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How To Choose The Right Network Switches for Your IT Networks

No matter which IT network you connect to, a key component affecting network reliability, resilience and speed will be the network switches installed. Network switches play such a critical part in a local or wide area network, that their selection should follow a well-defined process, answering the questions to several vital factors.

This guide outlines the basics required to ensure you select the right network switches for your server room, data centre, retail, warehouse, factory, office and even your home or remote working office network. It is vital to ensure the right network switch is installed to ensure network performance and data integrity. There are hundreds of products and configurations to choose from and this guide provides an overview of key factors to include in your decision making when selecting a network switch.

Network Switches v Network Hubs

It is important to understand some fundamental switch functions when it comes to selecting the right network switches for your IT network. A network switch is a networking device that connects other devices within a local area network (LAC) and uses MAC addresses to forward data frames. A MAC address is a unique identifier assigned to a network interface controller. The environmental monitoring and IP power switches we supply, have a MAC address and this provides them with a secure and unique reference for network applications.

The key difference to a network hub is that hubs broadcast data to all connected devices. Network switches determine the destination for each data packet using a logical process. This helps to ensure networking switches are more efficient and secure.

So, what do you need to consider when choosing network switches?

10 Factors to Consider When Buying Network Switches

  1. Port Count and Types: how many switch ports do you need? A fundamental question but one that requires adding up all the connections required and then to build in a growth factor to cater for future expansion. As well as Port Count, it is important to consider Port Type. Switches can offer various part types, including Fast Ethernet (10/100 Mbps), Gigabit Ethernet (1 Gbps) or 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10 Gbps). The port type(s) should match your network speed requirements.
  2. Managed vs. Unmanaged Switches: unmanaged switches are ‘plug-and-play’ devices with no configuration options. Unmanaged switches are ideal for small networks and need minimal maintenance. Managed switches provide more advanced features like VLAN support, Quality of Service (QoS), and remote management. Managed switches are suitable for larger and more complex networks and offer greater control and security features.
  3. Layer 2 v Layer 3 Switches: Layer 2 switches operate at the data link layer (MAC addresses) and are ideal for simple LANs. Layer 2 switches are cost-effective and offer high-speed switching. Layer 3 switches function at the network layer (IP addresses) and can route data between subnets. These switches are essential for larger networks with multiple VLANs and complex routing requirements.
  4. Power over Ethernet (PoE): an important consideration for powering certain network devices including IP cameras, monitoring devices, VoIP phones and even wireless access points. With PoE enabled, the devices can be powered via the LAN cable rather than a separate AC power adapter (providing a DC source). Not all network switches provide PoE functionality, and it is important to check this if PoE devices are to be connected to the switch. PoE helps to simplify installations and use the LAN cables to provide data and power.
  5. Switching Capacity and Forwarding Rate: switching capacity is a measure of how much data the switch can manage simultaneously. It is important to select a network switch with a switching capacity to match the bandwidth of your local network. Forwarding rate is the speed at which the switch can forward data packets. Higher forwarding rates are essential for networks with heavy traffic.
  6. Redundancy and High Availability: for mission-critical applications within for example, server rooms and data centres, redundancy is an important consideration. Network switches supporting Spanning Tree Protocol (STP) or Rapid Spanning Tree Protocol (RSTP) help to prevent network loops and provide failover capability.
  7. Security Features: network security is important, especially when considering cyber security. Secure network switches include features including port security, Access Control Lists (ACLs), and MAC address filtering to protect against unauthorised access.
  8. Scalability: modular switches allow future expansion modules to be added for additional ports. It is always important to allow around 20-25% in the port count for future expansion.
  9. Environmental Considerations: most switches are installed in office, server room or data centre environments in which there is controlled temperature and humidity. For harsh environments, more ruggedised switches may be required.
  10. Energy Efficiency: is important especially in large networks. Most switches have energy-saving features, including low-power standby and cooling options. Related to energy efficiency us heat output and even noise output. It is important to consider these factors, whether the installation is a home office or large data centre environment. Additional environmental monitoring is always recommended for temperature humidity as part of making the installation resilient for business continuity.

For more information networking switch selection see:


Choosing the right network switch is a critical decision when designing or upgrading a network. Home offices moving to Fibre broadband may need faster switches or rapidly expanding networks in companies or public sector environments may need to consider both fixed and wireless access points.

In addition to the considerations outlined in this guide including port count, port type, managed v unmanaged, Layers, Power over Ethernet, switching capacity, redundancy and availability, security and cyber threats, scalability, environmental and energy efficiency, other aspects to consider include capital budgets. The higher the specification, the higher the initial purchase costs.

Brand and reputation are also important considerations, to make sure you comply with, for example, any information security management standards used by your organisation including ISO27001 or purchasing guidelines including which IT hardware brands and manufacturers can and cannot be deployed within your network.

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