In computer networking, an Ethernet switch connects multiple devices, such as computers, servers, or game systems, to a Local Area Network (LAN). Small business and home offices often use such a switch to allow more than one device to share a broadband Internet connection. A gigabit switch operates in the same manner, only at data rates much greater than standard or Fast Ethernet. People can use these switches to quickly transfer data between devices in a network, or to download from the Internet at very high speeds.
Broadband Internet connections to streaming audio and video have increased the demand for faster and more stable transmissions. Gigabit Ethernet transmits at approximately one gigabit per second. That is at speeds nearly 100 times those of Fast Ethernet, which transfers data at approximately 10 megabits per second. The gigabit switch is designed to work at these increased speeds, without signal loss or transfer rate reduction.
Difference Between a Switch and Hub
When shopping for a gigabit switch, it is important to ensure the item purchased truly is a switch and not a hub. An Ethernet switch and a hub are similar in their function, but operate quite differently. The primary feature that sets the switch apart is that each connection to it has its own dedicated bandwidth and does not share lines of transmission with other connected devices; this is called "Full Duplex." This leads to less data collision and faster, more reliable communication speeds compared to hubs that share bandwidth among connected devices.
Functionality With Other Devices
A gigabit switch can be used in conjunction with other network devices. Broadband modems, such as those used with Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) or cable Internet services, have only one wired connection available. Users can install a gigabit switch along with a modem to allow multiple connections, or to create a local network among different devices. Although these switches were initially quite expensive, they have become increasingly available for use in home offices and for entertainment setups.
When setting up a gigabit Ethernet network, users should ensure that all of the components are designed for high gigabit speeds. Using a slower-rated modem can reduce transfer rates, even if the other networking devices, like a computer and gigabit switch, are geared for gigabit speeds. People setting up this type of system should also ensure they have the fastest Internet speeds available from their service providers.
Usually, a Category 6 (CAT6) Ethernet cable is optimal for connecting other network devices or computers to a gigabit switch. Category 5 (CAT5) cables are only rated for Fast Ethernet or 10 megabits per second. People can use some Category 5E (CAT5E) Ethernet cables for connection to a gigabit switch, but they are often less reliable than CAT6 cables.