Posted by: bhalley | 08/23/2010

Networking – Switch vs. Hub Connection

For those want to connect your computers at home to share resources such as files, printers, etc., you may wonder what is the difference between a switch and a hub and which is better to use?  When you understand how the communication works between the two devices you will understand why one works better than the other.

The best way I can relate in terms of technology is with Instant Messaging vs. Chat Rooms.  A switch is a device that directs communication from the sender to the receiver.  No one else plugged in on the switch sees the communication.  A switch functions like instant messaging does in that your message only goes to the intended recipient.  A hub functions like a chat room where a message that is sent goes to everyone plugged in on the hub.   That is the basics of how the devices function.

Even with little or no understanding of technology you can see how a switch would help by directing communication from the sender to the receiver.  But there is another advantage by using a switch.  Think back to the example of the chat room, where a message goes to all connected in the chat room.  Now imagine everyone that is connected sending messages.  The problem comes in when messages are sent at the same time.  This causes what is called a collision.  You can possibly have a collision on a switch if multiple  senders are trying to send a message to the same receiver.  The switch will usually coordinate the traffic to prevent this, however.  A hub will not do this.  Many hubs have a collision light on them to indicate when you have collisions occurring.  The more devices you have communicating on the hub and more traffic passing through and that collision light can become near solid at times.

So which one do you use?  If you are only using a couple of devices, than a hub will function quite well.  But if you have many devices that will be connecting and passing traffic through than a switch is the way to go.  In tomorrow’s post I will talk about network card setup to help with network traffic.

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