Routers and hubs and switches, oh my!
It isn’t uncommon for IT techs to use these terms interchangeably – likely because they are all devices that are used to network computers – but the fact of the matter is that the devices, and their function, are quite different.
So what exactly is the difference between routers switches and hubs? And which one is best for your business?
Here’s a closer look:
- Hubs: Compared to routers and switches, hubs are cheap, comparatively not advanced and uncomplicated. Hubs are widely recognized as outdated as switches have overtaken them.
- Routers: In a nutshell, a router is more advanced than a hub or a switch, but it’s also the most complicated. Essentially, routers are devices that are programmed to understand and “route” data that they’re being asked to. It learns its connections and transfers data only to those devices on the network. Routers also perform DHCP, which is a way IP addresses are assigned, and NAT, how a router translates IP addresses of packets. Routers can also act as a firewall to outside threats, a big security benefit. Many of today’s routers are so advanced that they even integrate the features of a switch and a hub, which we’ll get into next…
- Switches: A switch is a more advanced type of hub. Unlike a hub, which blindly passes along information, switches can learn the information that they receive and determine what sources to pass it along to. One big advantage of switches is that they can greatly accelerate traffic on a network because they learn every time data passes through it. These took the place of hubs because of their ability to manage traffic.
As you can see, switches, routers and hubs are all devices that are used to network computers, but their functions greatly differ between devices. What’s best for you? It depends on what type of business you’re running. Hubs are inexpensive ways to connect a small network of computers, while the other two connectivity devices are more advanced – but also more costly up-front.