While it has become easy to set up a home or office network, you still have to make some choices regarding privacy and features. Probably most importantly, you should choose between an Ethernet switch vs hub.
It can be a little confusing if you are new to the world of computer networking. But you do not have to worry; we have discussed which is the best network among Ethernet switches and hubs.
How to Choose Between Ethernet Switch vs. Hub
You should choose an Ethernet switch when you need maximum control over the network, with the ability to send different information to different devices. On the contrary, an Ethernet hub is an inexpensive option when you need to establish a simple network for data transfer and network monitoring.
What Is An Ethernet Hub?
An Ethernet hub, also known as a network hub, is a networking device that lets you create a central network between multiple devices. It has been designed to receive data from a device and forward it to all the other devices connected to the network. Therefore, Ethernet hubs have become the popular choice for expanding the number of LAN ports on a network.
Even though it enables seamless communication within a network, there is a set of pros and cons you must know about.
Advantages of Ethernet Hub
- Great for A Simple, Central Connection
Even though Ethernet hubs are often called ‘dumb,’ they make the best choice when you need a simple yet central connection between multiple devices in a network. For instance, you can quickly pick up an Ethernet hub and set up your home network without any delay. You do not have to worry about a tough setup process, either.
- Dirt-Cheap in Most Cases
You should also keep in mind that Ethernet hubs are as inexpensive as they come. So, when you have a tight budget for your home or office network, you can pick up an Ethernet hub. Once again, recurring costs are non-existent in this scenario. Unless you want the hub to do some heavy lifting, it should easily last for a few years.
- Best-suited for Monitoring
There are instances when you want to create a network for traffic monitoring. It should be done in such a way that the clients should not be able to see the data they receive or send. In this scenario, it is best to use an Ethernet hub because the client would not have control over the data it will receive. The inherent lack of privacy with the Ethernet hub will make sure that masking is impossible.
Disadvantages of Ethernet Hub
- It Lacks Intelligence for Device Differentiation
An Ethernet hub is a Layer 1 device, meaning that it operates on the physical layer. While it has control over mechanical and electrical interfaces, advanced customization is impossible. More importantly, an Ethernet hub cannot tell the differences between two MAC addresses. You also do not get control over which devices on the network will receive data.
- Limited Privacy within the Network
Because of the hardware limitations mentioned above, an Ethernet hub does not offer a lot of privacy within the network. As we said earlier, the hub will send the data it receives to all the devices in the network. So, from a privacy point of view, it is not the most secure option. It should also be kept in mind that there is no way to manage the different addresses of devices within the network.
What Is An Ethernet Switch?
An Ethernet switch, on the other hand, is a data processing device because it operates on layer 2, which is also known as the data-link layer. It means the device is smart enough to understand where to send the data it receives, instead of repeating the information to all the connected devices. It can make use of MAC addresses and even an address table to control these things more effectively.
Therefore, the characteristics of an Ethernet switch, which is also known as a network switch, enable it to be used when advanced network control and quality control are necessary.
Advantages of Ethernet Switch
- Managed and Unmanaged Options to Pick From
Unlike the case of Ethernet hubs, you can choose between a wider variety of Ethernet switch options. The first option would be manageable switches with built-in options for IP address management. Then you get unmanageable switches which are a little difficult to configure. You can also get advanced switches. While these are not as expensive as managed switches, you can easily manage the network.
- Increased Safety and Privacy
As we said earlier, since Ethernet switches operate on the data link layer, you have MAC address control regardless of the model that you go for. Even if you go for an unmanaged switch, that device will be able to understand different devices on the network and route the information to specific devices. It is also great that it can work on layer 3, which comes with additional options for packet forwarding and routing.
- Enhanced Connectivity
Compared to Ethernet hubs, Ethernet switches come with a considerably higher number of ports. It means the device is capable of managing multiple devices without major interferences in the process. You can also configure these devices as multi-port networking bridges because of their advanced data routing capabilities. So when you want to create a complex LAN for your workspace, you should go with an Ethernet switch.
- Overall Effectiveness
It should also be mentioned that Ethernet hubs have almost become obsolete, and Ethernet switches are considered the more effective option in the market. Of course, you will have to shell out a better amount of money, but then the features you get are worth it. For instance, when you want to include certain network control features in the future, you can utilize the necessary software support of the switch.
Disadvantages of Ethernet Switch
- A Little More Expensive
As we mentioned earlier, you have to shell out an increased amount of money to grab an Ethernet switch. The amount is higher than what an Ethernet hub would cost. But it cannot be called a natural disadvantage because you get some features like privacy and security. So, the price-to-value proposition of these devices is pretty great.
Network Hub vs. Switch: Which Is the Best Network Device?
Choosing between Ethernet switch vs hub is mostly about the features that you are looking for. As we said earlier, Ethernet hubs used to be an inexpensive option, but you can easily find affordable network switches these days. So the final call should be made based on what you need from this network management device.
For instance, if you simply need a way to repeat information and establish a standard connection within your devices, you should go for a network hub. Compared to the other option, setting up a network hub and maintaining it is fairly easy, and you don’t need technical expertise to do it. And unless you use the network for very resource-intensive tasks, you don’t have to worry about compatibility either.
On the other hand, if you need the control and privacy options of advanced network management, you should go for an Ethernet switch. Even though they can be a little expensive, you get a full package of software support that you can use for the long term. Because these devices come with a huge number of ports, you can easily expand your network whenever required.
How I Chose the Switch/Hub for My Home Network
I had also come across this confusion of Ethernet switch versus hub when I wanted to set up my home network. The confusion was basically because I wanted a network that was powerful but simple to manage.
Even though I considered going for an Ethernet hub in the first place because of its simplicity, I ultimately settled with an Ethernet switch. Of course, I had to spend some time setting this up and getting accustomed to the software support, but it was all worth it as I understood after a couple of months.
When I wanted to expand the network and add a few network-assisted storage options to the network, the switch made it incredibly easier and because I was using a managed network switch, there isn’t much to worry about interference or manual routing.
So, unless you are very strict about what you can spend on this network device, I would recommend that you go for an Ethernet switch instead of an Ethernet hub.
- Which is safer: Hub or Switch?
From a safety point of view, an Ethernet switch is a safer network device. As we mentioned in the article, network switches come with advanced options for privacy control, MAC address control, and a couple of other software-centric features. All these features work on top of the fact that a network switch does not simply repeat the information it receives. Instead, it can decide which the destination devices are.
- Can we replace the hub with the switch?
Yes, you can replace the hub with the switch. However, you will have to choose an easy-to-manage network switch that makes things easier. Even when the switch is capable of offering advanced network control, you can disable all these features and establish a simple network for the devices that you have at your home or office.
We hope this guide made it easier for you to choose between an Ethernet switch and an Ethernet hub. We have spoken in light of our experience with networking equipment, and we believe this personal touch will help you relate to the requirements that you currently have.