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Difference between Hub and Switch

In a computer network, a network device links fax machines, printers, and other electronic devices to the network. Network devices allow quick, accurate, and reliable data transfer across one or more networks.

Devices used for network connections encompass hubs and switches designed to facilitate numerous devices’ connection. Hubs operate within the physical layer and are used to forward signals to ports, while switches help manage data routing and transmission in the network web.

Hubs and switches share the role of interconnecting devices in a LAN, but switches offer a more efficient and organised approach by selectively forwarding data based on MAC addresses, resulting in improved network performance.

It is important to have an in-depth understanding of the key points of difference between a hub and a switch to determine their roles in computer networking. This blog is a comprehensive guide to help determine which networking device is better suited to your needs by learning the key points of the hub vs. switch difference.

Hub: A Brief Summary 

A hub is a fundamental networking tool that joins several computers in a broadcast technique called Local Area Network (LAN). As the number of linked devices rises, this shared broadcast technique may cause network congestion and decreased effectiveness. Compared to more sophisticated devices like switches, the hubs’ shortcomings in controlling network traffic have made them obsolete.

A hub’s main purpose is to broadcast and amplify data to all connected devices, but it cannot effectively manage network traffic or intelligently route data to particular recipients.

Switch: A Brief Summary 

A switch is an OSI data link layer-operated networking device that connects various devices inside a local area network (LAN). A switch, as opposed to a hub, is intelligent enough to recognise the MAC addresses of the devices connected to it.

This improves network efficiency and performance by enabling the switch to forward data to the designated device selectively. Switches enable simultaneous data transfer without collisions and enhance overall network functionality by creating distinct collision zones for each of their ports. 

Modern networks must have switches because they offer better control over data traffic and maximise the utilisation of available bandwidth. A switch works by forwarding data frames in an intelligent manner according to their MAC addresses. 

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Different Types of Hubs

Here are the three kinds of hubs:

  • Active Hub: An active hub, sometimes called a concentrator, has its own power source. It may clean, enhance, and relay the signal alongside the network. It serves as both a repeater and a wiring centre. They are also used as extensions for two or more nodes.

Active hubs have repeating capabilities to strengthen signals in a network. They amplify both signals and noise, which can be a limitation. They can additionally accommodate multiple sets of network connections.

  • Passive Hub: This hub gathers electricity from the active hub and wire from nodes. Passive hubs provide signals to the network without cleaning or amplifying them. It cannot be used to increase the distance between nodes.

These hubs do not include any computerised elements and do not process data signals. Their main function is to connect signals from various network cable segments. All devices connected to a passive hub receive all the packets that pass through it.

  • Intelligent Hub: An intelligent hub is an active hub type that offers extra features like network traffic monitoring and management capabilities. These hubs frequently came with fundamental administration features like remote configuration and diagnosis.

Intelligent hubs are also known as smart hubs. They have special software that allows them to perform management functions in the network. This software helps in identifying and isolating network issues. 

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Features of Hub

Some of the essential hub features have been elucidated below to help you discern the stark differences between hub vs. switch in networking:

  • Compatible with broadcasting and shared bandwidth: A hub is a networking device operating at the OSI model’s physical layer. All devices linked to a hub share the same available bandwidth. When multiple devices attempt to transmit data simultaneously, they contend for access to this shared bandwidth.
  • One broadcast domain and one collision domain: Hubs create a single broadcast domain within a network segment, allowing devices to communicate directly using broadcast packets. Furthermore, they establish a solitary collision domain. 

Since all connected devices share this collision domain in a hub, collisions are more likely if multiple devices transmit data concurrently.

  • Working at the OSI model’s physical layer: Hubs operate exclusively at the lowest layer of the OSI model, which is the physical layer. Their primary function is to facilitate the basic transmission of raw data over the physical medium, such as transmitting electrical signals over network cables.
  • Supports half-duplex transmission mode: Hubs typically support half-duplex transmission mode, which means that devices connected to a hub can either transmit or receive data at any given time but not both simultaneously. This contrasts with full-duplex communication, where simultaneous transmission and reception are possible.
  • Packet collisions are more common: Collisions occur when multiple devices connected to a hub attempt to transmit data simultaneously. Due to their basic broadcast-based operation and lack of traffic management capabilities, hubs are more susceptible to packet collisions when compared to network switches, which can intelligently handle and reduce collisions.

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Types of Switches

There are two types of switches. They have been discussed below:-

  • Manageable switches: Manageable switches are sophisticated networking devices equipped with features that facilitate the configuration and management of a network. They typically come with a dedicated console port, which allows network administrators to establish a direct physical connection for initial setup and troubleshooting. 

Additionally, manageable switches can be assigned an IP address, making it possible to manage them remotely over the network. 

  • Unmanageable switches: Unmanageable switches, in contrast, are more straightforward devices primarily designed for plug-and-play simplicity. They lack a console port, meaning that direct physical access for configuration is impossible. 

Furthermore, unmanageable switches do not support the assignment of IP addresses. As a result, they cannot be configured or managed remotely through traditional network management protocols or web interfaces. 

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Features of Switch 

These are some key characteristics of the switch:-

  • It is a gadget of the Data Link layer (Layer 2): A network switch operates at the OSI model’s Data Link layer (Layer 2). It examines the MAC (Media Access Control) addresses of incoming Ethernet frames to make forwarding decisions within a local network segment, enhancing efficient data transmission.
  • It operates on a fixed bandwidth: Network switches operate on a fixed or dedicated bandwidth for each port. Each connected device can use the allocated bandwidth simultaneously, ensuring predictable and consistent network performance.
  • It keeps a MAC address database: Switches maintain a MAC address table that records the MAC addresses of devices connected to their ports. This database efficiently forwards data frames only to the appropriate port where the destination device is located, reducing unnecessary network traffic.
  • Enables you to set up a virtual LAN: Switches allow network administrators to configure Virtual LANs (VLANs), logical network segments created within a physical network. This feature enhances network segmentation, security, and traffic management by isolating groups of devices into separate broadcast domains.
  • It operates like a bridge with multiple ports: A network switch can be likened to a multi-port bridge. It intelligently forwards data frames between devices within the same network segment based on MAC addresses, effectively segmenting the network and reducing collision domains.
  • Typically, it has 24-48 ports: Network switches come in various sizes, but typical models are equipped with 24 to 48 ports, accommodating a range of devices within a local network. Larger switches with more ports are available for larger-scale networks.
  • Half-duplex and full-duplex transmission modes are supported: Network switches support both half-duplex and full-duplex transmission modes. In half-duplex mode, devices can transmit or receive data at a given time, while in full-duplex mode, they can simultaneously transmit and receive, improving network efficiency and reducing collisions.

Hub vs. Switch 

Parameter  Hub Switch
Layers Physical layer (Layer 1) Data link layer (Layer 2)
Function Broadcasts data to all devices  Selectively forwards data to specific devices based on MAC addresses 
Data Transmission Type  Half duplex Half duplex or full duplex 
Device Type  Passive device Active device 
Used in  (LAN, WAN, MAN) Primarily LAN Primarily LAN
Table  No address table MAC address table for forwarding data
Transmission mode  Shared network bandwidth Dedicated bandwidth per port
Definition Basic networking device connecting devices in a LAN  Advanced networking device intelligently routing data
Broadcast Domain  Single Broadcast domain for all devices  Limited to Individual switch ports
Speed Typically 10/100 Mbps Can be 10/100/1000/10000 Mbps (Gigabit and beyond)
Addresses Used  MAC addresses MAC addresses
Necessary for internet connection No, obsolete for modern setups No, replaced by routers and more advanced networking devices 
Device Category Outdated  The preferred choice for modern networks
Manufacturers Limited presence due to obsolescence Widely manufactured by networking companies 
Collisions  Prone to collisions due to shared bandwidth Minimises collisions with individual collision domains
Spanning Tree Protocol Not applicable  Used in network loops prevention (RSTP, MSTP)

Conclusion 

Learning to compare hub vs. switch is pivotal, as it helps you understand the fundamental disparities between these two devices. While hubs merely broadcast data to every connected device, switches emerge as the intelligent orchestrators of data, selectively directing information to the intended recipients based on MAC addresses. 

This hub vs. switch difference underscores the evolution in networking paradigms, with switches reigning as the preferred choice in contemporary setups. Their capability to minimise congestion, optimise bandwidth usage, and foster dedicated collision domains exemplifies their superiority in enhancing network performance. 

As technology advances and demands grow, the transformative journey from hubs to switches becomes emblematic of the ever-evolving landscape of efficient and responsive network architectures.

If you compare hub and switch, which is the preferable of the two?

Switches are strongly advised over hubs in the current networking environment. Unlike hubs, switches provide intelligent MAC address-based data forwarding, delivering effective and focused data. By establishing distinct collision domains, switches improve network performance by enabling simultaneous data transfer without collisions. They give each device specialised bandwidth, reducing congestion and improving performance.

Why is a hub always preferred when one charts the difference between hub and switch in computer network?

When you learn the hub and switch difference, you can easily conclude that a hub is more widely used as its simplicity suffices in small networks with minimal data traffic despite shared bandwidth and congestion. However, switches are preferable for larger networks, providing efficient data routing, reduced congestion, and better performance due to targeted data transmission based on MAC addresses.

What is a hub and switch's drawback?

Hubs don't have traffic control; therefore, they broadcast data to all devices, clogging the network. Although efficient, switches can be more expensive than hubs; thus, managing VLANs or network loops is more difficult.

Is the hub half-duplex or full-duplex?

Hubs are half-duplex devices, meaning only one can communicate at a time.

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