Difference Between Router and Switch

Router vs Switch
 

Routers and switches are both networking devices, but they shouldn’t be mistaken to be the same as there is some difference between them. Let us have a look at those differences between a router and a switch in this article. Though both routers and switches are networking devices that are used to interconnect devices in computer networks, a router is more advanced and intelligent than a switch. A router works in the network layer and the switch works in the data link layer. A switch connects nodes of the same subnet together and forwards packets to the correct port by analyzing the MAC address. A router analyses the IP addresses and routes a packet to the correct destination through the proper gateway . Hence, routers are used for interconnecting networks rather than connecting nodes in a subnet. A router employs complex algorithms known as routing algorithms and hence needs more processing power making is costly. A switch uses a simple self-learning mechanism making it less costly than a router. An important thing to emphasize in the beginning is that here we refer to layer 2 switches when we say the term switch. In the present, there are devices known as Layer 3 switches, which are rather a combination of a router and a layer 2 switch.

What is a Switch?

A switch is a networking device that connects devices on a computer network together and forward data packets appropriately. This works in the data link layer of the OSI reference mode, and hence, it is known as a layer 2 device. Unlike a repeater hub, a switch does not broadcast packets. Instead, it does store and forward where packets are switched to the appropriate port. A switch self-leans the mapping between the port and the MAC address of a device by using past packets it receives and store these mapping data in a data structure in the switch known as a switch table. So, when a packet is received, the switch stores the packet in the memory of the switch, analyses its destination MAC address, lookup the correct port using the switch table and then forward the packet to the correct port. Due to this mechanism, switch allows multiple simultaneous connections across devices. A switch is a plug and play devices and the administrator has to just fix the ports without any configuration where the switch will learn the things automatically.

What is a Router?

A router is a networking device that routes data packets across a network. It works in the network layer of the OSI reference model, and hence, is a layer 3 device. A router also follows a store and forward mechanism, but a router is more intelligent than a switch. A router maintains a table called a routing table, which consists of the gateway IP through which a packet must be routed to reach a certain destination IP. The routing table can be statically set by the network administrator or can be auto generated using routing algorithms. When a router receives a packet, it first stores the packet in the router memory and analyses the destination IP address of the packet. Then, it lookup the routing table to see through which gateway the packet must be routed. Then, based on that information, it forwards the packet appropriately. As routing algorithms are more complex, it requires considerable processing power making it costly than a switch. However, unlike a switch , a router has to be usually configured by the administrator. A router is used to interconnect subnets rather than connecting nodes on a local area network.

Difference Between Router and Switch

What is the difference between Router and Switch?

• A switch works in the data link layer while a router works in the network layer. Hence, a switch is a layer 2 device while a router is a layer 3 device.

• A router is more advanced and intelligent than a switch.

• A router is more costly than a switch.

• A router needs more processing power to run complex algorithms than what a switch needs.

• A switch reach decisions based on MAC addresses of packets while a router reach decisions based on IP addresses of packets.

• A switch has a table called switch table, which keeps mapping information of MAC address to the specific port it is connected. A router maintains a routing table, which keeps the gateway information to route packets to a certain destination IP.

• A switch occupies simple self-learning algorithms. A router uses complex algorithms called routing algorithms.

• A switch is plug and play and the administrator does not have to configure them. However, a router is usually configured and programmed before and after deployment.

• Switches are used only in local area networks. However, routers are used both in local area networks and wide area networks.

• Switches are usually used for connecting nodes together in a same subnet. A router, on the other hand, is used to interconnect networks in different subnets.

Summary:

Router vs Switch

A switch works in the data link layer while a router works in the network layer. A switch interconnects devices in a subnet and it forwards the packets it receives to the correct port by analyzing the MAC address of packets. A router interconnects different networks together and it routes packets through the correct gateway by analyzing IP addresses of the packets. A router has more complex algorithms than switches hence they are more advanced and intelligent making them costly. Today, there are more advanced switches called Layer 3 switches, which is a layer 2 switch combined with the functionality of a router.

In simple terms, a switch is used to connect devices to a network together. So to setup a simple home network a switch is the appropriate device. A router is used for interconnecting networks together rather than connecting devices. Hence, a router is necessary only if you are setting up a huge network made up of several small networks. Also, a router would be necessary if you are connecting your home network to a WAN such as internet.