Ethernet Splitters, hubs, and switches are all network devices that are specifically designed to connect to computers, other network devices, as well as other networks. They are often used to expand and improve a home or office network.
Each one of these network devices performs different tasks and have their own unique merits and drawbacks.
The terms Ethernet splitters, switches, and hubs are thrown around pretty often when it comes to network devices. But do you know what they mean, how they work, or how they differ from each other?
For example, when you want additional Ethernet ports and are essentially considering turning a single Ethernet cable into two, then the first thing that comes into mind is an ethernet splitter.
But as you start looking into ethernet splitting solutions, you realize that you have other options like an ethernet switch and hub.
Like we stated earlier, each one of these solutions serves different purposes. It’s therefore important that you understand how each one of them works and which one will best serve your purpose.
Keep reading to learn and understand the major differences between an Ethernet splitter, a hub, and a switch.
Ethernet Splitter vs Hub vs Switch- What are they and What are their Differences?
Let’s discuss each one of these network devices;
1. Ethernet Splitter- What is It and How Does it Work?
An ethernet splitter typically acts as an optical power distribution device. You can think of it as a coaxial cable transmission system.
As its name implies, an Ethernet split splits a single internet connection with the purpose to create additional connections.
This allows other networks and devices within a network to be connected.
An ethernet splitter is one of the most commonly used passive optical devices.
This is because it’s typically used to split a light beam into 2 or more light beams and combine them to branch distribution without necessarily requiring external power.
An ethernet splitter allows you to run a single cable through the walls, floors, or ceilings instead of two. However, in the room where your connected devices like computers are, you will still require two cables.
To allow this, the ethernet splitters you use must be used in pairs.
Here is an example to explain how an ethernet splitter works.
Let’s say you have a router in Room X and need to connect to one or two computers or a printer in Room Y. However, both Room X and Y have only one ethernet jack on the wall.
In this case, what you have to do is take the two cables coming out of your router and connect both of them to your first ethernet splitter.
Next, connect the other side of the splitter to a wall jack in Room X.
Repeat the same in Room Y with the other devices.
For example, in Room Y, you will connect the computer and printer to the other ethernet splitter and then attach it to the other wall jack.
NB: An ethernet splitter does not necessarily increase the number of devices that you can connect via ethernet.
You’ll always need an ethernet splitter at the other end to disconnect or rather unsplit the connection back into two cables. For this reason, two ethernet splitters will be required every single time.
2. Ethernet Switch- What is it and How Does it Work?
Also commonly referred to as a network switch, bridging hub, or switching hub, an ethernet switch on the other hand is a high-speed networking device that consists of several ports. Usually, an ethernet switch is connected directly to a router or internet modem.
These ports allow users to connect multiple computers, printers, cameras, and other devices in a home, office, campus, or other buildings.
Despite allowing for the connection of multiple devices, an ethernet switch all these devices are still connected through the same single router or modem port.
So how exactly does an Ethernet switch work?
Well, as we stated earlier, an ethernet switch is a device in a particular computer network that connects a wide range of devices.
Usually, multiple data cables are often plugged into a network switch to allow communication between devices of different networks.
Typically, these switches manage the flow of data across the home, office, or building network by transmitting a received network packet to a single or more device for which the network packet is intended.
Every single networked device that is connected to a network switch can be easily identified by its network address.
This allows the switch to easily direct traffic flow, thus enhancing network security and increasing its efficiency.
An ethernet switch is said to be more intelligent compared to an ethernet hub (discussed below). An ethernet hub’s job is to retransmit packets out of every single port of the hub with the exception of the port on which the network packet was initially received.
This prevents an ethernet hub from distinguishing different data recipients, thus providing a much lower network efficiency.
A network switch plays a crucial role in modern ethernet local area networks (LANs). Usually, medium to large-sized local area networks consists of several linked managed network switches.
Typically, applications in small or home office settings use just one network switch or a multi-purpose device like a residential gateway to gain access to broadband services like cable or DSL internet.
An example of how a network switch works;
Let’s say you’ve got two computers that are connected to a network switch. One computer is streaming a movie while the other is checking your emails.
Both computers are deriving their internet signals from a similar source but generally, only one computer is connected to the internet.
An ethernet switch typically goes back and forth between these two computers, thus giving them internet access at different intervals.
However, this usually happens at blazing fast speeds as multiple signal switches occur in seconds. You will most likely not notice it because there won’t be any lag or buffering on either computer.
However, as usual, the more devices you connect to a single network switch, the slower the internet connection. You may end up experiencing buffering and lagging especially while streaming movies.
Multiple computers being used for browsing won’t probably cause lagging. However, a group of devices streaming movies at the same time will most likely slow down your connection.
3. Ethernet Hub- What is it and How Does it Work?
Also referred to as a network hub, an active hub, multiport hub, repeater hub, or simply a hub, an Ethernet hub is typically a network hardware device that is commonly used to connect multiple Ethernet devices while making them act like a single network segment.
An ethernet hub typically has several different ports that are used to connect segments of the local area network (LAN).
As soon as a networked data packet reaches one port, it is then copied to other ports so that all the network packets can be seen by all the segments of the local area network.
Ethernet hubs have been largely replaced by ethernet network switches as they’ve become obsolete. Only older or specialized applications still use these kinds of devices.
Ethernet Switch vs Hub- Which One Should you Purchase?
Like we stated earlier, each one of these devices performs different tasks. However, in the case of an Ethernet hub, it’s largely becoming obsolete and is being replaced with network switches.
However, these hubs are still important in various applications and circumstances.
So in this section, we are going to discuss whether you should choose an ethernet switch or a hub. We’ve described several applications between an Ethernet switch and hub;
If you have a small network that has a small number of devices or users, then you might want to consider using an ethernet hub as it can easily deal with network traffic. It’s also a cheaper option if there is less traffic or devices. However, as your network becomes larger, it’s advisable to use an ethernet switch to deal with a higher network traffic
If you have a home network that constantly experiences a significant amount of traffic due to multiple computers, you might want to consider a network switch as its suitable for busy networks
If yours is a small-sized family, the most affordable way to build a network that connects personal computers is by using an ethernet hub.
In the event your performance monitor indicates congestion in your network, you can use an ethernet switch to enhance its performance. All the same, using bother switches and hubs can further increase the performance of your network.
An ethernet switch is often considered as the better alternative to an ethernet hub.
So instead of using a hub that is nevertheless becoming obsolete, you can simply choose an 8 port switch if yours is a small-sized family.
Alternatively, you can use a 1GB switch or any other ethernet switch that has a larger capacity.
Ethernet Switch vs Ethernet Splitter
As we discussed earlier, an ethernet switch is an ideal device for networks that include multiple devices.
Generally, an ethernet switch requires a power input to divide the signal into a wide range of signals, and this will allow the signals to work at the same time.
This of course allows all the devices that have been connected by an ethernet switch to work simultaneously.
You should also know that an ethernet switch is a high-speed networking device.
This is exactly why it’s possible to connect different devices such as computers, printers, and even gaming consoles and still enjoy high-speeds. An ethernet switch is widely used in large buildings, campuses, and other large spaces.
On the other hand, an ethernet splitter does not require a power input. Plus they must be used in pairs. Typically, an ethernet splitter divides a single ethernet connection into two distinct connections.
An ethernet splitter eliminates the need to use two ethernet cables from one room to another. Instead, the splitter splits a single ethernet cable into two to connect both the computers and the switch in separate rooms.
Ethernet Switch vs Splitter vs Hub- Bottom Line
Typically, Ethernet switches and hubs are used in the same network. An ethernet hub extends your home or small office network by increasing the number of ports.
An ethernet switch on the other hand divides your network into smaller and lesser congested divisions. You can either purchase an ethernet hub or switch depending on the particular purposes you intend to fulfill.
And of course, you can as well purchase an ethernet splitter if you want to split a single ethernet connection to create additional connections.
Now that you perfectly understand how an ethernet switch, splitter, and hub works, you can easily optimize your network in a way that allows you to work in a much efficient and secure way.
The best ethernet device is the one that best suits your particular network needs.