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Speed Up Your Network

Pick up the pace with a gigabit ethernet switch for your network.

Think about your network for a moment. More and more data is pumped over it all the time--with no end in sight. Whether it's time to widen those traffic lanes or lay the groundwork for a new network, a gigabit Ethernet switch is a good place to start. Increasingly popular and affordable, this standard can crank data at rates of up to 1,000Mbps--plenty fast for most business needs. Even if most of your network's PCs connect over Wi-Fi, it can't hurt to have a nice, fat gigabit pipe in the PC linking your network to the internet.

There are two basic types of switches: unmanaged and managed. Some networks use both. Businesses needing only a simple network solution or those looking to expand an existing network may want to check out unmanaged switches. Managed switches offer a host of advanced features and remote management capabilities that will make your network administrator happy and give you more control.

Next question: Layer 2 or Layer 3? Layer 3 switches are more expensive, but they also offer certain technical advantages that address the complexities of a growing network. The $2,790 (all prices street) Netgear ProSafe GSM7328S has four dual-purpose, hot-swappable high-speed module bays. Cisco's $2,000 multilayer Catalyst 2960G-24TC adds enhanced security features. Many sales outlets include Layer 2, Layer 3 and multilayer switches in their product lineups. A salesperson or consultant can help you find the right one for you.

Layer 2 managed switches can be very affordable. SMC Networks' TigerSwitch 1000 SMC8024L2 is a 24-port stand-alone switch that runs just $699. It's well-suited to small offices or transi-tional workgroups that need the power of a managed switch, but not many advanced features. Another 24-port Layer 2 switch: the $479 Linksys SRW2024, whose web-based interface lets administrators remotely configure and monitor network nodes. For larger companies, 3Com's Baseline Switch 2848-SFP Plus packs 48 ports for only $1,245.

Don't need 48 ports? Ah, but remember, you want a switch that will grow with your business. Stacking switches is another way to accommodate an expanding network. The $1,065 24-port Layer 2 Adtran NetVanta 1524ST supports stacking up to 16 units, all of which can be managed from a single IP address. The 24-port Layer 2 D-Link xStack DXS-3227 can help you prepare to grow in other ways. This $2,699 switch is designed to accommodate wireless technology convergence. An optional firmware upgrade turns the switch into an integrated wired and wireless solution.

Also check into switches from manufacturers like Asusand Hewlett-Packard. A lot of highly technical details are involved when you're dealing with managed Ethernet switches. Your trusty IT person will be your best bud through this process. A smart purchase now will get your network up to speed and prepare you for future growth.

Shopping List Need more ports, network speed or features? Pull the old switcheroo with one of these managed gigabit switches.
MANUFACTURER/
MODEL
CONTACT TYPE PORTS STREET PRICE
ADTRAN
NetVanta 1524ST
(800) 9-ADTRAN,
www.adtran.com
Layer 2 24 $1,065
CISCO SYSTEMS
Catalyst 2960G-24TC
(800) 553-NETS,
www.cisco.com
Multilayer 24 $2,000
D-LINK
xStack DXS-3227
(800) 326-1688,
www.dlink.com
Layer 2 24 $2,699
LINKSYS
HP-R5072
(800) 546-5797,
www.linksys.com
Layer 2 24 $479
NETGEAR
ProSafe GSM7328S
(888) NETGEAR,
www.netgear.com
Layer 3 24 $2,790
SMC NETWORKS
TigerSwitch 1000 SMC8024L2
(800) SMC-4YOU,
www.smc.com
Layer 2 24 $699
3COM
Baseline Switch 2848-SFP Plus
(800) NET-3COM
www.3com.com
Layer 2 48 $1,245

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This article was originally published in the August 2006 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Make the Switch.

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