Network switches and routers both serve similar purposes on a network and even will perform the exact same functions from time to time. However, there is still a difference between the two.

Choosing either a network switch or network router without understanding the difference between the two can be annoying at best.

However, if you’re a small business then an uninformed decision like this could affect how productive your business is or how efficient your network is.

Keep reading network switches vs routers to find out which one is best for your business.

What Is a Network Switch?

A network switch is similar to a USB hub but for ethernet ports. A network switch connects to a router in order to provide more ethernet ports. Now, most homes don’t have a need for a network switch since nearly everything now comes with wifi capabilities.

However, there are a few instances where a network switch might be a good idea, especially for a small business.

Wired Network Throughout Building

Network switches can be used to provide ethernet ports in the walls of a house or business. This would help to ease the strain on the wireless network by providing convenient ethernet ports located in every room of a business.

Employees who typically work with laptops would also be able to connect via ethernet port with there being one or more in every room. The bigger the building the more network switches may be needed, however, it will still help to ease the load on the wireless network.

Increase The Number of Ethernet Ports

For most homes and small businesses, a simple unmanaged network switch is perfectly suitable. Especially if all that is needed is a few more ethernet ports.

An unmanaged network switch simply provides Ethernet ports without any special features or add-ons. Because of this, they are fairly inexpensive and only one is typically needed.

Managed network switches are used only by large-scale corporations and offer the ability to monitor traffic on individual ports and set up virtual networks on one switch. This is more than a home or small business needs or should invest in.

What Is a Network Router?

A network router connects computers and other devices to each other or a network. Routers connect to two or more networks, typically your local area network (LAN) and your internet service provider’s (ISP) network. 

Routers ensure that data packets arrive at the destination they are intended for. The packets have the destination IP address stored inside which the router can see and use to ensure proper delivery.

Going Wireless

Network routers also have the ability to connect to wireless networks. Network switches can are only for wired connections. This difference between the two devices is where the two begin to complement each other.

One of the benefits of going wireless is the lack of wires. Which also means freedom to move about. It’s not difficult these days to outfit an entire house or even a small business with a wireless network.

However, even the best wireless networks can become bogged down with too many devices connected to it at one time. While a small business with only a handful of employees may not notice a drain in bandwidth, a larger company with a few hundred or even a few dozens will eventually begin to feel the strain on the network.

For these reasons, it’s always best to divide and conquer.

Network Switch vs Routers: Which is Better?

Alright, now time for the real deal, the showdown of the century, the fight to end all fights. Network switch vs Router, which one is right for your company?

Honestly, it comes down to the specific needs and demands of your company. 

Well, ok, maybe there’s more to look at than that.

If your business needs to connect to multiple networks, i.e. an internet service provider or infrastructure as a service (IaaS) provider, then you’ll need a network router.

Now come the nitty gritty down and dirty questions. How many square feet is your workspace? How many employees will be accessing the network at any given time? How much cloud computing do you do? Do you rely on computers to run the majority of your business?

These are all important questions to ask to determine what your next step will be in determining whether to get a network switch or router. 

To Wireless or Not to Wireless

Setting up your business to run solely on a wireless network may seem like a good idea, however, where will it leave you when you begin to grow and expand.

Remember wireless networks get bogged down and can become slow with too many devices connected. But, if you’re going for a more laid-back atmosphere and allow your employees to use laptops and work anywhere in the building, or you need to use wireless handheld devices, then wireless is the best option.

The Ugly Side of Wired

While wired connections offer a more stable and faster connection than wireless does there is a downside to wired network connections. The wires.

That’s right, the more devices you have the more wires you’ll have to clutter up your workspace and those of your employees. Also typically a router only comes with four ethernet ports, which means you’ll need multiple routers if you have more than four employees.

Choosing the Best Option

And the winner of the fight of the century, network switches vs routers, is a tie! They’re both winners!

Meaning, the two shouldn’t be thought of as either or, but rather should be used together to provide the best network solutions for your business.

A router can be used to set up a wireless network for your entire business while simultaneously a network switch can be used to outfit ethernet port jacks into each room of your business. 

This will help to keep the wireless network from being bogged down with too many devices. If you have any questions about your networking needs please contact us today!