Network Routers Versus Switches


A network switch connects computers and devices so they can communicate with each other over what is called a local area network.


Routers connect computes and devices so they can communicate with each other but also assign DHCP so the computers and devices can get onto the internet.

The differences

In computer networking, a switch is often confused with a router, but the two serve very different purposes.

While a switch connects network devices together to form a LAN, a router determines the best way to route packets across two or more networks, based on certain network conditions.

The confusion of these terms probably stems from the existence of consumer devices which act as both routers and switches.

Neighborhood Analogy

A good analogy for switches and routers is to think of a network of computers as a neighborhood. A switch is the street which connects the houses, and routers are the intersections of those streets which contain helpful information (like street names), to aid you in navigating to a certain address.

Bringing devices to Gustavus

Gustavus does not allow people to connect routers to our network, because it interferes with the established network structure by assigning its own IP addresses. As a result, when a router is found on the network, the port with the attached router will be disabled, to minimize connectivity issues.

A switch or hub connected to the Gustavus network should function correctly.

Many consumer router allow one to disable DHCP serving (this is usually controlled in the router's browser-based control panel). If this can be successfully disabled, the router should essentially act as a switch or hub, and should function correctly on the Gustavus network.

Check out a switch

If you're a student living in a 3+ person room with only 2 network ports, you can check out a switch from Technology Services to add extra ethernet ports.

To check one out (for the semester / year), please stop by the Technology Helpline in Olin.