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Find the Best Data Switch for You

James Lord, IT Infrastructure Manager Dec 19, 2018

When it comes to your business network, you can’t be without them. Switches connect the multiple core components such as computers, printers, routers, and other hardware, so you can efficiently send information and access shared resources. However, the complexity of your network increases along with the number of connected components. To address these growing needs, it might be necessary to deploy a new type of switch to ensure maximum network performance, reliability and security. These are the questions to ask to find the right switch for your needs.

What management style do you need?

No, we are not talking about men in suits but the type of system you are running in your organisation. If you want to link computers on a flat LAN – for example, if you only have a small collection of computers at home – then an unmanaged switch is ideal. These are generally smaller than smart and fully managed versions and have under 24 ports. For SME systems that require more control of activity, you will need to start considering a smart managed switch that provides easy web-based management of the switch’s features. Large enterprise setups with large amounts of switches may require fully managed switches, which provide more features, increased flexibility and centralised management. Environments like larger data centres, for example, will typically use fully managed switches.

What do you want the switch to do?

The choice of a layer 1, 2 or 3 switch depends on the complexity of the system you are running and what you’re asking the switch to do for you. Unmanaged switches will always dwell in the Layer 2 functionality, simply passing whatever traffic comes their way. The smart managed and fully managed switches open the door to Layer 2 features such as VLANs, LAG, DHCP guard and MAC filtering. If you require your switch to do routing, then Layer 3 comes into the equation. This can take the load off your firewall for internal traffic. Switches with this functionality will generally be fully managed.

How much bandwidth do you need?

A lot of networks may have a ‘one to many’ switch infrastructure where the servers, gateways and other critical gear lives at the ‘core’ of the network. Be vigilant of the bandwidth these core switches can provide; they may have the right link speed per port but if the forwarding speed of the switch isn’t high enough you could be in for painful service interruptions.

Your server or gateway may be able to provide more than 1Gbps link speed, taking advantage of this by installing a 10Gbps switch may keep your network’s head above the water, especially if you’re making use of technologies such as replication, clustering and virtualisation.

Fibre or copper?

At lower data transfer rates (100Mb – 10Gb), there will always be a choice between copper and fibre media. The main differences between them are that copper is slower but cheaper, and fibre is faster but more expensive.

Most of us will be working inside the confines of an office and the current servers or firewalls will likely define if the switch is going to be Fibre, Copper or dual personality. Even if that is the case, don’t forget that copper shouldn’t go further than 85 meters and if you need to run cabling anywhere that is likely to have electrical interference or long distance, Fibre will be best placed.

Where do Phones and WiFi come into it?

PoE is great if you’re like me and you loathe cable mess under desks or in your server rack. It can power your WiFi APs, VOIP Phones and IP security cameras; removing those mess generating PoE injectors and AC cables.

There are two types of PoE; PoE (af) and PoE+ (1at). The latter provides up to 25.2 watts meaning that Faster WiFi APs with 802.11ac and more feature rich VOIP Phones or high resolution IP cameras can be neatly installed in your network.


Techbuyer stocks network switches from high profile manufacturers such as Cisco (Catalyst and Nexus), HP ProCurve, Netgear and 3Com as well as other manufacturers. If you can’t find the network switch you’re looking for, or you’re not sure which network switch you need, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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