Most home networks are configured with a single router to provide Internet access and one Wi-Fi hotspot. But what if you need more Ethernet ports? An Ethernet switch can help. Whether you’re a technology pro or a novice, this quick guide will explain what an Ethernet switch is and when you might want to use one.
What is an ethernet switch?
An Ethernet switch is a device that lets you connect multiple computers, printers, NAS drives, and other devices to your router. While you can use a WiFi signal for this, ethernet cables offer a more stable connection. Routers have a limited amount of ports. Ethernet switches add more ports and allow you to add more devices to the router and the Internet.
It’s the same as a hub, which is less expensive than a switch. Switches are a more efficient way of connecting devices to a router. If you have multiple computers on your network and one of them is downloading a large file (or you’re streaming TV), the other computers may slow down because there’s not enough bandwidth to go around.
An Ethernet switch lets you control how the bandwidth is distributed, so you can prioritize one computer’s activities over others.
Will an ethernet switch slow my connection?
If you connect a computer directly to your router, that computer will have direct access to the Internet. But if you connect a computer to an Ethernet switch, then data from the computer will have to go through the switch to get to the router and the Internet.
Theoretically, this can result in a slower connection. However, unless you’re using an older switch or downloading/uploading a lot of data, the slowdown will be negligible.
The real advantage of using an Ethernet switch is that it makes your network more efficient. You can connect more devices to your network, and they won’t slow each other down.
You can also prioritize certain devices to make sure they have enough bandwidth, while others are less affected by network congestion. This can slow the Internet down on some devices. For this reason, it is important that you check the settings of your ethernet switch if you notice that the internet on some devices is slowing down after installing one.
It is possible to run speed tests on each device to see if they all get the same Internet speed after you have added the ethernet switch.
You can often see the capacity of the ethernet switch on the product page. If you have Fiber Internet (Fiber to the home), make sure that your ethernet switch supports this. Your Internet might slow down if you don’t get the right ethernet switch for this connection. Not a lot of people have a fiber connection at the moment so some of the ethernet switches are slower.
Having some additional ports is always nice as you never know when you want to add another device such as a printer or game console.
Can you chain ethernet switches?
You can chain Ethernet switches, but it’s not recommended. The whole point of using a switch is to prioritize data.
It is better to get a bigger switch instead of multiple switches that are connected. Especially if you have different brands of ethernet switches, your network can slow down or might stop working. Keep things simple and get one big ethernet switch instead.
Ethernet switches use a lot of software to make sure that everything works properly. If you connect multiple switches, this software can contradict. Check the manual of your ethernet switches before you start connecting them.
There are more advanced ethernet switches for professional use. These are more advanced and require software to configure them properly. Most people don’t need this for a home network. If you need a really complex system, it can be a good idea to hire a network engineer. This person can map everything out and find the best way to connect all the devices to the Internet.
Each Ethernet switch that you add is another failure point that can slow your Internet down or even disturb your local network. For this reason, it is important that you avoid adding switches that are not really needed.
If you have multiple computers and devices on your home network, an Ethernet switch is a good investment. It will make your network more efficient and help prevent unnecessary delays when you’re transferring large files.
In most cases, a network switch won’t slow the Internet down. These are advanced devices that can manage a lot of Internet traffic. If you start to download or upload a lot of files at the same time, the Internet might start to slow down. You can upgrade the Internet bundle that you get from your Internet provider as this is often the bottleneck.
Most home networks don’t need a switch as a router and a WiFi modem will often e enough. If you plan to watch a lot of videos, have videocalls or play computer games, you can consider adding a switch to make it easier to add wired connections. Switches should generally not slow down your Internet speed.
Just make sure that you stick to the big brands (such as Cisco) as these have advanced software that makes sure that you can have the best Internet experience. These brands have advanced dashboards to make managing your switch easy. Just be careful that you don’t change too many settings as this can affect your network.
A good switch starts around 100 USD but can go up to several thousand dollars for more advanced systems.
Switches can last several years so once you have installed one, it is often not necessary to pay a lot of attention to it. They get software updates automatically.