Do You Lose Speed with an Ethernet Switch?

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Introduction

Is a network switch responsible for your slow internet connection? We get a significant number of reader inquiries about network hardware, particularly if a network switch is to blame for home network problems — mainly problems with connection speed and stability. Given the skepticism that so many people appear to have towards the poor network switch, it is rarely the root of network issues.

Let’s look at some of the reasons which might be causing loss of speed with an Ethernet Switch.

  • You Might Be Using an Old Switch

Ethernet connection speeds depend on cabling reliability and network hardware capabilities. Some very old switches are capable of only 10 Mbit / s. Switches installed in the mid-1990s are capable of 100 Mbit / s, and new switches are capable of 1000 Mbit / s (or “gigabit” speeds). So if your link is weak, somewhere in the chain you may have an older, slower piece of hardware. Check the model number of your switch and the cables you use (the sort, Cat5/5e/6 will be printed right on the sheathing of the cable).

While 100 Mbit / s is still fast enough for most broadband connections despite being an older standard, your broadband connection might want a shiny new fiber connection. In this scenario, you don’t want to hamper your throughput with an old switch. If your internet connection is slower than 100 Mbit / s, you will want to update (and possibly cable) your hardware to take full advantage of it.

  • Failing Hardware

Talking of old hardware, even with quality equipment, failures occur. While sometimes hardware fails catastrophically (the power transformer gives up the ghost, a piece on the circuit board is popping up and releasing all the smoke, etc.) other times network hardware dies a slow death that is nothing but a prolonged whimper. Network switches can do the same. So exclude the network switch from the equation when in doubt to see if it is to blame for faulty equipment.

  • Overburdened Network

Several machines and more people accessing those machines means that the precious bandwidth is being divided. Unfortunately, the tube is just not wide enough with everyone watching videos at the same time. Instead of the switch, it is the devices that are connected to the switch which are at fault.

Do You Lose Speed with an Ethernet Switch? 1

Do Multiple Switches Slow Down Network?

The additional system may introduce some minor latency (if it is only very minor, after all processing is needed). Latency, however, is not the same as the performance. Most switches have a connection that allows you to convert several separate units into one giant switch. That makes it much easier to handle. The switches you buy are sure to have this feature. Any additional switching phase is an extra lag. It’s still processing, no matter how fast your core is.

This being said, you won’t notice it at just 2 GB a day, and I’m sure there aren’t 300 port switches. It would be a very different story if you were using hubs. Switches just transmit packets labeled on the IP address packet. Hubs bounce packets around each device, so accepting or refusing is up to the machine. You should look to make your data storage as efficient as possible if you are really concerned about speed. If it has only one gigabit link, then you will always be constrained.

Do You Lose Speed with an Ethernet Switch? 2

Does an Ethernet Switch Slow Down Wi-Fi?

If your computer is plugged directly into your router, or if you are lucky enough to have Ethernet cabling all throughout your house, the cabling should be checked. While electrical cabling may last 50 years or more, network cabling has undergone several major upgrades affecting the speed with which data can be transmitted.

Looking at the cable is the best way to check. Somewhere you should see a Cat number specification:

  • Cat-5 is still in use as the oldest and slowest network cable. The bandwidth is limited to 100 Mbps.
  • Cat-5e is currently the most frequently used network cable; it supports Gigabit Ethernet (1,000 Mbps).
  • Cat-6/6a is the fastest common-use network cable and supports up to 10 Gigabit (10,000 Mbs).

If you use Cat-5 cable on your computers, your Ethernet cable can slow down your Wi-Fi. Network cables can be very fragile as well. Use a cable tester to ensure that the other end is still attached to each of the eight wires inside the cable. Replace any defective or broken Cat-5 cable that you find with certified Cat-5e or Cat-6 cables.

Does a switch split bandwidth?

Ethernet, token ring and FDDI (Fiber Distributed Data Interface) use shared media. Most of the times, the Ethernet is bridged or routed. Because of shared access, a 100 Mbps Ethernet will have to distribute the bandwidth over a number of users. Nevertheless, one can link each port directly with a switched network so that bandwidth is only shared between a number of users in a working group (connected to the ports). Reduced media sharing leads to the availability of more bandwidth. Multiple connections can be maintained by switches at one point.

Conclusion

Switching offers an opportunity to solve the current problems for starved networks with bandwidth and keep us ready for future technologies. It promises higher performance, scalability and better handling. Switching is available in the ring of Ethernet, FDDI and token and can be used to boost performance.

Because the underlying technology is the same, there is no need for new software, all of which will make migration cheaper and easier with minimal training needs. Until deciding on which software to use, one must do a thorough analysis of the network.

When selecting a switch, the features that will offer substantial benefits such as RMON, mirror ports, varied uplink support, and cost-effective costs must be stressed. Nonetheless, one has to know that LAN switching is a quick fix solution. Current bandwidth issues can be alleviated/eliminated, but in the long run new solutions such as ATM must be considered.

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