Routers and Network Switches are modern connectivity devices that perform a similar kind of work which is transmitting network connection from a source to the device. In simple words, they both enable us to connect to a network using a particular device like computers, laptops, tablets, etc. Despite this similarity between them, they have their own differences which we will understand in detail.
What is Router?
A router is a device that acts as a mode of transfer between the network host and its destination. It ensures the flow of packet data from the network to the device. A router works on the concept of IP address because it recognizes the networking source on the basis of its IP. Routers are most commonly used in homes, offices and small businesses. High-end routers are also designed with an extensive specification for heavy network load.
What is Network Switch?
Network Switch is also a networking device that acts as a bridge to transfer internetwork from the source to the end location. It moves data frames to the data link layer of the OSI model with the help of MAC addresses of the network source. A network switch is also known as MAC Bridge because its main work is to recognize the MAC address and initiate data transfer using that.
Difference between Router and Network Switch?
Briefly, we have seen the basic role of a wireless router and a switch, now we will look at the differences between them which show exactly how both these networking devices are different irrespective of performing the same kind of work.
1) Mode of Data Transmission
The main difference can be observed in the mode of transmission of these devices. A router transmit data in the form of packets better known as data packets whereas a network switch transfers in the form of data frames or simply known as frames. These frames and packets are the vessels that carry data and are transferred by these devices to their respective addresses.
A router facilitates the use of Layer 3 of the OSI model and a network switch uses Layer 2 of OSI. An OSI model has separate kinds of layers, one is a network layer denoted as Layer 3 and is used by routers and the other one is the data link layer i.e. Layer 2 which is featured in network switches, both these layers work distinctively as per their functionality.
3) Address for data transmission
A router reads the IP network address to forward the IP packet from source to the destination, it is connected to a network using different IP networks. On the contrary, a network switch uses MAC address to recognize the network and to transmit data packets to the layer. It shares network connection and data using the MAC address of all the devices connected to the network.
Network switch gains the MAC network address by using the Content Accessible Memory table, shortly known as the CAM table, on the other hand, a router makes use of the routing table to recognize the destination IP address. A router can store the IP address in its routing table and can use the address of its own whereas in a network switch the address is accessed by ASIC or Application Specific Integrated Chip.
Both these devices have different types, numbers, functionality, and capability of ports present on them. A router features a limited number of ports maximum of 8 ports in the most high-end router, generally, it has 2-4 ports which are fast Ethernet ports. Network switch features multiple ports ranging from 8,16,24,48 and 64. Ports on a switch are customizable as per the specifications, it has dedicated ports for VLANs, Bandwidth, CLI, etc.
The functional difference between these devices is the most dominant distinction among all. Primary and the most important function of a router is to establish a connection between two or more networks whereas the primary function of a switch is to fix a connection between two or more devices or nodes which are connected on the same network (L2) or on a different network (L3).
7) Used for
There is a limitation with switches in regard to the network structure it can support, switches can only support a LAN environment, it cannot support a WAN structure due to its technical limitations. Routers, on the other hand, can support dual network mode which means it can be used for both LAN and WAN types of networks. This makes routers more flexible over network switches.
8) NAT and PAT support
Network Address Translation (NAT) and Port Address Translation (PAT) both are similar kinds of processes that modify a single IP address to assign it for multiple devices. Routers are laced with programs that can perform both NAT and PAT as per requirement but switches are different from routers as they are not programmed to perform any of these translations, so you cannot get NAT or PAT support on a switch.
9) Bandwidth sharing
Routers have a compelling bandwidth sharing, that can be done using a dedicated cable interface to fix the speed on a particular device that will be connected with it. Switches cannot share bandwidth over the network instead they have dedicated ports as per the speed like 10/100/1000 Mbps, the network is then shared as per the connection of the device with the respective port.
10) Broadcast Domain
Switches allow broadcast domain through which every connected device can connect with each other by broadcasting at the data link layer of OSI, they also feature per port collision to enhance data transmission. Routers cannot support per port collision and they restrict broadcast domain. Router breaks any broadcast domain because it cannot perform that action.
Wireless Routers and Network Switches are very functional devices but they are designed as per the business or personal motive of the client. So by acknowledging the similarities and differences of both devices, you can choose the one which best suffices your requirements and fulfill your networking needs.