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Thread: Switch vs. Router (simple question)

  1. #1
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    Hi,

    Could someone tell me what exactly the difference is between a gateway/router, and a network switch? I own a Netgear router, but my intention with the purchase was to simply share a DSL connection betweeen multiple machines,

    I have notices routers, and switches are similarely priced. What are the advantages/disadvantages of either?

    Thanks for your time.

  2. #2
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    These are copied from somewhere...

    Router:
    "Definition: A router is a physical device that joins multiple networks together. Technically, a router is a Layer 3 gateway, meaning that it connects networks (as gateways do), and that it operates at the network layer of the OSI model.

    The home networker typically uses an Internet Protocol (IP) router, IP being the most common OSI network layer protocol. An IP router such as a DSL or cable modem router joins the home's local area network (LAN) to the wide-area network (WAN) of the Internet. By maintaining configuration information in a piece of storage called the "routing table," routers also have the ability to filter traffic, either incoming or outgoing, based on the IP addresses of senders and receivers. Some routers allow the home networker to update the routing table from a Web browser interface.

    DSL and cable modem routers typically combine the functions of a router with those of a switch in a single unit."

    Switch:
    "Definition: A switch is a small device that joins multiple computers together at a low-level network protocol layer. Technically, switches operate at layer two (Data Link Layer) of the OSI model.

    Switches look nearly identical to hubs, but a switch generally contains more "intelligence" (and a slightly higher price tag) than a hub. Unlike hubs, switches are capable of inspecting the data packets as they are received, determining the source and destination device of that packet, and forwarding that packet appropriately. By delivering messages only to the connected device that it was intended for, switches conserve network bandwidth and offer generally better performance than hubs.

    Like hubs, switches primarily are available for Ethernet, come in a range of port configurations starting with the four- and five-port models, and support 10 Mbps Ethernet, 100 Mbps Ethernet, or both."

  3. #3
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    Nice detail Jaypee.

    In the simplest terms, a router is a switch with a modem built in.

    If you need to share a broadband connection between computers, and setup a network between computers, you need a router. Besides sharing your broadband connection, a router can also provide you with some internet security, with both a firewall and NATing.

    If you just need to setup a network of computers you need a switch (either you don't want all the machines on the internet, or perhaps you are already connected...like a router already exists in the network, and you just need to add more computers than the router has ports).

    As Jaypee pointed out, you can use a hub instead of a switch, but switches are better, and not much more expensive (they used to be at least double the cost of a hub just a couple years ago), so forget about hubs if you are buying new equipment.

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    [This message was edited by unclemac on Sat August 09, 2003 PT at 0:11.]

  4. #4
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    Thanks guys,

    That clears things up.

    Does the firewall in a router act in a similar way to say... OS X's built in firewall?

    How do they differ?

    Thanks again.

  5. #5
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    Basically, yes, in that you can set which ports you want open and closed. The most improtant difference is that a firewall on one computer only protects the computer itself, while a firewall at the router protects everything behind it.

    Next, you might ask: "which ports should I open, and which should I close?" Probably entire books written on that (and I haven't read em!)

    If (when) you get to that point, I am sure a real network Guru can give you some pointers, or better yet point you to some comprehensive info on the web.

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