In order for computers to be able to talk to each other you need a piece of equipment that will enable them to form a network. You can use either a network hub or a network smart switches (along with an Ethernet cable and an Ethernet port). So which one is better to use- a hub or a switch? Let’s take a look at how they both operate.
Data is sent from one computer to another in the form of a “packet.” There are three parts to every packet: the header, the payload, and the trailer. The header consists of some basic information, such as which computer sent the packet, where it needs to go, and how many packets are to be sent.
The actual data being sent is referred to as the payload section. The trailer section comes last and tells the receiving computer that the end of the packet has been reached. It will also typically contain error checking, a feature which tells the sending computer to resend the packet if an error is found.
A hub or a switch is used to send these packets to the right computer through an Ethernet port. When a hub receives a packet from another computer it will rebroadcast the packet to every computer connected to its Ethernet port. The three types of hubs are: passive, active, and intelligent.
When a packet is received by a passive hub, it will broadcast it to all computers on its network. An active hub does this as well, but will also enhance the signal received if it is weak. An intelligent hub’s special feature is that it continually monitors the hub for efficiency and pinpoints any problems in the network.
The main difference between a hub and a switch is that a switch is much more efficient in the way that it sends its packets. A switch is able to send a packet solely to the computer it is intended for rather than to every computer it is connected to. Two computers can communicate directly this way so sending and receiving packets speeds up dramatically.
The three different types of switches are: unmanaged, managed, and smart. An unmanaged switch allows the user little control over the settings. It is a plug and play type of switch because it configures the network to function automatically. A managed switch is more difficult to set up, but the user has full control over the network. A smart switch combines aspects of the managed and unmanaged switches. It can automatically set itself up, but the user is able to control specific settings.
Using a switch to send data through an ethernet port rather than a hub is the obvious choice. Not only are they faster, but they are also a great price. When looking to network computers together I would definitely recommend that you put your $10 to good use and purchase a switch.