How Does an Ethernet Switch Work? [Buyer’s Guide]

How Does an ethernet switch work

Last Updated on July 19, 2022 by Josh Mahan

Ethernet switches are a wonderful invention that has allowed homes and businesses alike to increase their productivity and ability to add more wired connections to your local area network (LAN).  

An ethernet switch will connect things like computers, servers, Wi-fi access points, and other cabled devices to an Ethernet LAN so they can all communicate with each other and the internet to create one cohesive and productive system. 

Today we will dive deeper into what an ethernet switch is, how it works, the differences between a managed and unmanaged network, and how it can benefit a business.

So with that said, let’s get started.

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What is an Ethernet Switch?

An ethernet switch uses packet switch technology to receive data, and then it forwards it to the intended destination. The Ethernet switch is a device used in networking technology to connect several devices such as computers, IP cameras, and even other switches so that they can all speak to each other and create a cohesive network.

This network can be a home network or a business network and is designed to create better efficiencies for running operations. If a lot of ports are needed for a business to run correctly, these Ethernet switches will help make life easier for operation.

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How Do Ethernet Switches Work?

How do ethernet switches work?

Ethernet switches can initially seem complicated, but if you break down their functionality piece by piece, you can understand them better.

First, you have the Processing Identifying Data. The Ethernet switch needs to process data, and the frame contains this data in the header. When the frame arrives at the Ethernet switch, it can then read the information and decode it to send it to the proper destination.

Next, you have the receiving packets. There are devices with IPs that create packets and are housed inside an ethernet frame. These are referred to as receiving packets.

Another step is encapsulation. At this point, in order to move the data to its intended destination, encapsulation has to take place throughout the network.  

And finally, the sending packets come into play. Once the frame arrives at its intended location, the sending packets must be received and stripped.

Sounds complicated, but this all takes place in a nanosecond. 

What Role Does The Ethernet Switch Play In Connectivity?

Before we discuss how a network switch works, first consider the role an ethernet switch plays in connectivity. An ethernet switch connects devices on a network to ensure the data arrives at its destination. 

An Ethernet switch’s main job is to make sure that data arrives at the correct destination. This is why network switches might have ports for 5,8,12,16,24 or 28 devices. You will also see large corporations with ethernet switches as high as 128 connections.  

These large amounts of switches allow the corporation’s network to receive, then forward, and process all data before it goes to the final destination and intended device.

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What is a Managed vs. Unmanaged Ethernet Switch?

managed vs. unmanaged ethernet switches

When deciding which is the best switch for your business, that will depend on how much flexibility you are looking for since this is the main difference between a managed and unmanaged ethernet switch. A managed switch lets your network administrator have more access and control to manage the local area network (LAN) traffic.

On the other hand, an unmanaged switch works “right out of the box” in that it allows devices on the LAN to automatically communicate with each other without someone else getting involved.

Let’s look briefly at some other key differences:

Configuration Freedom

A managed switch allows the management, configuration, and LAN monitoring. Users can also create new LANs, which come with advanced data recovery features just in case the network or device fails.

Unmanaged switches are much easier to use, but they don’t allow you to do much when configuring your network, and it could become frustrating if you want more flexibility.

Performance Management

Performance management is important when setting up networks, and this is why a managed network switch is beneficial, as it allows you to prioritize the channels to manage the performance. Protocols called Simple Network Management Protocols (SNMP) are used to do all the monitoring of the devices on the network and keep them running smoothly. 

Another great benefit of the SNMP is that it allows users to remotely manage any devices connected to the network without requiring someone to be there physically. 

Security Features

No matter how much you might like the idea of a simple unmanaged switch to run your network, the fact is that it does not have the advanced security features that a managed network switch would have. A managed network can identify threats and breaches before they happen and shut down devices on time before a breach occurs.


As you can imagine, because of the plug-and-play nature of an unmanaged network switch, they tend to be cheaper than managed switches simply because of the advanced features that managed features offer compared to their less advanced counterpart.

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Benefits of Ethernet Switches

benefits of ethernet switches

Ethernet switches have several advantages if they are installed and managed correctly. These include the following:

  1. Reduces downtimes of networks
  2. Increases network performance and the available bandwidth used throughout the office or home environment.
  3. It helps relieve the stress on individual devices in the office or home.
  4. It helps protect all of the devices in the office.
  5. Using modular switches helps in planning for future IT expansions and growth.

When it’s all said and done, most companies will have a combination of wired and wireless technologies that include Ethernet switching as a piece of their wired network infrastructure. 

If you’re not sure which configuration works best for you, you can consult with an experienced data center networking company.


An ethernet switch can significantly improve a business’s operations and help improve its bottom line. The technical advantages are numerous and provide features to enhance and create a more powerful connection within your network.

When looking at the correct switch configuration for your business, remember that if you want more control and flexibility over your network and its features, you will want to go with a managed network instead of an unmanaged one.

Visit our website for more information on Ethernet switching and how it can benefit your business.

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