What to Look For in a Network Switch? [2023 updated]


Are you wondering what to look for in a network switch?

Over the past 20 years, we have supplied and installed over hundreds of switches of various sizes and features. So we know what to look in a switch and how to pick the right one 🙂 

Trying to find the right network switch for your needs can be a daunting task – with endless options, it’s hard to know where to start!

1. Ports And Uplinks

To ensure efficient communication between its citizens, these streets must be wide enough to accommodate the traffic. The same goes for switches; they need ports and uplinks that can handle large amounts of data at once to keep up with today’s ever-increasing demands.

The number of physical ports available on a switch is important since it determines how many devices you can plug into your network. In addition, if you plan on connecting multiple switches (e.g., cascade connections), then you’ll need an adequate amount of extra ports to do so. Uplink ports are used to provide Internet access or link two switches together over longer distances – typically through fiber cabling – by increasing bandwidth capacity. If you have more devices than what your single switch offers, adding additional switches will help extend support for them all.

When choosing which type of port and uplink configuration best suits your needs, consider factors such as total maximum throughput speed, number of connected devices, and future scalability requirements before making your decision. 

2. Cost-Effectiveness

When shopping around for switches, try to find the model with both the features you need and the most bang for your buck. Many brands have competitively priced models that offer high-quality performance at an attractive price point.

Don’t forget about ongoing maintenance costs too. We always choose a switch that is easy to use and maintain so you aren’t left paying more than necessary due to repair or replacement fees later on.

The right combination of features coupled with reasonable pricing are important factors when selecting a new network switch – do your research and choose wisely!

3. Power Requirements

When considering power, there are two primary considerations: PoE and AC/DC capabilities.

Power over Ethernet (PoE) allows switches to receive power from an ethernet cable rather than relying upon a wall outlet or external source. This feature can be beneficial in scenarios where outlets are scarce or inconveniently placed. Additionally, if you have many devices connected across large distances, PoE may provide some relief by eliminating wiring needs for each device’s power supply.

On the other hand, Alternating Current (AC)/Direct Current (DC) capability provides another option for powering your switch with either a standard wall outlet or an external battery pack respectively. Depending on the specific usage scenario, this could be more convenient than using PoE as long as options exist close enough to achieve optimal performance and reliability of your overall system.

4. Managed Vs Unmanaged Switches

Managed switches are those that allow customization and control over various settings such as Quality of Service (QoS), VLANs, port monitoring, etc., while unmanaged switches do not have these features.

They simply provide basic connectivity between devices in your network. We love our managed switches – definitely more control over the devices plugged in.

5. Security And Performance

Security is paramount when it comes to protecting your data; look for features such as port-level authentication, firewalls, encryption support, and access control lists (ACLs). 

Performance should be taken into account too – think about how much throughput you require from your switch so that all connected devices run smoothly.

Look out for switches with high speeds that offer Gigabit Ethernet ports and multiple VLANs. Quality of Service (QoS) options are useful if you need to prioritize certain applications over others to reduce latency issues. Additionally, make sure there’s plenty of bandwidth available on the switch to handle future upgrades without having to replace it right away.

When choosing a network switch, consider both its security and performance capabilities to get the best value for money.

6. Quality Of Service (QoS) Support

QoS provides the ability to prioritize certain types of traffic over others in order to ensure that critical applications get the bandwidth they need. This can help improve performance and reduce latency when users are accessing high-demand data or streaming media content.

The first step to finding out if your switch supports QoS is to check its specifications. 

Then, we normally identify the IP address that require that extra bandwith or priority ( as what we tech geeks say 😉 ).

Most switches will include this information on their website or the product page. If it’s not listed, you should contact the manufacturer directly for more details.

You’ll also want to make sure that your switch offers features like flow control and packet prioritization, which can be used to further optimize your network’s performance.

7. Compatibility With Existing Equipment

When considering compatibility between your new and existing devices, it’s helpful to think of two pieces of the puzzle coming together – the pieces need to fit perfectly in order for everything to work smoothly. If you’re adding a new switch into a system that already has multiple other components installed, making sure they are all compatible will save time and money down the line.

It may also be worth considering whether or not the switch supports older protocols such as Ethernet 10Base-T or Fast Ethernet 100Base-TX. If these technologies aren’t supported by your switch, then you won’t be able to connect legacy systems which could limit its usefulness in certain situations.

Additionally, check if there are specific requirements related to cabling; some switches require special cables while others can use standard Cat 5e/Cat 6 wiring.

8. Reliability And Availability

The best way to ensure reliable performance is by selecting enterprise-grade equipment from reputable vendors. These switches are designed with high-quality components that can handle demanding workloads over long periods. Additionally, they come with features like advanced port monitoring, traffic prioritization, and automatic failover capabilities which help keep your network running at peak efficiency.

It’s also important to make sure that the switch is available when you need it most – for example during peak times or when critical updates are being deployed. That’s why many organizations opt for redundant systems where multiple devices share the same load to improve redundancy and minimize downtime. So be sure to choose a brand that offers a good warranty and has certified technicians who can respond quickly if an issue arises.

9. Ease Of Installation And Maintenance

A good quality switch will have useful diagnostic tools like LEDs, port mirroring, and loopback testing that allow technicians to quickly identify faults and provide solutions before downtime becomes an issue.

It’s also worth looking at whether it has regular firmware updates that keep it secure against potential cyber threats as well as optimizing its performance over time.

10. Brand Reputation And After-Sales Support

It’s also worth factoring in after-sale support when looking at different switches. Many companies offer warranties and other services such as technical assistance which can be invaluable should you encounter any problems down the line.

If something goes wrong, having good customer service can make all the difference in getting your switch fixed quickly and without too much fuss.

No matter what purchase decision you make, always double-check that any network switch comes backed by a reputable brand name – do research into its reliability first – but also remember to look out for quality after-sales support options. 


When selecting a switch, make sure to consider any additional software costs associated with its installation (if they are managed switches) and use.

Furthermore, if you don’t feel comfortable installing the switch yourself then it might be worth hiring a professional to do so – even though this can add significant cost.

Finally, if you plan on virtualizing parts of your network then check whether or not the switch has those capabilities as well; otherwise, you may run into performance issues down the line.

I am a computer engineer holding a bachelor's degree in Computer Science, complemented by a Master's in Business Administration from University of Strathclyde, Scotland. I currently work as a Senior IT Consultant in Melbourne, Australia. With over 15 years of...