In the Computer Networking fields, Switch, Router and Hub plays a significant role. However, Switch, Hub, and Router are quite different from one another in terms of their function and capabilities in Computer Networking. These all devices (Switch, Router, and Hub) help you to connect one or more computing devices with other computers, networks, and devices, etc. These devices contain various numbers of ports to connect other devices through a cable. In terms of Intelligence, Routers can be categorized as intelligent devices; Switches can be categorized as semi-intelligent devices while Hubs are non-intelligent or dumb devices in Computer Networking.
Let’s start with each device’s fundamental roles individually in Computer Networking.
What is the Hub?
A hub is a network connection device used to connect one computer/network to another computer/network device. Typically, it contains four or multiple ports to connect those devices. A Hub is used to transmit data without verifying from one port to another. Hence, Hubs are considered as “Dumb” or “Non-Intelligent” devices in Computer Networking. These are the common connecting point for all devices in Network.
Note: Hubs are the Layer 1 devices because Hubs work on Physical Layer.
Let’s understand the Hubs with the below image:
Example: A message is sent from the main PC to PC 1 only. But after passing through Hub, this message is getting routed to all connected devices through the Hub ports.
Furthermore, when PC 1 responds to this message, the response also will rout to all devices through Hub ports.
Hence, this is the reason that Hubs are considered dumb devices in Computer Networking. In the above example, messages from the main PC should be ideally received to PC 1 only, but this gets routed to all connected devices through Hub ports. As a result, all connected computers receive messages or data even if it was not sent to them.
Advantages of Hub
- It is the least expensive.
- It is the least complicated.
Disadvantages of Hub:
- It contains less efficiency
- It is the non-intelligent device
The switch is the device that is used to overcome the above limitation. Let’s understand the concept of Switches in Computer Networking.
What is a Switch?
Like Hubs, Switch is used to connect one computer device to another with improved efficiency. Switches are considered as semi-intelligent devices because it knows where to transmit the data or messages.
Note: Switch is the Layer 2 device because it works on the Data Link Layer of OSI References Model. However, sometimes it may work on Layer 3 or Network Layer also.
A message is supposed to send from the main PC to PC 1 only but unfortunately, it gets routed to all connected computer devices or networks initially.
As Switches are semi-intelligent devices hence, it will collect the information about the original sender and send response messages to the main PC (Real sender) only.
After sending the first response Switch will know where the PC 1 is located. As a result, whenever, the message sends from the main PC, it will automatically go to the port which is connected to PC 1.
Hence, Switch can easily decide which device is the data intend for and transmit data directly to the right device only.
The switch has improved efficiency than a Hub and also provides faster network speed.
Advantages of Switch
- It is more efficient than Hub.
- It provides faster data speed on the network.
- It is a semi-Intelligent device.
What is a Router?
A Router is considered a small computer that understands, manipulates, and drives direct traffic from one computer device to other multiple devices. Similar to Switch and Hub, a Router also transmits data from one device to another but with the greatest efficiency. The router uses Protocol to calculate the best route between all connecting devices and communicate them.
Routers are categorized as most intelligent or smartest devices because it uses a User Interface (UI) or even programming languages also. It helps to tell them where to transmit data. Like Switches, It also records the sender’s information and location to route traffic to the right devices.
Initially, Routers are used to connect two or more networks and send data among them for e.g. two LANs, two WANs, one LAN, and its ISP network or one WAN and its ISP network, etc. In big organizations, Routers were used to manage connections between local networks and computer devices. Further, to send data to computers within the local network, a Switch and Hub are used to connect with Routers separately.
Nowadays, integrated Routers are available in the Network market. It contains the features of both Switch and Hub inside a single device. Further, these Routers also come with some inbuilt software that enabled them to use for different features such as Firewall and VPN.
There are two main types of Integrated Routers available in the market. These are as follows:
- Wired Routers (like Ethernet broadband)
- Wireless Routers (like Wi-Fi Network)
Advantages of Routers
- Routers are the smartest and intelligent network devices.
- It is available in all sizes and shapes on the market.
- Routers send data signals to the right device by recording the sender’s location.
What are various functions Performed by Routers?
There are various functions performed by the Router as follows;
- Packet Switching
- Packet Filtering
- Internetwork communication
- Path selection
Routers use a routing table that describes the full map of the internetwork. Hence, Routers choose the best path to send data or messages from the right source to the right destination.
How does Router work?
A router performs two main important tasks:
- DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol)
- NAT (Network Address Translation)
What is DHCP?
DHCP is abbreviated for “Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol”. It determines how dynamic IP addresses are assigned to various devices.
Initially, when it connects to the network, the device asks to assign an IP address to it. DHCP servers respond to those devices with a unique IP address. A Router is connected through Internet Service Provider (ISP) provided connection.
Now, Routers ask for an IP address from the ISP server. This IP address will be unique for all connected local computers.
What is NAT?
NAT is abbreviated for Network Address Translation.
It is the method of translating the local IP address of the local computer into a standard Router IP address assigned by the ISP server itself.
Whenever a computer sends a message, the Router keeps track of these IP addresses and translates them into standard IP addresses. So that when there is any response received, the Router will identify automatically to whom the response will be reversed.
The main problem with NAT is that a machine can only respond but can’t start communication with local computers.
Switch vs. Router
However, Switch and Router both are networking devices but differ in terms of their functions. Switch and Router can be integrated with a single device. There is a table to show the various differences between Switch and Router as follows:
|The Router works on Layer 3 or Network Layer of OSI reference model.||The switch works on Layer 2 or Data Link Layer of OSI reference model.|
|These are Layer 3 devices||These are Layer 2 devices|
|Transmission in Routers initiates as Broadcast type then Unicast and Multicast.||Transmission in Switches initiates as Broadcast type then Unicast and Multicast.|
|It uses a Routing table to store IP addresses.||It uses a Lookup table to store Mac addresses.|
|Routers are used to connect two different LAN and WAN.||Switches are used to connect LAN only.|
|It is a Networking device.||It is also a Networking device.|
|Routers come with 2/4/8 ports.||The switch comes with Multiple ports like 24/48 ports or bridge.|
|Data transmits in form of packets.||Data transmits in form of Frame and frame packets.|
|High cost||Lower cost|
|It contains the low port density||It contains a high port density.|
|Routers support various edge technologies such as NAT, DHCP, Firewalling and Tunnelling, etc.||It doesn’t support any edge technology.|
|Routers are software-based devices, so these are slower.||Switches are relatively faster because it works on ASIC technology.|
|Routers need configuration as they have their own Operating System (OS)||Switches don’t require any configuration and are ready to use instantly.|
|Routers are considered as Most intelligent devices||Switches are relatively less sophisticated and less intelligent devices.|
Switch vs. Hub
The switch and Hub both are networking devices but Switches connect two or more devices with improved efficiency and in comparison to Hub. Below is a table to show the various differences between Hub and Switch in Computer Networking.
|Hubs works on the Physical layer or Layer 1 of the OSI reference model||The switch works on the Data Link layer or Layer 2 of the OSI reference model|
|These are Layer 1 network devices||These are Layer 2 network devices|
|Hub comes with 4/12 ports.||The switch comes with Multiple ports like a 24/48 ports bridge.|
|Hub considered a Passive device as it doesn’t have any software.||Switch considered an Active device as it uses the software.|
|Hubs are used to connect to or one more LANs||Switches are also used to connect to one or more LANs|
|Mode of transmission in Hubs is Half-duplex||The mode of transmission in Switches is Full-duplex|
|Data transmits in form of electrical signals||Data transmits in form of Frames (L2 switches) and frame packets (L3 Switches).|
|Transmission in Hubs may be Unicast, Multicast, or Broadcast. It performs frame flooding.||Transmission in Switches initiates as Broadcast type then Unicast and Multicast.|
|Hubs contain only a single broadcast domain||If VLAN is implemented in the Switches, It also contains one broadcast domain.|
|During Hub setup, a collision occurs.||No collision occurs during Switch implementation.|
|In Hubs, no spanning-tree possible.||In Switches, lots of spanning trees possible.|
|Hub broadcast data to all connected devices/computers||Switch broadcast data only to specifies devices/computers.|
|Hubs are considered Dumb or Non-intelligent devices||Switches are considered Semi-intelligent devices or Networking devices|
|Lower cost||Relatively higher cost than Hubs|
|It can’t store Mac addresses.||It uses a Lookup table to store Mac addresses.|
|Low performance||Improved performance|
|Traffic is visible to all ports in Hub||Traffic is not visible to any port.|
Hopefully, this article may help you to understand the concept behind Hub, Switch, and Router network devices and the basic differences between them.
You may also read: What is IPv4?