What Is a Network Switch and Do You Need One?

A network switch is a box sized device that can be connected to the home router to increase Ethernet ports. It functions as a USB hub but is used for networking. Due to most home routers having inbuilt three to four ethernet ports as wells the use of Wi-Fi for devices on the home network, network switches are seldom required. But, in the cases that the router doesn’t have enough ethernet ports, if there are a lot of wired devices in one place, if wiring is required to improve speeds and to cut down on wireless interference, or if you’re installing Ethernet ports in your home’s walls, then the network switches are really useful.

Following are the Uses of Network Switch 

Adding More Ethernet ports

To add more ethernet ports in homes and small businesses, an unmanaged switch, that is, a switch that itself has no settings or special features but exists only to add more Ethernet ports to your network. The switch is efficiently invisible as it allows the router to continue handling the Internet connection, lets devices talk to one another and restricts the functions of certain devices through parental controls or other settings. In contrast, a managed switch is used for adding more ethernet ports in large corporate networks. The switch allows monitoring of traffic on individual ports as well as setting up virtual networks (VLANs) using the same switch.

Unmanaged switches are pretty simple, and almost all models from different manufacturers perform the same. Find a Gigabit Ethernet switch with the required number of ports from a reputable networking company like D-Link, Netgear, TP-Link, or TrendNet. While searching your options make sure the owner reviews are good and buy that one. A good five-port switch should cost $20 or less, while an eight-port switch should cost no more than $30.

Adding Ethernet all over the house

To add Ethernet all over the house, use a good mesh-networking kit as it saves money as well as the trouble of needing to run Ethernet cabling through the walls of the house. Tapping Ethernet cables in walls has become less tempting and less essential as Wi-Fi has enhanced, and it might not even be a choice for people who rent their apartment or home. But if the requirement is of fast, lag-free connections in every room of the house on a daily basis, then there is no good substitute for wired Ethernet.

Choose the number of rooms that need to be wired up and the number of ethernet jacks required in each room, and then buy a switch with at least that many ports. Get a few more ports than calculated – for possibilities in the future such as – wiring up a left-out room later or if a port on the switch dies over the course of its life. A 16-port unmanaged switch should cost about $50 or $60, while a 24-port unmanaged naturally costs between $70 and $90.

Here are a few detailed things to look out for while wiring the walls of the house

  • Pick a place for the switch

This spot should be out of sight and yet easy to access for setup and troubleshooting. It should also be easy to run cables to and from it and must be less than the maximum length over which most Ethernet cables will reliably work, that is, 100 meters from the farthest room that is to be wired.

  • Enable Cabling

Lots of different variety of cabling is available based on use and features required, shielding from electromagnetic interference and the kind of coating on it. A category 6 or Cat 6 cabling has all the benefits of high speed, low price, and future-proofness and can carry a 1-gigabit Ethernet signal for up to 100 meters and a 10-gigabit signal for up to 55 meters.

A “riser” or CMR cable is designed to be used vertically in walls to prevent fire from spreading from floor to floor in your home, while a “Plenum” or CMP cable is for horizontal runs and is more expensive but designed to stop fire from spreading more than 5 feet along the cable in any direction. A 1,000-foot roll of CMR cable costs about $90, while the same amount of CMP cable costs about $200.

  • Cut some cables

Use Ethernet plugs and strain-relief boots to plug the cables into the switch after you’ve cut them off with a wire stripper and a crimping tool.

  • Put up Wall Jacks

Purchase and use wall plates and mounting brackets for all the rooms that are to be wired up. Also, buy as many Ethernet keystone jacks as required for the whole process, so that they fit into the plate and use it to plug your computer or game console’s Ethernet cable into.
Improving the Wi-Fi with Wires:

A decent wired network will improve your Wi-Fi performance by decreasing the number of devices competing for the same wireless bandwidth. But, this might not work well for large houses. So, to wire up an especially large house or to improve wireless performance, even more, Wi-Fi access points such as the Ubiquiti UniFi series can be used.

They can talk to one another over your home’s Ethernet wiring to make sure your devices connect to that particular access point out of all that will provide the best speeds and consistently distribute the complete network’s load to surge up the throughput and lower latency. Though these devices trade the existing Wi-Fi, but still, the best router is required. So, either the current router’s Wi-Fi can be turned off, or it can be continued to be used as a wired router, or it can be replaced it with a wired-only router.

If you plan to continue with the last approach, that is, to replace the current router with a wired only router then, a switch that supports Power over Ethernet (PoE) is required. This feature eliminates the necessity for distinct power convertors on those access points, giving the setup a neater and simpler look. To set this up, connect the Wi-Fi access points to the PoE ports on the switch, such that they receive both power and data over a single cable. Otherwise, a PoE injector adapter can be bought and used to add PoE to any switch, which is, in fact, cheaper, but this will give a messier look to the networking closet.

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