches, and nodes. 

4. LAN Switches or Ethernet Switches

LAN switches are also known as Ethernet switches or data switches. LAN switches are used to reduce network congestion or the bottleneck by distributing a package of data only to its intended recipient. LAN switches are used to connect points on a LAN.

5. PoE Switches:

PoE switches are used in the PoE technology which stands for power over Ethernet which is a technology that integrates the data and the power on the same cable allowing the power devices to receive the data in parallel to power. PoE switches allow us to place endpoints anywhere, even in those areas that are usually difficult to reach. PoE switches provide greater flexibility by simplifying the cabling process. PoE switches are more expensive.

6. Modular Switches:

In Modular Switches, it is possible to attach expansion modules as per the user’s requirement. Thus, it provides much flexibility for changing network requirements. Expansion modules have all features such as enabling firewalls, wireless connectivity, and network analysis. The switches allow the addition of additional interfaces, power supplies, and cooling fans, however; its cost increases.

7. Stackable Switches

Stackable Switches have features of the fixed switch and modular switch. The stackable switch unit can be made using of the same model as the fixed switch and modular switch.

The stackable switch has eight switches with a total of 384 ports and the switch performs all functions as a single switch.

Difference Between Managed and Unmanaged Switches

Unmanaged SwitchesManaged Switches
Main useDomestic, Small businessEnterprises, Mid-size companies
Network TopologyAccess LevelCore and Distribution level
PerformanceLimited, some have low internal throughput.Good, most are full-rate throughput.
MonitoringIt is limited to LED visualization.It has different options for monitoring and debugging.
SecurityBasic switching capability.Rich set of capabilities
FeaturesThe limited set of features that do not require any configurationRich set of features
LayerLayer 2 onlyLayer 2, most are also Layer 3, with routing features
CostThey are the cheapest.They are more expensive as compared to unmanaged switches.

Key Features to Consider for the selection of network Switch

Consider the following while selecting a network switch for desired applications.

  • Budget. Managed switches are more expensive than unmanaged switches.
  • Speed. The speed requirement must be matched to your requirement. The available switches are Fast Ethernet, Gigabit Ethernet, and Ten Gigabit. The Gigabit Ethernet is suitable for almost all applications.
  • Customization. For extensive customizations and for managing network traffic, the managed switch is essential. To perform some basic customizations, a smart switch(a type of managed switch with only a select number of options for management) is a good choice. The unmanaged switch is a good choice if no customizations are required.
  • Ports. The number of ports in the switch is also a very important criterion for the selection of a switch. Select the switch as per the application’s need. For greater network needs choose a device with the appropriate number of ports. Some switches have up to 52.
  • Stackability. If your network is expanding fast, A stackable switch is a great option for fast configuration when there is a possibility of network expansion. We can configure multiple switches with stackable switches as if they were one. This option eliminates the need for troubleshooting individual switches. A stackable switch re-routes around the problem in the case of power failure & problems in the port.
  • Power. If your devices need power from the switch, select PoE device. The PoE devices provide network functionality and power.
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