Ethernet Switch or Hub?

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by cwright, Jun 15, 2006.

  1. cwright macrumors 6502a

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    Missouri
    #1
    What exactly is the difference between a switch and a hub? As far as I can tell, the only difference is that a switch does not have an extra input for a cable modem. Is that all there is to it?

    We're remodeling a house, (the whole place), and I want to do the networking right. We'll need one port for each of the 6 bedrooms, and I'd want to run at least 2 ports to our media rack (for game consoles). Then we want to add a wireless access point as well.

    So... what should I buy in the way of routers/switches? I have found lots of 8 port switches, but hubs only up to 4 ports. Should I just get two 4 port hubs wired+wireless hubs and link them together? Or should I get an 8-port switch and add a wireless access point to that?

    What brands tend to be the best in networking equipment? As far as I can tell the wired network stuff is pretty much the same everywhere, but getting a good wireless signal can vary depending on the unit.

    More questions... what's the difference between regular Cat-5 cables and the new Cat-6 cables I keep hearing about? Are they interchangeable, with Cat-6 being faster? Should I be buying Cat-6 cables instead? Also, how important is it that I get a gigabit (10/100/1000) switch or hub? I know my G5 supports gigabit ethernet, but with a basic cable internet connection, will I notice the difference between that and a 10/100 hub?

    Thanks!
     
  2. realityisterror macrumors 65816

    realityisterror

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    Aug 30, 2003
    Location:
    Snellville, GA
    #2
    An Ethernet hub or concentrator is a device for connecting multiple twisted pair or fibre optic Ethernet devices together, making them act as a single segment

    A network switch (or just switch for short) is a networking device that performs transparent bridging (connection of multiple network segments with forwarding based on MAC addresses) at full wire speed in hardware.

    I copied those definitions from wikipedia, cause I figured they'd be easier to understand. A hub is sort of like a multi-lane highway, with lots of traffic going to the same place whereas a switch routes traffic like traffic lights at an intersection. Soo.. you want a switch or a router (which is just a switch that has a WAN port).

    We've done something similar in our current house. Maybe describing my situation will make it easier for you to decide what works best for you.
    We ran Cat5 cables to each room from a central location in the basement. We decided that even though we had 6 ethernet cables in the basement, we didn't need all of them at once and decided on using a simple 4-port router. When the phone company came out to install our DSL connection (we use fiber - no modem), we just asked them to bring it from the phone grid to our router (all of 2 feet away :) )...

    Anyway, that takes care of connecting all the computers via wires. To add wireless access we decided on a central location that we had run wires to. We ended up reusing an old wireless router, though only as a switch/access point. Connection goes from the wall to a LAN port with another computer connected to a second LAN port. This is a Linksys WRT-54G, so it has the ability through it's firmware to run as a router rather than a gateway (w/ WAN features).

    So I would recommend buying the a 4-port router and a 4-port switch for the central location (keep in mind that's 6 connections, not 8, as 1 of each will be used to connect to the other), as well as an additional wireless access point or wireless router (routers are often less expensive).

    I personally prefer Linksys for equipment. I also have a D-Link router which has been faithful but not as reliable as the Linksys router.

    As far as Cat-5 vs. Cat-6, I think Cat-6 is "designated" as Gigabit, though it's possible to run gigabit through Cat-5e. Someone please correct me if I'm wrong, I've never really dealt with Gigabit. Some searching on Wikipedia should bring out a clear answer though. If the cost isn't much more (I think it probably will be :eek: ), you might wish to invest in Cat-6 for future purposes. Keep in mind to run at Gigabit, the entire network would need to be Gigabit, including the router (which would be a decently costly upgrade)... It wouldn't come into much use except for filesharing, but when you're dealing with those speeds, the hard drive is more of a limiting factor. Just buy an external hard drive for file transfers and backups and you'll be good as gold :p


    Hope this was decently helpful :)

    edit: Wikipedia knowledge: Apparently Cat-5 is assumed to be Cat-5e these days... I didn't know that :/

    Cat-6: The cable standard is suitable for 10BASE-T / 100BASE-TX and 1000BASE-T (Gigabit Ethernet) connections. Cat-6 features more stringent specifications for crosstalk and system noise.
    Cat-5(e): It was most commonly used for 100Mbit/s networks, such as 100BASE-TX Ethernet, although IEEE 802.3ab defined standards for 1000BASE-T - gigabit Ethernet over category 5 cable.
     
  3. bousozoku Moderator emeritus

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    #3
    If that wasn't enough, a switch will allow each attached computer to work at its best-rated speed, as long as it's available on the switch. e.g., if you have a Gigabit switch, you can use Gigabit Ethernet along with 10 Mbps or 100 Mbps Ethernet and, for practical purposes you should see no slowdown.

    Using a hub, all 3 would be running at the lowest speed, 10 Mbps, regardless of their fastest capabilities.

    Category 6 cable, I believe, has less resistance and is better at handling higher speeds, though Category 5e cable will do the job and did, prior to having Category 6 cables available in mass quantities.
     
  4. element macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2004
    #4
    I wasn't even aware that anybody sold or manufactured hubs these days. There is no question here: buy a switch.
     
  5. bousozoku Moderator emeritus

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    #5
    Hubs are easy money. Put an updated look on them and change the wording a bit, and a confused consumer will buy one for nearly as much as a switch.
     
  6. cwright thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2004
    Location:
    Missouri
    #6
    Wow, didn't take long to get lots of good answers... thanks! :)

    The big question I still have is: why don't switches have a WAN port? They all just have so many ports (I had been looking a 8-port switches, or a 4-port hub and a 4-port switch, like realityisterror mentioned), but nothing is designated as a WAN port to go to your modem. In this case, can you use any of the 8 ports for your WAN connection, or are you required to use any switch in conjunction with a hub?

    I did some more research earlier, and thought about buying the following:
    1. NETGEAR GS108 10/100/1000 8 port switch
    2. Belkin F5D8230-4 Wireless Pre-N 4 port router

    Then, run the cable modem into one of the 8 ports on the switch. Use 6 of the ports for the bedrooms. Then run the last remaining port on the switch into the uplink port on the 4-port wired/wireless Belkin router.

    The switch will be hidden away, probably in the basement. We'd put the wireless router on top of our media tower where the game consoles will be, which is in the center of the house. This will give us plenty of ports to use for online gaming, and a good place to get the best wireless reception to the house, all while delivering a gigabit wired connection to each room.

    So... does that sound like it should work? Please let me know if it doesn't, or if there's a better way of doing this.

    By the way, 100 ft Cat 6 cables can be had for only $12 at monoprice.com! They have great prices on all other cables too... I'll be buying alot from them :)
     
  7. realityisterror macrumors 65816

    realityisterror

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    Aug 30, 2003
    Location:
    Snellville, GA
    #7
    A "switch with a WAN port" is a router.

    A switch connects computers to form a Local Area Network.
    A router connects a Local Area Network to a Wide Area Network, and almost always connects computers to form a Local Area Network as well.

    Basically, wherever your source is for the internet, you need a router. The router in a way pretends to the modem that it's a computer. If Johnny is on the network and requests Google, the router then requests Google. When it comes back, it says "Hey, Google. Johnny wanted that". From the outside, it is impossible to know who requested Google. It appears as if there's only one computer on the network. The router connects the internet to the network.

    Because 8-port routers are hard if not impossible to find, I recommended a 4-port router connected to an additional switch.

    If you do some research, you may find it cheaper to buy a 500/1000ft spool of Cat5e from your local home improvement store. Then invest in a good solid crimper and punch-down tools to put the ends on your wires.
     
  8. cwright thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2004
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    Missouri
    #8
    Thanks for the definition... again :)

    I understand what you're saying, but here's why I have a problem going with a 4-port hub and a 4-port switch:

    I want to wire all the rooms with gigabit ethernet, but this can only be done if every device between each room and the modem supports 10/100/1000 speeds (right?). So if I have to plug the cable modem into the 4 port router first, then that router has to support gigabit ethernet. I've been looking, but can't find any 4-port wired+wireless ethernet hubs that do support gigabit speeds.

    The closest I've been able to find so far is this one from D-Link. Aside from the fact that most people tell me to stay away from D-Link products, the specs on that model say that only the 4 LAN ports are 10/100/1000, and the WAN port is only 10/100. So, wouldn't that be the bottleneck, causing all of the computers to lose any speed advantage when it comes to the cable internet connection?

    Thanks again–sorry if I still don't understand this correctly.

    EDIT: I can't find any 4-port gigabit router that actually has gigabit speeds on the WAN port too. Do they not exist?
     
  9. realityisterror macrumors 65816

    realityisterror

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    #9
    There's no need to have 1000 on the WAN port. Your internet connection is probably less than 10mbps, so even 100mbps is overkill.

    So you won't have Gigabit speeds going to and from the internet (which isn't even possible in the home), but you will in your local network (where you probably won't get 1000mbps because your hard drives don't spin that fast).

    I hadn't realized there weren't any gigabit routers on the market... hmm...

    edit: This Linksys router is Gigabit, though it's probably not going to be cheap as it also supports VPN connections...
     
  10. cwright thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #10
    Just as you posted that, I did find one: Netgear just released the WNR854T Router. It's a little on the expensive side, but it does support 10/100/1000 on all 4 LAN ports AND the WAN port (whether that's needed or not). And it supports the Pre-N wireless connections too. Seems kinda strange that it doesn't have an antenna, but if it works I don't really care.

    Would that be a good unit to use for our setup, to connect that to a 4 or 8 port gigabit switch?

    As far as cable modems not making use of even 100mbps, I didn't realize it wouldn't make a difference. I have seen a couple articles, such as this one that suggest gigabit cable modems could be coming in the near future. That would definitely be fun :)

    Just saw the one you posted... It's 10/100/1000, but it only supports 10/100 on the WAN port. Not that it makes any difference now, but if the price difference isnt too much right now, maybe it's worth getting one that supports a gigabit modem, should they ever appear?
     
  11. gloss macrumors 601

    gloss

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    #11
    Gigabit ethernet switches/routers are ridiculously expensive compared to good-ol' 10/100. You're only going to see the difference in file transfers between computers.

    I'd say home internet getting anywhere NEAR gigabit speeds is a good while off. Most cable modems run, at most, around 15mbps. Verizon's FiOS can hit 45-50mbps, I think, but that's still not enough to max out bandwidth on a 10/100 switch.

    There are some gigabit or faster fiber optic direct connections out there, but mostly for university or scientific use. I know Peter Jackson used a one or two gigabit connection to have high definition dailies of the Lord of the Rings movies sent across the ocean for him for review when he was in Britain.
     
  12. Mord macrumors G4

    Mord

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    #12
    switch all the way, the only benefit of a hub is they dont need to be powered, i have an 8 port mini hub that i keep in my bag for spontaneous LAN gameing sessions at school with others that bring in laptops.
     
  13. realityisterror macrumors 65816

    realityisterror

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    #13
    Whoa :eek:

    Either you forgot the decimal in 1.5, or we're getting ripped off really badly:cool:
     
  14. gloss macrumors 601

    gloss

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    #14
    As I said, at most. They bumped ours locally to about 5mbps, but depending where you are it can go higher. You pay out the ass for it, of course.
     
  15. Mord macrumors G4

    Mord

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    #15
    we have 24Mbit in the UK.

    over regular phone lines :eek:
     
  16. mjstew33 macrumors 601

    mjstew33

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    Illinois
    #16
    :eek:

    Wow! I don't know what I have, but it's sloowwww here in the US.
     
  17. bousozoku Moderator emeritus

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    #17
    However, a router requires a lot of extra software and setup.
     
  18. purelithium macrumors 6502

    purelithium

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    Kingston, Canada
    #18
    Buy an old P3 machine, load linux on it, slap a few NIC cards in it, and you have a cheap Router/Switch.
     
  19. gloss macrumors 601

    gloss

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    #19
    o_O
     
  20. Mord macrumors G4

    Mord

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    #20
    in the UK we dont really have WAN ports on routers as our routers have a rj-11 port which connects the the pone line for ADSL from 128k to 24Mbit ADSL2, so the linux box router does not tend to work too well unless your ISP has given you a modem with one ethernet port out, which they rarely do, also some of us run gigabit networks and 8x gigabit NICs tend to add up.
     
  21. daze macrumors 6502

    daze

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    San Jose, California
    #21
    If you can afford it, get a Gigabit switch. I have one from Netgear and it has been working flawlessly.
     

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