What is a Switch and Why do I need IT?

Moving up in business? Need more network connections? Lots of things to think about.

A switch is a core component in your network that is very crucial in delivering internet and your office networking across all your computers, servers, and access points. They come in all shapes and sizes, some of them are enterprise rated and are much larger and offer a lot more functionalities for larger companies in need of more options for networking.

Starting with the smaller ones.These are unmanaged switches  they just pass information through and do not have an IP address. Therefore technicans cannot log into the device and make changes.  Technicians cannot really monitor this type of switch. This example in the video above is completely unmanaged and if it were to have a problem, nobody would really know about it unless everybody who’s connected through it says my network the network is having problems. This device can make sense if you are in a small home office and need multiple ethernet ports for different devices, but most likely this comes on your modem or router and you don’t need this extra add on unless you have more devices or you want to split on ethernet signal in another room in your home office.

Switches are ghosts on the network and should only be used on a very temporary basis in an emergency in larger companies or offices. For a managed service provider like Skycomp we like to see who’s on the network because if there’s a problem troubleshooting becomes more difficult if we cannot see where the switch is located on the network.

The switch stepping-stones when starting a business:

You may start at home with a regular small 5 port switch. Then when you have a couple more staff and you move into your small office in the garage you could upgrade to a 12 or 24 port switch. Then when business starts booming and your setup in your first office building where you have staff on site you have added servers you might want to start thinking about a little bit bigger of a switch. That’s where the enterprise class fits in. These switches that offer many different features for security purposes for expansion to your network. You are able to micromanage what kind of devices you want to have access to certain parts of your network. This can be helpful in a large office with multiple employees. The first one we want to mention is an Aruba. This is made by HP and is a great starter switch in the enterprise world. This switch offers all of the functionalities that an IT administrator or MSP would like to be able to use and control. Follow the link here to take a deeper look at the switch.

This type of switch can be managed both via a web interface as well as through a console. The web interface we used in the video above shows the Aruba’s primary dashboard shows certain statistics to tell us how the switch is feeling how its operating. Any errors image come up on a menu to alert us of any problems that need to be addressed. Under the interfaces and ports menu, it shows the port number and the uplink port. This tells us if something goes to either another switch or directly to your firewall. You have the ability to tag an admin computer in this menu. This allows you to know where it is plugged in. Technicians are able to see what kind of access this computer has on the switch. You can also tag access points and other switches. This also allows you to put them in a trunk which will help you create a VLAN for these devices there’s plenty of other statistics here we can see which devices are consuming. It shows power-over-ethernet devices, these might be your desk phones, access points and other devices. This interface shows various other menus that really help you control what’s happening on your network. This is just a brief summary of what you can do on the Aruba.

Another enterprise switch that you can monitor similar diagnostics is the Cisco example in the video above. This uses something called HAAS (Hardware as a Service) which this one we disable web management because we only wants to control it through the console. This is for mainly security purposes so that not just anyone can login to a computer and find your switch online. Managing a switch through the console night look like the Matrix. However, for an experienced network technician they can see exactly what they need to with just a few keystrokes.

There are many other settings that can be applied to each port, security policies, bandwidth restriction, and the list just goes on and on. We mentioned VLAN a couple of times. That is a really useful function on these managed switches that create a virtual network. This means that more than 24 or 48 devices can be connected to a single switch via a network that is virtual and sit over top of your existing one. These can be completely separate networks. This means that your internal computers can all be on the VLAN 1 and your guest network when people bring in their laptops cell phones tablets can be on VLAN 20 or any other number that you’re set up for. This traffic cannot touch your internal traffic and vice-versa therefore it’s two completely separate networks using one piece of hardware.

Managed switches offer great visibility of what’s happening on the network in great detail this is very important for your it administrator or your managed service provider to really monitor was going on. Allowing them to make changes that can help with the performance on your network. Reporting exists on these switches as well as external tools that can connect into them to accelerate the monitoring and that way if there’s ever any problem a fan is overheating, a switch is down, trunk Port has a traffic that’s too high. Technicians can be alerted and dialing right away to rectify the problem.

These options are just some of the many examples you can upgrade to once you’ve outgrown the smaller switches. Most managed service providers would install these into your network, monitor them and back up settings. Taking the steps so if anything ever happens to the switch you can just swap it out for the same unit. Then bring up the saved settings and configurations and you’re back online and working in no time.  

One important detail to keep in mind when buying an enterprise level of switch is to think about a stacking feature for example using Aruba switch. If you’ve outgrown it, you and you must purchase another unit. The Aruba doesn’t have a direct way to connect the two switches together however on the Cisco unit there are stacking tables that attach to the back-seat connector. This makes it possible for units to connect automatically pull the config from the master switch. As you grow your business you have the ability connect more units. 

A switch is an important part of your network. Choosing the right switch can be a challenge. Skycomp recommends using an IT consultant or hiring a Managed Service Provider to help you make these decisions and point you in the right direction of which switch to use. Remember before hitting the buy now button on technology, always do your research, ask the experts, and get the right unit the first time!

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