Have you ever wondered how the vast network of the Internet, connecting billions of computers worldwide, manages to be orderly, without steeping into chaos? All credits to networking engineers and scientists who cleverly designed this network to be automated and established protocols for communication between machines, which made this possible.
Besides the hardware constructs, what makes disciplined data traffic possible, are the networking devices. It is through devices like Ethernet hubs, switches, and routers, that unhindered data traffic is made possible.
What is the Difference Between an Ethernet Hub and Switch?
An Ethernet hub connects computers in a network segment together and facilitates data transfer within the network.
When a hub receives a data packet, it transmits the packet to all the devices or computers that are connected to it. Only the computer or device, which was supposed to receive the packet, accepts it. The whole connected network is half duplex, as any device cannot transmit and receive at the same time.
There is no selectivity in the destination for the data packet, in a hub. They are simply broadcasters or repeaters of the data, which they receive. Ethernet hubs are operational at the first layer (physical layer) in the OSI model.
A switch is a more evolved version of a hub. They are mainly operational at the networking layer (Layer 3) of the OSI model. However, they can function at multiple layers too.
Instead of transmitting data packets to every device on a network, these are smarter devices that directly link the nodes that are sharing the data. This means that simultaneous data transfer between multiple nodes is possible.
Hubs can make a computer network sluggish because of the half duplex transmission and the extra load of data transmitted to multiple devices. More the data traffic between the nodes in a network, slower the transmission becomes. However, a switch carries out data transmission faster as it directly hooks up the nodes that are part of the network.
This makes simultaneous data transfer possible, between multiple nodes; achieving high transmission speed and less of lag. Hence, switches are used to manage data traffic on networks, which are high in complexity. Among an Ethernet hub and a switch of the same bandwidth, the latter offers faster data transmission. Hubs cost considerably lesser.
Both Ethernet hubs and switches make intra-network traffic possible, but they differ in the sense that both are at different positions in the technological evolution tree.
As mentioned earlier, a switch is an improvement over a hub and it reduces data transfer time, while making optimum use of bandwidth. For small networks, it is often an overkill and hubs are preferred. However, for large networks, there is no alternative to using network switches.