Standard Hubs, Stackable Hubs, Switches and Bridges

Standard Hubs, Stackable Hubs, Switches and Bridges

Standard Hubs
When thinking about what type of Standard Hub you may want to purchase, you need to think about what you will be doing with your network in the near future. Will you be adding many more devices to your network? If so, you need to make sure your hub can handle network expansion.

Standalone Hubs
Standalone hubs are single products with a number of ports. Standalone hubs usually include some method of linking them to other standalone hubs for network expansion. Standalone hubs are usually the least expensive type of hub, and are best suited for small, independent workgroups, departments, or offices, typically with fewer than 12 users per LAN.

Stackable Hubs
Stackable hubs work just like standalone hubs, except that several of them can be “stacked” or connected together with short lengths of special cable. When they are connected together, they act like a modular hub, because they can be managed as a single unit. These hubs are ideal those who want to start with a minimal investment, but realize that the LAN will grow.

Modular Hubs
Modular hubs are popular in networks because they are expandable and usually always have a management option. A modular hub is purchased in the form of a chassis, or card cage, with multiple card slots, each of which accepts a communications card, or module. Each module acts like a standalone hub, and usually has 12 twisted pair ports. Modules supporting different types of network cabling, like coaxial or token ring, can also be purchased.

If you are building a home or small office network, you will probably want to purchase a standalone or stackable hub. For a medium to large sized company, a Modular hub will probably fit your needs more efficiently.

Without a switch installed, a network can get bogged down quickly as traffic rises. Traffic jams happen because data is forced to wander the entire network in search of its destination.

A switch corrects traffic jam problems by ensuring that data goes straight from its origin to its proper destination, with no wandering in-between. Switches remember the address of every computer on the network, and anticipate where data needs to go. Nodes connected to a switch can expect an immediate 40%-60% increase in performance.

A switch can also connect networks of different speeds together. A 100Mbps network, for example, could be connected to a slower 10Mbps network by inserting a switch between the two networks. In this way, switches are used for migrating to faster network speeds without having to discard older legacy network hardware.

Should I Use a Switch?
If you do more than simple file and printer sharing, you should definitely consider a switch. Switch prices have dropped dramatically since the close of 1998, and many are priced only slightly higher than regular hubs. Since most hubs can’t offer the performance benefits of switching, buying a switch is a smart move for any network, even if you have only a few users. In short, if your network needs maximum bandwidth and speedy performance, buy switches instead of hubs.

In the picture above, the switch ties a file server, a high-powered PC, a print server, and a hub together for maximum bandwidth. The switch gives the hub (and hence, the workgroup connected to it) extremely fast access to the print server and file server. Access could be improved even more if the hub was replaced with another switch. In short, if your network needs maximum bandwidth and speedy performance, buy switches instead of hubs.

What kind of Switches are available?
We carry a full line of switches from top manufacturers such as Cisco, 3COM, Linksys, SMC and many others. These manufacturers provide an array of high-powered performers that are built to run with 10BaseT or 100BaseTX networks, or both. Drop one in place to speed things up, or just use a switch to connect a 10Mbps network to a faster 100Mbps LAN.

We have switches available in 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 16, and 24-port models for desktop and/or rack mounting use. Choose a desktop switch for home, small office, or departmental use where speed increases are needed. Rack mountable switches are best for wiring closets and enterprise deployment where Internet, LAN, and internetworking connections need all of the speed they can get!

Bridges, Routers, and Switches in Sync
Bridges and routers are devices used for linking different LANs or LAN segments together. There are many companies that have LANs at various offices across the world. Routers were originally developed to allow connection of remote LANs across a wide area network (WAN). Bridges can also be used for this purpose. By setting up routers or bridges on two different LANs and connecting them together, a user on one LAN can access resources on the other LAN as if all computers were on the local LAN.

Sample Network Layout With a LAN Switch, Courtesy of Bay Networks

There are maximums on distances between workstations and hubs, hubs and hubs, and stations connected to a single LAN. You can exceed these maximums by linking two LAN segments (groups of users/devices) together using a Bridge or Router.

Closing Notes…

Bridges are simpler and less expensive then routers. Bridges make a simple do/don’t decision on which packets to send across two segments they connect. Filtering is done based on the destination address of the packet. If a packet’s destination is a station on the same segment where it originated, it is not forwarded. If it is destined for a station on another LAN, it is connected to a different bridge port and forwarded to that port.

Routers are more complex and more expensive than bridges. They use information within each packet to route it from one LAN to another, and communicate with each other and share information that allows them to determine the best route through a complex network of many LANs.

Switches are another type of device used to link several LANs and route packets between them. A switch has multiple ports, each of which can support either a single station or an entire Ethernet or Token Ring LAN. With a different LAN connected to each of the ports, it can switch packets between LANs as needed.

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