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  1. #1
    2 Star Lounger
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    Router vs Switch vs. Hub

    What the heck is the difference between a router, a switch and a hub? I'm trying to decide which to buy to network my 2 computers to a Cisco ADSL line. What should I be buying?? Any comments, observations, conclusions????? Thanks

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    Super Moderator WebGenii's Avatar
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    Re: Router vs Switch vs. Hub

    http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/R/router.html
    http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/s/switch.html
    http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/h/hub.html

    Seriously, I think that from a home users perspective that switches and routers are just faster and more expensive than a Hub (i've always used another pc as a router). But then I've never worked with either one, so perhaps another lounger can enlighten us.


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    [b]Catharine Richardson (WebGenii)
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  3. #3
    Uranium Lounger
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    Re: Router vs Switch vs. Hub

    I agree with Catharine 95% - I use a Linksys router at home because of the NAT (Network Address Translation) and hardware firewall. Setting up an additional system as a router requires more effort, but is also more flexible. A hub is perfectly fine in most cases, and a switch in a small network is a needless waste of money. Switches really come into play in large networks with high speeds.
    -Mark

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    Re: Router vs Switch vs. Hub

    I've seen switches for only 25-35 dollars so I don't consider that a big waste of money as opposed to a $20 hub. Aren't switches faster than hubs?

  5. #5
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    Re: Router vs Switch vs. Hub

    They might be faster....but the key question here is, for your your money, do they really make any noticeable difference? There's no reason you can't use them, I just never found a compelling reason to do so. Different applications - different hardware.
    -Mark

  6. #6
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    Re: Router vs Switch vs. Hub

    jrebennack:
    WebGenii gives, in an earlier response, some good web pages that properly define hub, switch, and router. From a home networking perspective here are some practical notes.

    In most cases you already have a device (a DSL "modem" or cable modem) that connects your "phone line" to your PC (or Mac). The connection from your modem to your computer is usually via Ethernet. If you have only one computer this is all you require. If you have more than one computer you should use a router to connect to a hub or switch and then to your computers. The router should be capable of providing NAT, Network Address Translation. This allows multiple computers to use the single IP that your service provider gave you by pretending to be a single IP on the DSL (cable) side while supporting multiple IPs on the Ethernet side. This also provides a layer of security as the outside world does not see the actual IP address of your computers.

    Which to use a hub or switch? If the primary purpose of all of this is to allow multiple computers to use the same DSL (cable) connection it really doesn't matter, either will work fine. That said, the price of a router and hub with cables will be very near to the price of a combination router/switch. A single router/switch will generally have a smaller footprint, require no interconnect cables, and will generally be easier to manage as opposed to a separate router and hub. Given the limited cost savings and the advantages noted, the switch is usually the better buy.

    WebGenii also notes that she has used a PC as a router, which will work fine. The down side is that if that computer is used by another user performance can take a hit. And if it's a Windows 95/98/ME the frequent Blue Screen of Death can shut down both users.

    I hope this helps.

  7. #7
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    Re: Router vs Switch vs. Hub

    If you're using a PC as a router, wouldn't that PC need two NICs (network interface cards) - one to handle the connection to the WAN (or for most of us - the cable/DSL modem), and another to connect to the hub/switch for the LAN (the home network)? I've never done it this way, so I'm not sure.

    When we got DSL at home, I immediately dropped in a LinkSys Cable/DSL Router and never looked back. I'm sure there are pros and cons to this, but for a typical home network, it just seems like the easiest (least work) way to connect a home network to the internet. I could have configured a server to handle DHCP and act as the router, but that seems like overkill for 3-4 PCs.

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    Super Moderator WebGenii's Avatar
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    Re: Router vs Switch vs. Hub

    Yes you are totally right about the two NICs. It just happened that I had an "extra" PC and NIC. And a need to experiment with Windows 2000 server. I realize that combination wouldn't work for everyone. And if you had to go and aquire the Hardware and Software it wouldn't be cheap.
    Before Win2K I used http://www.avirt.com/ software - and it was pretty easy - minimal configuration. I can't say that for Win2K <img src=/S/grin.gif border=0 alt=grin width=15 height=15>.

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    [b]Catharine Richardson (WebGenii)
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  9. #9
    Uranium Lounger
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    Re: Router vs Switch vs. Hub

    Further to Catharine's remarks...

    That's how I have my Win2000 router set up - NIC #1 connects to the outside world, and Routing and Remote Access services provides the bridge to NIC #2, which supplies that connectivity to the PCs on the "hidden" network. This is necessary for what I do at the office - but I wouldn't feel the need for it at home because like you, I have the DSL router installed. Drop it in, plug your cables in, and never think twice about it. For my usage needs at home, using a PC as the router would be akin to shooting a flea with an elephant gun. It would get the job done, but for me at home - what a waste of resources!!
    -Mark

  10. #10
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    Re: Router vs Switch vs. Hub

    Glad I got this right. I won't tell you what company I work for. [whew - picture a smiley wiping its brow]
    <hr>For my usage needs at home, using a PC as the router would be akin to shooting a flea with an elephant gun. It would get the job done, but for me at home - what a waste of resources!!<hr>
    Not to mention the cruelty inflicted on the defenseless flea.

  11. #11
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    Re: Router vs Switch vs. Hub

    Just a thought on hubs vs. switches - I've read that hubs are relatively easy for a malefactor to drop a packet sniffer on, and that switches are more difficult.

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    Re: Router vs Switch vs. Hub

    As well as using the computer's resources, using a computer as a network interface requires that it be up and running, so that if you want to use computer #2, computer #1 must be on. I found that this didn't make sense in my little network world (2 computers connected to a linksys befsr41 router with 4 port switch, connected to a cable modem) In my configuration, each computer has independent access to the net, and there's room for 2 more computers before cascading another switch to add more (up to 253 or some such number). This cost about $75, not including NIC cards. Works for me

    kip

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    Re: Router vs Switch vs. Hub

    I purchased the same router but I'm having trouble sharing printers and files. Any ideas as to how to accomplish this? I have 1 NIC in each (2) computer and my ADSL modem is connected to my Linksys cable/dsl/4-port router. What am I doing wrong???
    Thanks

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    Re: Router vs Switch vs. Hub

    OK. I have a cable/dsl router and 2 PC's. Do I need a second NIC in 1 PC?? How do I hook up the hidden network and can i share files/printers without a hidden network???

    Thanks

  15. #15
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    Re: Router vs Switch vs. Hub

    You need 1 NIC in each computer that connects to the router. Two NICs in a single computer is unnecessary - you'd know if you needed that. All systems should have DHCP enabled for the Local Area Connection ('obtain an IP address automatically'). Firewall software could also interfere with networking, making the network invisible to the PCs that are connected.

    Your router should enable you to share as many computers as it has ports. Make sure you are not connected to the Uplink port on the router; some routers and hubs also tie port 1 to the uplink (meaning that they are internally cross-wired). Swap network cables if you are having problems and see if the problem follows the cable.
    -Mark

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