We’re back!! Blake and James are back in action and today they are talking about network switches. Tune in to learn a little bit more a bout the basics of what separates a $60 switch from a $600 switch.
2022 Brain Bytes is now more accessible than ever. Each episode now has a professionally produced transcript!
Happy New Year and lets get techy in 2022!
MAN - It’s good to be back.
You took down your Christmas tree. Now it's time for spanning tree. Let's talk about switches. Welcome back to Brain Bytes and Happy 2022. It is the new year. New podcast episodes. We are back. We have have a whole backlog recorded. We kind of cut our losses on 2021, we got a little too busy to record podcast episodes, but we are back now. We will be uploading every Monday for every Monday, at least for the first quarter, because that's how many videos we have recorded today, and we are actively recording new ones as we speak.
So we are good to go. Brain Bytes back in action here sticking around. Let's talk about switches. So today we're talking about network switches. There is a lot that we could talk about when it comes to switches, but Brain Bytes. We aim to keep this 10,000 for you, not super technical, not super speeds and feeds geeky stuff, but the gist of this. When we were talking about what's the record today, we were talking about switches and saying what's the business owner looking at for switches or what is someone who doesn't know what they're necessarily looking for is standing in front of a wreck, looking at switches at a store or is online looking to buy a switch?
Why is it that this Netgear 24 Port switch you're looking at two of them. One of them costs $60. The other one costs $600. They both have 24 ports. They both say Poe, same brand. Exactly like that. What is it that makes one of them ten times more expensive than the other? There are two main factors there. So the first one is probably the biggest factor, and that is managed versus unmanaged. Yeah, that sounds pretty simple. I mean, one of them you can manage and the other one you can't manage.
But that manage versus unmanagement really is the main differentiator and unlocks just a world of potential when it comes to what that switch can do.
I mean, if you're talking for your home or if you're just a super small business with, like, five people like an unmanaged switch. You're good.
Right. I guess we should start at the very top. So a switch, not a Nintendo switch.
Not a light switch.
A network switch is what takes the one cord of Internet that comes out of your Internet service providers, modem or router, whatever, Comcast or charter whoever is giving you the Internet, they hand you one cable. The switch is the thing that you plug into that turns that one cable into a bunch of open ports that you can then plug into and plug your computers into and all that stuff. Right. So at the very basic function, the Switch's job is to take one thing of Internet and turn it into more than one thing of Internet.
It can go. I mean, I've seen four Port switches, and then there are these, like, switch chassis that can have 200 ports in them. Right. At the very base level, though, a switch is what takes Internet and distributes it out to the rest of the devices in your network that need a plugged in Internet source. Now, like James said, an unmanaged switch, that's all it does. It stops. There your switch, you plug in a source of Internet, and you plug in things that need Internet, and there you go.
You've got it.
Doesn't just have to be Internet. If you're trying to do, like what we did back in College with land parties and connecting Xboxes together, all you need is unmanaged switch, because all you're linking is like six X boxes together.
That way they can talk to each other.
It builds a network. It doesn't have to be Internet, but 90% of the cases now it will be Internet, but in general, it connects things together via Ethernet. Now you start getting to manage switches. Right. So the reason that manage switch is so much more expensive is because it unlocks a treasure trove of new feature sets on your switches. Right. So we're not going to talk about each of these individually, just because it would put almost everyone to sleep. But at the base level, with a managed switch, you get a login, you can log into the switch and you can do things you can manipulate.
It called a manipulated switch, and you can get in. You can do things to it. You can assign specific IP addresses to specific ports. You can name the ports for ease of management. So you can know that this Port is named Access Point. So you know your wireless access points are plugged into it, right? You can create VLANs, which are virtual lands, which are ways to logically segment off different parts of your network.
Again, if you want switches, eleven two. That's another episode where we can get someone else.
Of course. Yeah. We've got a whole Department of engineers over there that would just love to come on and just talk about switches and all the different feature sets of them. But we're not going to dive into that today, primarily from spreading misinformation is dangerous. And also you don't want to hear that. But if you do, just let us know. But yeah. So VLANs, the actual manipulation of individual ports, as I mentioned in the little intro Spanning Tree, which, if you're a business, you should absolutely have managed switches almost exclusively for spanning tree.
Spanning tree is what prevents loop back from taking down your entire network. So if you take a switch loop back, yes. It's like plugging one end of your garden hose into the other end of your garden hose and just getting sprayed in the face of water. So if you take a cable and plug it into Port two and then take the other end of that cable and plug it into Port three, you've taken the Internet coming out of Port two and shoved it back into the switch and the switch goes and explodes and doesn't know what to do.
Spanning tree protocol stops that from happening. You're only getting that on managed switches and really only getting that on higher end manage switches, which not all switches are managed and not all managed switches are built the same. There's definitely category and tiers of managed switches.
So what I'm hearing is unmanaged switches, super basic. I can link things together. I can print to the printer via network.
Don't need much as long as it is a flat configured network. Of course.
Right. Manage switches gives me a little bit more security, a little bit more configuration, a little more customization. And I'm going to want that. Especially if I'm an enterprise as I grow with my business.
Absolutely. And then the other thing that could make those two switches different is that what we talked about before PO e that is power over Ethernet switches and modern Ethernet cables. I think from Cat five E and above, different categories of Ethernet cables. Cat five e, cat six, cat six a blah blah blah. It goes on and on can carry up to 30 Watts of power across the cable itself. By standard, there are higher levels of Poe above Poe plus, but that's getting into, like, some super niche stuff that we're not for the masses edge case stuff.
But if my computer is already plugged into the wall and printers are, why would I want power?
Right. So if you have a desk phone, if you're using a VoIP system and you have a physical desk phone, that phone can be plugged in to the switch, get its power over Ethernet. So it's powered by the Ethernet, so you don't have to have another power cord going from the phone to a power strip on your desk or anything. You can also then plug in access points to wireless access points. You can Mount those in the ceiling, and you don't have to worry about having power for them.
Door access control systems like the badge readers that you use to get into some buildings can be powered via PUE. Now, actually, they're starting to make switches that can be powered over Peele. So if you have your main data closet where your main networking equipment is, but let's just say you have a relatively large sized office and you need more ports that are further than 300ft away, because the limit on Ethernet cables is about 300ft or 100 meters. You could use Poe to power a secondary switch.
So an IDF is what they call this, like secondary data rooms. You could actually power some switches with Poe. So if nothing that plugs into that switch needs Poe, you can actually deliver the power for that basic network switch via another switch.
And it just gives you that flexibility. Yeah. And that's what's nice about having you have your desk phone that gets its power over it, especially wireless access points. That way, when you run these, especially to remote areas, you don't have to worry about running power along with it. It's just one cable that you need to run.
Exactly. And then you can also control rebooting and all that stuff of the device. You can control that from the switch. So you're not having to like, let's say you install an access point on a ceiling, that's 30ft up in a gym or in a warehouse or something, and you need to reboot that access point. You're not having to get out of Scissor lift to go all the way up and reboot it. You can just either pull it out of the switch or you can again, manage switch.
You can log into the switch, and you can control that from the actual interface of the switch as well. Again, high level overview. We can go way deeper into switches if you want, but that is the gist of managed, unmanaged switches. Enterprise versus what I would call basic or even home use switches.
And you said $60 versus $600.
Right. And then there's, like I said, a treasure trove of features. When you start talking about the different things switches can do, lower tier manage switches might not be stackable, so they're okay. Well, what's stacking a switch. Right. Well, now, when you start getting into stacking switches, you're looking at significantly more expensive switches there, and then you start talking about redundant power supply. So if the power supply fails in one of the switches, you have another one to back it up. There is a lot more to talk about.
Maybe we'll do an episode on Enterprise versus SMB network equipment and what that looks like. But I hope this helps you guys understand a little bit about why, why, maybe you see such a price discrepancy on switches, especially from the same brand. And that seemingly looked the same as 24 ports versus 24 ports. And we hope that you learn something day, and we will be back next week. Bye.