Confusion often abounds when dealing with the plethora of networking components that make up your everyday business Enterprise Wireless Product. Most people are familiar with the common network router, but you stray past that and confusion comes easily when attempting to determine the differences between access points, switches, hubs, rackmounts, and so forth. I will spare you the super-technical details of the often times more complicated business network and try and help you to make sense of the differences between and uses for your basic network switch and access point.
To get started, switches and access points are typically used by network administrators and those designing a network to provide coverage in environments such as offices, schools, hotels, and other locations where a network connection needs to be offered to a large number of users. When designing the network, engineers will often place switches throughout the network to monitor and manage traffic. Access points will then be deployed from the switches to provide wired Ethernet and wireless network access to multiple clients.
While some may think switches and access points are two completely different devices, and they are, they do share some basic similarities. Switches and access points handle network traffic and ensure the data generated from devices like smartphones, tablets, and computers reaches its destination. Additionally, these devices ensure that the data received is also transferred along the network in a timely and accurate manner. These devices handle network traffic, yet they reside in different locations on the network and handle the traffic in a slightly different manner.
Although switches and access points handle network traffic, they still have very different jobs. A network switch is essentially the traffic cop of a computer network because it helps to direct network traffic to where it needs to go, whether it be to a gateway, router, or other destination on the network. Access points provide access to a network and are the outer rim of the network from which devices like tablets, smartphones, computers, and other physical devices can gain access to the network.
Cisco is the go-to provider for high-end networking equipment, and B&H offers a wide variety of Cisco switches and access points. Of the many switches offered, the workhorse of switches is the 350 Series 10-Port PoE Managed Gigabit Ethernet Switch. This switch features eight PoE-compliant Gigabit Ethernet ports, along with two Gigabit Ethernet Combo ports designed to provide high-speed connectivity to other network devices. Network administrators have a 124-watt PoE power budget to play with, giving them the ability to power access points, VoIP devices, and other PoE-compatible equipment directly from the network.
Once installed, this switch offers a variety of enhanced network features, including secure desktop connectivity, secure wireless connectivity, unified communications, and secure guest connectivity. Designed for use in the small office environment, this 350 Series Switch can connect devices like servers, printers, and other network devices to one another. Once configured, admins can take advantage of security features, including Power over Ethernet, Auto Smartports, QoS, VLAN, and access control that can be implemented to ensure connected clients are secure. With support for Unified Communications, traffic is intelligently delivered to ensure the network can handle communications and data simultaneously. This 350-Series switch even offers secure connectivity to guests, making it the perfect switch for hotels, waiting rooms, and other areas where guest network access is needed.
Switches help the traffic to navigate its way through the network, but without the access point, there would be no traffic for the switch to manipulate. Cisco also offers a variety of access points, giving users high speed wireless network access. The Cisco Aironet 1810W Wireless Access Point offers enhanced wireless connectivity since it comes compatible with 802.11ac Wi-Fi network standard and operates on both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies. In addition to wireless access, this access point also comes equipped with three Gigabit Ethernet ports and a single Gigabit Ethernet Uplink port for high-speed wired network connectivity.
Once installed, users can take advantage of MU-MIMO access with 2x2 MIMO technology with two spatial streams supporting data-transfer rates of up to 867 Mbps. In addition to Wi-Fi access, the Cisco Aironet 1810W is slated to support low-energy Bluetooth 4.1 connectivity. With support for Bluetooth 4.1, this access point will allow devices such as smart appliances, home automation devices, and other network components that make up the “Internet of Things” to access the network via this access point. Installation of the Cisco Aironet 1810 is simple because it features multiple mounting options, with the ability to mount it vertically on a wall or on a desk, using the optional desk cradle.