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9/26/2016 RoutervsSwitchvsHub:What'stheDifference?

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MainDidYouKnowHardware&Software

TheDifferenceBetweenaRouter,SwitchandHub
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UpdatedSeptember16,2016/PostedNovember17,2006

ByRonPacchiano

RelatedTerms
hub
switchinghub
switch
routerfirmware
IPswitching
router
routingswitch
switchedEthernet
MPLSMultiprotocolLabelSwitching
EventRouter

Sometechnicianshaveatendencytousethetermsrouter,switch
andhubinterchangeably,buthaveyoueverwonderedwhatthe
differenceis?
Sometechnicianshaveatendencytousethetermsrouter,hubandswitchinterchangeably.Oneminute
they'retalkingaboutaswitchanddiscussingroutersettingsthenext.Throughouttheconversation,however,
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9/26/2016 RoutervsSwitchvsHub:What'stheDifference?Webopedia

they'restilllookingatonlyonebox.Haveyoueverwonderedwhatthedifferenceisamongthesedevices?

RoutervsSwitchvsHub:TheDevicesDefined
Thefunctionsofthethreedevicestherouter,switchandhubareallquitedifferentfromoneanother,
evenifattimestheyareallintegratedintoasingledevice.Whichdevicedoyouusewhen?

WhatisaRouter?
Thisdeviceforwardsdatapacketsalongnetworks.Itisconnectedtoatleasttwonetworks,commonly
twoLANsorWANsoraLANanditsISP.snetwork.Routersarelocatedatgateways,theplaceswhere
twoormorenetworksconnect.Routersuseheadersandforwardingtablestodeterminethebestpathfor
forwardingthepackets,andtheyuseprotocolssuchasICMPtocommunicatewitheachotherand
configurethebestroutebetweenanytwohosts.

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WhatisaSwitch?

Innetworks,adevicethatfiltersandforwardspacketsbetweenLANsegments.Switchesoperateatthe
datalinklayer(layer2)andsometimesthenetworklayer(layer3)oftheOSIReferenceModeland
thereforesupportanypacketprotocol.LANsthatuseswitchestojoinsegmentsarecalledswitched
LANsor,inthecaseofEthernetnetworks,switchedEthernetLANs.

Finally,whatisaHub?

Acommonconnectionpointfordevicesinanetwork.Hubsarecommonlyusedtoconnectsegmentsof
aLAN.Ahubcontainsmultipleports.Whenapacketarrivesatoneport,itiscopiedtotheotherports
sothatallsegmentsoftheLANcanseeallpackets.

TheDifferencesBetweenaRouter,SwitchandHubontheNetwork
TodaymostroutershavebecomesomethingofaSwissArmyknife,combiningthefeaturesandfunctionality
ofarouterandswitch/hubintoasingleunit.Soconversationsregardingthesedevicescanbeabitmisleading
especiallytosomeonenewtocomputernetworking.Thefunctionsofarouter,hubandaswitchareall
quitedifferentfromoneanother,evenifattimestheyareallintegratedintoasingledevice.

Let'sstartwiththehubandtheswitchsincethesetwodeviceshavesimilarrolesonthenetwork.

HubvsSwitch:SimilarRoles
Eachservesasacentralconnectionforallofyournetworkequipmentandhandlesadatatypeknownas
frames.Framescarryyourdata.Whenaframeisreceived,itisamplifiedandthentransmittedontotheport
ofthedestinationPC.Thebigdifferencebetweenthesetwodevicesisinthemethodinwhichframesare
beingdelivered.

Inahub,aframeispassedalongor"broadcast"toeveryoneofitsports.Itdoesn'tmatterthattheframeis
onlydestinedforoneport.Thehubhasnowayofdistinguishingwhichportaframeshouldbesentto.
Passingitalongtoeveryportensuresthatitwillreachitsintendeddestination.Thisplacesalotoftrafficon
thenetworkandcanleadtopoornetworkresponsetimes.

Additionally,a10/100Mbpshubmustshareitsbandwidthwitheachandeveryoneofitsports.Sowhenonly
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onePCisbroadcasting,itwillhaveaccesstothemaximumavailablebandwidth.If,however,multiplePCs
arebroadcasting,thenthatbandwidthwillneedtobedividedamongallofthosesystems,whichwilldegrade
performance.

Aswitch,however,keepsarecordoftheMACaddressesofallthedevicesconnectedtoit.Withthis
information,aswitchcanidentifywhichsystemissittingonwhichport.Sowhenaframeisreceived,it
knowsexactlywhichporttosenditto,withoutsignificantlyincreasingnetworkresponsetimes.And,unlike
ahub,a10/100Mbpsswitchwillallocateafull10/100Mbpstoeachofitsports.Soregardlessofthenumber
ofPCstransmitting,userswillalwayshaveaccesstothemaximumamountofbandwidth.It'sforthese
reasonsaswitchisconsideredtobeamuchbetterchoicethanahub.

RoutersareCompletelyDifferentDevices
Routersarecompletelydifferentdevices.Whereahuborswitchisconcernedwithtransmittingframes,a
router'sjob,asitsnameimplies,istoroutepacketstoothernetworksuntilthatpacketultimatelyreachesits
destination.Oneofthekeyfeaturesofapacketisthatitnotonlycontainsdata,butthedestinationaddressof
whereit'sgoing.

Arouteristypicallyconnectedtoatleasttwonetworks,commonlytwoLocalAreaNetworks(LANs)or
WideAreaNetworks(WAN)oraLANanditsISP'snetwork.forexample,yourPCorworkgroupand
EarthLink.Routersarelocatedatgateways,theplaceswheretwoormorenetworksconnect.Usingheaders
andforwardingtables,routersdeterminethebestpathforforwardingthepackets.Routeruseprotocolssuch
asICMPtocommunicatewitheachotherandconfigurethebestroutebetweenanytwohosts.

FeaturesofIntegratedRouters
Today,awidevarietyofservicesareintegratedintomostbroadbandrouters.Arouterwilltypicallyincludea
48portEthernetswitch(orhub)andaNetworkAddressTranslator(NAT).Inaddition,theyusually
includeaDynamicHostConfigurationProtocol(DHCP)server,DomainNameService(DNS)proxyserver
andahardwarefirewalltoprotecttheLANfrommaliciousintrusionfromtheInternet.

AllroutershaveaWANPortthatconnectstoaDSLorcablemodemforbroadbandInternetserviceandthe
integratedswitchallowsuserstoeasilycreateaLAN.ThisallowsallthePCsontheLANtohaveaccessto
theInternetandWindowsfileandprintersharingservices.

RoutersmighthaveasingleWANportandasingleLANportandaredesignedtoconnectanexistingLAN
huborswitchtoaWAN.EthernetswitchesandhubscanbeconnectedtoarouterwithmultiplePCportsto
expandaLAN.Dependingonthecapabilities(kindsofavailableports)oftherouterandtheswitchesor
hubs,theconnectionbetweentherouterandswitches/hubsmayrequireeitherstraightthruorcrossover
(nullmodem)cables.SomeroutersevenhaveUSBports,andmorecommonly,wirelessaccesspointsbuilt
intothem.

Someofthemorehighendorbusinessclassrouterswillalsoincorporateaserialportthatcanbeconnected
toanexternaldialupmodem,whichisusefulasabackupintheeventthattheprimarybroadband
connectiongoesdown,aswellasabuiltinLANprinterserverandprinterport.

BesidestheinherentprotectionfeaturesprovidedbytheNAT,manyrouterswillalsohaveabuiltin,
configurable,hardwarebasedfirewall.Firewallcapabilitiescanrangefromtheverybasictoquite
sophisticateddevices.Amongthecapabilitiesfoundonleadingroutersarethosethatpermitconfiguring
TCP/UDPportsforgames,chatservices,andthelike,ontheLANbehindthefirewall.

So,inshort,ahubgluestogetheranEthernetnetworksegment,aswitchcanconnectmultipleEthernet
segmentsmoreefficientlyandaroutercandothosefunctionsplusrouteTCP/IPpacketsbetweenmultiple
LANsand/orWANsandmuchmoreofcourse.

DidYouKnow...RoutersaretheonlyoneofthesethreedevicesthatwillallowyoutoshareasingleIP

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addressamongmultiplenetworkclients.

RonaldPacchianoisacontributingwriterforSmallBusinessComputing.comandPracticallyNetworked.com,
bothareInternet.comsites..

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