When we discussed routers, we mentioned how more and more items are connecting to the Internet via Ethernet cables. Well, now comes the question of what do you do when you run out of Ethernet ports on your router.
There is a secondary item you can buy known as a “switch”. Again, like routers, this is a marketing term, but it is how the items will be labeled when you go to buy one. What you will do with one of these is you will run an Ethernet cable from one the ports on your router to the “uplink” port on the switch. Yes, you will lose one port there, but you will considering switches have anywhere from 4 to dozens of of ports, you are gaining. For home use, you will typically buy a switch with either 4 or 8 ports.
This gives you a lot of options as you can either increase the number of ports near your router, or you can run one long cable to another part of your house, attach it to a switch, and then you Ethernet ports in that room. In my house, my router is on the main floor of my house, but I have run cable to the upstairs and the basement, added switches there, and I now have Ethernet ports on every floor of the house in the rooms where I use computers the most.
They aren’t the fanciest pieces of hardware in the world, but they serve a distinct purpose in this exceedingly connected world.
Technically, you can use a cable modem to a switch, and the switch to your computers, eliminating the router, but I don’t recommend this. While switches are cheaper ($19.99 for a four port), they do not have the built-in security software of a router. I always recommend placing a router between your cable modem and any other hardware in your house; it may not be perfect security, but at least it is another layer.