We are going to start by explaining what a network switch is and briefly other alternatives that we could use. Then we will explain what we should look at when buying a network switch.
What is a network switch and other alternatives we could use instead
When our router has no more available Ethernet ports, without a doubt, the switch it becomes the ideal option in most occasions. Its installation is very simple, what we must do is connect the router with the switch by network cable. Then we can use the rest of the available LAN ports to connect the new devices that we could not use before.
The switch is characterized because it admits the Full-Duplex communication. Thus, the devices connected to it can send and receive data at the same time which guarantees a faster network. Currently, most are Gigabit Ethernet, although the first multigigabit switches with 2.5G and 5G speeds are already beginning to appear.
An alternative that is no longer used is the hub ethernet. Physically they look a lot like the switch, and we could consider them as their predecessors.
The most economical would be a Ethernet Splitter it is a small device with three Ethernet ports, two on one side and one on the other.
An important drawback to point out is that we can lose speed. Therefore, if we consider that we can buy a Gigabit Ethernet network switch for about € 20 with 5 Ethernet ports, it makes it the best option.
What aspects should we look at when buying a switch
When buying a network switch, one of the fundamental aspects that we must take into account is the speed of the Ethernet ports. At least they should be able to synchronize 1 Gbps, but for the future, if it does not go up much in price or we share many files on our LAN, we could also look at one of 2.5 Gbps, 5 Gbps or 10 Gbps depending on our needs. Nowadays, switches with all 2.5G Multigigabit ports are becoming very affordable, they are cheap and will provide more than twice the performance of typical switches with Gigabit ports.
We must also know if we need Ethernet PoE ports for our switch. Depending on the standard you have, we can provide more power (W) per port and you have to look at the maximum power it can offer. A PoE switch is only recommended if you are going to power a WiFi access point, IP cameras, or other types of devices that have to be powered through the Ethernet network cable. At home, all ports will have the same speed, but if you want something more advanced and professional, it is normal to have 10G uplink ports. Thanks to them, we will be able to interconnect the switches at 10 Gbps speed, and not have a bottleneck in the trunk links.
Another outstanding aspect is that, if we decide to buy a switch de red no gestionable, we will not be able to access its configuration because it does not allow management. If we decide on one of this type (which is the most normal in domestic environments) it is better that has IGMP Snooping, so that the IPTV services work properly and we do not have any problems. Two non-manageable switch models with IGMP Snooping are the D-Link DGS-105 and also the D-Link DGS-108.
Finally, we have the switches gestionable L2 o go switches gestionable L3. The latter are for users who require the necessary characteristics to set up a professional network. Thus, we must check if they support VLAN with the 802.1Q standard, VLAN per port, if they have QoS to limit bandwidth and more.
We recommend you visit our ranking of the best switches where you will find the in-depth analysis of all the unmanageable and manageable switches that we have analyzed in RedesZone, you will be able to see their technical characteristics, what the different models are like, the real performance that we have achieved in the tests, and we will also be able to see the management firmware if we are talking about manageable switches.