Cisco Blogs

Talkin’ Tech: Switches

A new series that defines the terms behind the technologies that run your business.

When it comes to technology, there’s so much to know that it’s often overwhelming. As a small business owner, your brain is already overflowing with the myriad details and tasks involved in running your company. With our new Talkin’ Tech series, we define the basic terms behind a product category so that you can more easily understand and make decisions about the technologies that run your business.

In this first Talkin’ Tech, we tackle switches. The cornerstone of any reliable network, switches are the glue that connect your business to your employees, giving them access to the resources they need to do their jobs, including laptops, servers, printers, and storage devices. Switches are used to create a local area network (LAN). Although there are many different types of switches, the list below provides a glossary of the essential terms common to this category.

Stay tuned for the next installment of the Talkin’ Tech series next month, when we’ll take a look at the terms behind unified communications. If there’s a product category you’re interested in having defined, we’d love to hear from you.

Switches Glossary

  • 802.1x port security: Also known as IEEE 802.1X, this standard defines port-based network access control. It provides authentication and authorization for devices attached to the switch and prevents access to the port when the authentication process fails.
  • ACL (Access Control List): A list of permissions that defines privileges for a particular user or group of users to access particular data or applications on the network.
  • Automatic speed and full- and half-duplex: This describes the speed at which traffic flows across the network. If at half-duplex, the traffic is flowing only in one direction at a time. At full-duplex, the traffic is moving in both directions at the same time (to and from devices). The switch will automatically determine the best speed.
  • Command Line Interface (CLI): A text-only interface in which a user types commands instead of choosing them from a menu or selecting an icon.
  • Console: This refers to a monitor that is directly connected to the switch for configuration, monitoring, and troubleshooting. A console port on a switch allows you to connect a PC monitor directly to the switch for this purpose.
  • Fast Ethernet: An Ethernet standard that provides data transfer rates, from 10Mbps to 100Mbps.
  • Gigabit Ethernet: A high-speed Ethernet standard that provides increased network bandwidth with speeds from 10Mbps to 1000Mbps.
  • Gigabit Interface Converter (GBIC): Converts electric currents to optical signals and optical signals to digital electric currents.
  • IPv4: The current version of the Internet Protocol (IP), which is the technology used by any device that accesses the Internet, such as switches, to send data to each other.
  • IPv6: The next generation of IP that provides a greater number of address spaces for the growing number of Internet-enabled devices.
  • Layer 3 static routing: Provides routing functionality to a switch, enabling it to “route” traffic between VLANs.

Local area network (LAN): allow resources to be shared by connecting devices such as computers, printers, services and other network  devices in a limited geographical area such as an office building, school, or home

  • Low-power chipset: Chips made from specially processed silicon that are smaller in size and consumer less power.
  • MAC-based address filtering: Each device in an Ethernet network has its own globally unique MAC address. MAC-based filtering provides the ability to restrict user access to the network using this MAC address.
  • Managed switch: Provides the most control over your network, including security, bandwidth allocation, and management, as well as support for advanced communications technologies like IP telephony.
  • Power over Ethernet (PoE): Ports with a PoE option allow the switch to directly provide electricity to network-attached devices, such as video surveillance cameras, wireless access points, and IP phones without the use of an external power supply
  • Quality of Service (QoS): Provides the ability to prioritize different kinds of network traffic, such as voice, so call quality isn’t affected by other traffic on the network.
  • Redundancy: Allows the switch to keep data moving in the event that a network connection fails.
  • Small Form-Factor Pluggable (SFP): An expansion slot that provides the ability to add fiber optic or Gigabit Ethernet uplink connectivity, and increases the connectivity range of the switch.
  • Smart switch: An entry-level managed switch (see definition above) that provides basic features such as Quality of Service (QoS), security, and web management.
  • Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP): A standard protocol for managing devices on IP networks. SNMP monitors network-attached devices and alerts the user to any issues that require attention and provides the ability to remotely troubleshoot problems without being directly connected to the switch.
  • Unmanaged switch: A fixed configuration switch that requires no software installation and automatically communicates with PCs, network printers, and other devices; however, it doesn’t provide the security and management features of smart or managed switches (see definitions above).
  • Virtual LAN (VLAN): Provides the ability to create virtual groups within a company to isolate different kinds of traffic on the network; for example, segmenting traffic between financial and marketing departments so that critical financial information has priority over marketing data.

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