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Performance and security differences: Multiple switches versus a centralized switch

What are the performance and security differences between having multiple switches versus a centralized switch?

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Here are some of the points that you should consider before deciding which is a better solution for you:

  1. A single switch will give you more security and better manageability, since it is centrally located.
  2. In case of a small building, it is OK to have a single switch catering to everyone. But if the building is big, then due to distance limitation of fast Ethernet, it may not be possible for one switch to cater to all the users. In this case, you will have to go for multiple switch solution.
  3. One single switch will give you better performance than many switches. This is because in case of many switches, the inter-switch link is usually fast Ethernet or Gigabit Ethernet, but when you are using a single switch, switch backbone operates at much higher speeds.
  4. In single switch situation, you have a single point of failure.

So my suggestion is that if you have a small network, then you can start with single switch, and then as the network grows, you can migrate to multiple switch scenario. But if you are planning for a single switch situation, please think about a backup for this switch (either automatic failover or manual failover), so that in case of failure you can switch to the backup.

This was first published in August 2004

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