You pay good money for your speedy broadband connection, and it would be a shame if a poor hardware choice was hampering your network. Are network switches to blame for your slow connection?
We get a not-insignificant number of reader inquiries about network hardware, especially concerns over whether or not a network switch is to blame for home network problems—primarily issues with connection speed and stability. Despite the suspicion that so many people seem intent on casting towards the poor network switch, it’s very rarely the source of network problems.
Like all statements regarding technology, however, there’s always and exception or two. Let’s take a moment to rule out any of the problems you might have with a network switch that could actually impact your network speed.
Your Switch Is Actually a Hub
Hands down, with very few exceptions, when we’re helping someone troubleshoot performance performance problems after installing a switch, the switch is….well, not a switch at all.
You can read more about the difference between switches and hubs here, but here’s the gist. A hub and a switch look physically similar: they have X number of ports (typically in multiples of 4 like 4, 8, 16, 24, and so on) with one reserved for use as an input or a totally separate port labeled “uplink”. Despite their nearly identical appearance, however, the guts of the two pieces of network hardware are quite different.
A hub is a “dumb” device in that it broadcasts whatever it hears on the input port to all the output ports. This leads to collisions between data packets and a general degrading of network quality. If you have a hub set up between your router and the rest of your network, you’re setting yourself up for a huge headache.
A switch, on the other hand, is much smarter. It actively manages the connections between the input port and the output ports, so you won’t run into the collision problem or any of the other issues that plague hubs.
If you purchased the device in question within the last few years, the chance is…