Do I need a switch or router?

Discussion in 'Mac OS X Server, Xserve, and Networking' started by macstatic, Jul 26, 2012.

  1. macrumors 6502a

    Oct 21, 2005
    I've been struggling with a cheap router for a while and I think it's time for an upgrade to something which functions more reliably and faster.

    The confusion however is if I need a router or a switch and its speed capabilities. My setup consists of two Macs (soon 3), a networked printer and an IP-phone. All of this is connected to a cable-modem. My provider's download speed is 12 Mbps.

    My current router is rated 10/100. Not sure if that means it can't handle anything above 10 Mbps, but it seems people are talking about Megabit routers these days, whatever that means. In any case I saw a huge difference in speed when connecting one of the Macs directly to the cable-modem compared to through the router. Not sure if that's because several devices are connected at once, but I doubt it as it's slow even if just one computer is turned on.

    In addition to connecting to the Internet I also occasionaly transfer files between the computers, and each computer accesses the networked printer. All while the IP-phone adapter is on all the time of course. So what do I need -a router or a hub?
  2. macrumors 6502

    Jun 22, 2012
    You need a router. You plug the Ethernet cables into the router, and one Ethernet cable from the router to the cable modem. I'm a Linksys fan, but you could go with Apple's.

    The best type to get is a 5 GHz SIMULTANEOUS dual-band. The simultaneous part is very important if you want the fastest speed, for network time machine backup, for example.
  3. macrumors 6502

    Feb 15, 2009
    I would highly recommend the Apple Airport Extreme Base Station.
  4. macrumors newbie

    Jul 26, 2012
    I would use a router and a switch. Typically a router will have one port on the internet side, and 4 ports on LAN side. (At least if you have a Linksys or other equivalent brand.) The purpose of the switch is increase the number of ports on the LAN (for example a 8 port switch). For example this is what I use.

    Attached Files:

  5. macrumors 68000


    May 25, 2010
    Ohio, USA
    I have an airport extreme and adore it. It is fast, offers great range, and very reliable. I can't punish this thing enough to lock it up, whereas my old linksys and netgear routers barfed under heavy load.

    If you must use a non apple router, d-link has gotten much better, and anything that can run one of the offshoots of tomato firmware will be stable. If you want to save money and are okay with going almost completely wireless, the new apple airport expresses are pretty nice.
  6. macrumors regular

    Jul 12, 2011
    Number one, don't think about hubs, they were a long time ago. Focus only on switches and routers.

    What are the current problems you are having exactly, that will help us understand the real culprit.
  7. thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Oct 21, 2005
    I've posted about my router here before but just haven't gotten round to buying a new one.
    Now and then something hangs up -could be the router, the IP-phone adapter or the cable modem. So I try to reset the router, first by turning it off, then on again, and if that doesn't work I press the reset button. Sometimes, if none of the above works I have to do strange things like reconnecting the cables so that instead of plugging the ethernet cable from the cable-modem to the "input" of the router I plug it into one of the 4 "output" ports instead. Next time I get a hangup I might have to rewire it again :mad:
    Bottom line is that when things like this happen and I try to connect a computer directly to the cable-modem I do indeed get to go online, and a lot faster than what I'm used to with the router (I suspect this has something to do with the router's 10/100 speed though I'm really just guessing here).

    In addition to the above problems I'm soon running out of ports (the router has 4 ports).
    I forgot to mention that I'm looking for a cabled router or switch, not a wireless one. Seems hard to find anything which isn't wireless these days though...
  8. macrumors 6502

    Jun 22, 2012
    Yes, if you need more Ethernet ports than the router provides, attach an Ethernet switch to the router. With the popularity of wifi, most people don't have this issue anymore.
  9. dyn
    macrumors 68000

    Aug 8, 2009
    I'd second that but I'd add: go for the router first. If it doesn't have enough ports or wifi isn't that good than buy an additional switch and connect it to the router. This way you save a bit of money too.
    You can also play around with where you put the switch. You can leave the router in one room and put the switch in another. Sometimes this is better than having to route all the wires to 1 place.
  10. macstatic, Jul 30, 2012
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2012

    thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Oct 21, 2005
    I've read that routers are for situations with different devices while switches are used for connecting several of the same devices to the Internet. I assume that means you need a router if you want to connect for instance a computer, a networking printer, a VOIP phone adapter, a streaming video device, an Internet radio box etc. all together to the same Internet connection.
    And for connecting, say, only several computers to the Internet you only need a hub. Is this correct?

    johnmacward: I'm trying to troubleshoot my existing router and am starting to wonder if the cables might be to blame. As far as I remember, RJ-45 ethernet cables come in two flavors: straight or crossed. Could this be the cause? (I'm not sure what I have, but I could get my meter out and check).
    Here's what happens (I used two IP widgets, one for checking the Ethernet IP and the other for the WAN IP):

    1) cable modem -> computer = OK!
    (WAN and computer's LAN address is the same; a WAN IP address)

    2) cable modem -> router LAN, router WAN -> computer = FAIL
    (WAN address is unavailable ("no connection") even though the router's "WAN" LED lights up when the cable from the modem is inserted into the router's WAN port, and the LED extinguishes when disconnected). The LAN address is available and is local). I've tried several different cables between the modem and router WAN port to no avail. The same cables work just fine when connected between the router's LAN ports and the computer. And since the "WAN" LED lights up/extinguishes on the router when connected from the cable modem I'm assuming that the WAN connector/connection points on the router's circuit board is OK as well.

    3) cable modem -> router WAN, another router WAN -> computer = OK!
    (WAN and computer's LAN address is the same; a WAN IP address). Note: I might have to reset the router after rewiring to this configuration first, or I won't get a WAN IP address on the computer.

    So for now it works again, but with an "incorrect" connection setup as far as I know. What's strange is that I've had problems in the past where I haven't been able to get online/the IP-phone has been down and I've had to re-configure my connection, alternating between setups 2 and 3 above, or if only the phone has been down: plug the cable from the router into the IP-phone adapter's "Ethernet" port instead of its "Internet" port. Does this sound like a defective router? Or does this kind of alternating set of problems occur with the wrong type of ethernet cables? Which ones should I use?
    The router's manual only says "Cat.5 UTP RJ-45 cable". No mention of straight or crossed.

    Having said that, and if I still can't find a permanent solution, how's the Netgear FVS318G for a replacement, and a good, reliable one at that? Cabled routers seem more expensive than wireless ones, but perhaps that's just because the ones I've looked at come with 8 ports while the wireless ones probably don't need any as everything connected is wireless anyway?
  11. macrumors 68030

    Les Kern

    Apr 26, 2002
    What are you routing? Why? What you describe needs only a switch.

    Keep it simple.

    And the only hub you'll find is if you look in a Chinese recycling center.
  12. thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Oct 21, 2005
    I believe I've already described my setup in detail ;)

    So a switch connected to the cable-modem, then all the Internet devices (computers, IP-phone adapter and networked printer) go to the switch? Most people answering seem to recommend I get a router or a router and a switch, so why do you suggest just a switch?
  13. macrumors 68000


    Oct 30, 2008
    Router with QoS since you're going VoIP.

    That means the Apple routers are NOT optimal. They don't have QoS, an astonishing omission.

    Recommend the D-Link DIR-655.
  14. macrumors 6502

    Jun 22, 2012
    Meh. VoIP consumes barely any bandwidth - 30 to 90 Kbps. That's just a few percent of most Internet connections these days, and a QoS home router isn't necessary to make it work well.
  15. macrumors member

    Apr 12, 2010
    Just get an Air Port Extreme Base Station. It's a router and switch built in, as well as wi-fi that will work very well with your macs.

    You don't need a "real" router or switch for your home setup.
  16. macrumors 6502

    Jun 22, 2012
    An Airport Extreme is a real router. And it's a real switch. But, yes, you're right, an Airport Extreme will work just fine.
  17. thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Oct 21, 2005
    I'm trying to find a cabled router, not a wireless one. They seem difficult to come across these days, hence my posting. It should preferably also have more than 4 LAN ports.

    The Netgear FSV318G which I read about elsewhere and seemed like a good solution has however upon further reading gotten lots of bad reviews (constant lockups, limited functionality etc.) so the search continues...
  18. macrumors newbie

    Jan 26, 2012
    The problem with using a basic switch is that they don't keep an ARP table (list of MAC addresses connected to it). In the configuration above where you would have a modem > router > switch > devices, all traffic has to pass from the switch to the router and then back to the switch to get to the device (assuming local traffic... it goes from switch to router to modem if it's internet-bound traffic). Basic switches are designed to handle traffic at the FRAME level and routers handle traffic at the PACKET level (layer 2 vs layer 3). Bottom line... your bottleneck is the throughput of the router in this configuration.

    My recommendation would be to buy a Cisco SG-200 series smart switch. These are small business grade switches, support layer 2 switching (if turned on during setup), and are 10/100/1000 for Gigabit networking. For your setup an 8 port, non-PoE version (SG-200-8) will be fine.

    Next, pick up the Cisco RVS4000 router. This is a 4 port 10/100/1000 small business grade router that can handle NAT at 800 Mbps and supports both SPI and IPS (IPS will cut NAT down to about 400 Mbps but because of the SG-200 all traffic going through the router will be internet-bound and therefore limited to your 12 Mbps internet speeds anyway). If you need/would like wireless, the WRVS4400N is the wireless version of the same router.

    This system will run you about $215 on amazon (about $275 if you go with the wireless version).

    I'm sure a number of people on here this call this system overkill, but you said you were looking for speed. I'm running a system very similar to this in my home and can tell you it's more speed and security than most small businesses have. Make sure you do the firmware updates on both devices before using them. Most negative reviews on the RVS4000 and WRVS4400N were solved by the firmware update.

    Good luck!
  19. thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Oct 21, 2005
    Thanks for your advice. Could I simply start off by getting just the router, then add the switch later on when I run out of ports?

    There seems to be a "version 2" of this router (have a look at Cisco's RVS4000 firmware download page where there's firmware "This firmware only works on RVS4000 version 2.") -is this an improvement over earlier revisions of the router? The router seems to get pretty good reviews overall with the bad ones emphasizing that its disadvantage is complexity and not simply "plug and play", but I can live with that once I've set it up.
  20. macrumors newbie

    Jan 26, 2012
    You can start with the router and add the switch later but can't start with the switch and add the router later unless you don't want internet access until you get the router. Switches will move traffic within your network. Routers are needed to get traffic outside your network (usually meaning to 'the internet' these days).

    Version 1 of this router is no longer available. They had internal hardware issues with it and renamed it v2 when they replaced it.

    In my opinion, complexity with network equipment is often an advantage. It means you have more options during the setup than the average person will know what to do with. The problem with Plug and Play simplicity is that it often means Plug and Play functionality...
  21. macrumors 68030

    Les Kern

    Apr 26, 2002
    Because I f-ed up that's why.
    For some reason I read it wrong, must have been tired. Yes, get a router first. I use a Linksys 350N with 4 ports and while quite nice I've no issue myself with any brand and I've had maybe 8-10 different ones over the years. Get any 4 port, add a switch later. I have a ProCurve 1700-B and it's real nice, but like a router, pretty much any managed gig switch will do. The Extreme is too pricey IMO, although I use one to extend.
  22. macrumors member

    Apr 12, 2010
    AEBS only has NAT routing capabilities, but doesn't have real routing capabilities. Hence, it's not a real router.

    Others have mentioned small business (not linksys) cisco equipment. While you can do that, you have so few computers it doesn't make sense. Sure you can do it, but it'd be a waste of money.

    You can get any of the linksys products and simply disable the wireless. It's becoming increasingly difficult to get a router (I use this term loosely) without wireless. You can do the same with an AEBS.

    Also all switches have a MAC Cache. (someone mistakenly called it an ARP table) Local traffic will only go through the switch, never to the router.

    The RVS4000 is EOL'd.

    The bottom line is, you just need to upgrade to newer equipment. You can easily just spend $79 on a refurbished linksys and be good for 2-5 years.
  23. Alameda, Aug 1, 2012
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2012

    macrumors 6502

    Jun 22, 2012
    I think comments like these are only adding to his confusion.
  24. Alameda, Aug 1, 2012
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2012

    macrumors 6502

    Jun 22, 2012
    Has your question been answered? Let me try to answer as clearly as I can:

    Most any router product will work for you. Most routers have four Ethernet ports. This means they are a router with a four-port switch. The router part will let all of your computers share your cable modem Internet connection. The switch part of the router lets you plug in several computers and additional switches. If you buy a router with "gigabit" capability -- a 10/100/1000 -- your computers won't access the Internet faster, but they'll access each other faster. If you copy files from one computer to another, or perform backups to shared storage, the gigabit feature will make a big difference.

    If you need to connect more than four devices, you need to buy an Ethernet switch in addition to the router. You can plug three devices into the router's four Ethernet ports, and attach one of the Ethernet switch's ports to the router's fourth port. You can now plug additional equipment into the switch.

    It doesn't matter which ports you use, except that the router will have one Ethernet port labeled WAN, and that port must be connected directly to the cable modem. Otherwise, you can plug any device into any Ethernet port. Older equipment used to have special uplink ports for attaching switches together, but that's auto-detected these days.

    If the router you buy has wifi, you can turn the wifi feature off. To do this, you'll open a web browser and navigate to the router, which is usually . This will load a configuration web page from inside the router. The router will come with instructions that explain the address and default password to use.

    Apple makes configuration even simpler; you launch the Airport app to configure an Airport Extreme router, but unless you want its shared hard drive feature, an Apple Airport Extreme, at $179, will be overkill for you.
  25. macrumors regular

    Sep 24, 2011
    Are you sure you have a "cable modem"? You said you could plug it into a regular switch port on your current router and everything would still work. This SHOULD NOT happen with a cable modem, but if you really have a cable router/modem then it would work.

    Router - takes the 1 public IP address you get from your ISP and allows multiple devices to share it.

    Switch - allows devices to talk to each other, does NOTHING with IP addresses.

    Plug a device straight into your cable modem and see what IP address it gets. If it starts with 10. or 192. than you only need a switch as your modem is also a router. If your IP address starts with anything else than you need a router.

    And every switch keeps table of devices connected to it, that is what makes it a switch. A hub does not but they don't make those anymore.

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