If you need to connect multiple wired devices to your network–such as a laser printer, computer, DVR, and so on–you need a switch. A network switch is a telecommunication device that relays messages from devices connected to it and then transmits them only to the specified receiving device on the network. Switches are more advanced than hubs–hubs are “dumb” network devices in that they simply repeat every message sent to them to every other device on the network. Switches also include mechanisms for avoiding and detecting message collision.
Historically, consumers would purchase network hubs because there was a significant price difference between network hubs and switches. By around 2005 advances in hardware and manufacturing brought the price of consumer-grade switches so low that it made little sense to purchase a hub. Furthermore, many consumers have migrated to broadband internet–many internet service providers furnish an all-in-one gateway device that functions as a switch, router, and internet modem.
- By Jason Fitzpatrick on 01/16/13