Differences Between Switches and Routers - Hackworth

Differences Between Switches and Routers

Dell Power Connect 2800

Routers and switches are the most commonly used network devices to transmit packets of data between computers. Both of these use header information to perform their work of transferring data and information, but they differ in the parts of the header they use for the same.

Routers and switches also operate in different environments. A router is a more sophisticated network device when compared to a switch. Nevertheless, let us look at the details of what makes up each of these devices, and how they differ in functionality.


A switch comprises of sockets called ports. Its functionality is similar to that of a hub, but is definitely more efficient. As it accepts the incoming traffic with its information, it is capable of determining the IP address of the source of the traffic. It then allots a particular port that addresses and eliminates the possibility of the network traffic clogging every available port. This stands out as a huge benefit when the networks are busy. Processing of information becomes significantly faster with switches. Even though it sounds intelligent, the purpose of the switch is to move the data between devices, all of which lie on the same network. This is more commonly known as the Local Area Network (LAN). In technical terms, switches are designed to operate at the data link layer of the Open Systems Interconnections (OSI) model.


A router is far more intelligent than a switch because of its ability to carry out the operation of transferring data across various networks. There is no dictated path across which data is supposed to traverse, but a router is able to identify the best available path to reach its destination. Routers work in a chained manner, in which one router passes information to the nearest available router, which in turn makes the same calculation and passes the packet of data further. This reaction is followed until the data reaches its destination.

Routers link many networks together. This gives rise to a routing table that is responsible for holding information on the different networks available, and their location. Over a LAN, routers could be slower than a switch as it has to make a decision of sending the packet data to the right destination. In such situations, routers could also be used as a switch. In small offices, this is ideal, as routers can be used to combine various network devices in small packages. This allows them to be used for different purposes when the desired routing capability is not required.

Current routers provide a proxy support and Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP). They also come with integrated firewalls to protect your LAN. This makes the router a convenient device to be used for setting up domestic and commercial networks. It is quick and hassle-free too. Switches on the other hand cannot join multiple networks, and do not work out as an option for internet connections. Though the switch offers some stability, the wired connection does not make it a user-friendly option. So, based on your feature requirement, you need to make an intelligent choice between the two.

If you need additional questions answered concerning your network, contact our IT experts at 800-676-2424 or hri@hackworth.co.

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In 1991, Hackworth opened its doors as a blue printer. More than 20 years later under the direction of Dorothy and Charlie Hackworth and their son Charles, the business is a full fledged technology and document solutions company.

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