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Network Deployment

Necessary Network Trio: Switches vs Firewalls vs Routers

by

Malik Zakaria

|

June 25, 2019

If you are setting up a network system in your business, it’s important to make sure that you understand the basic components. You need to know how each piece of equipment operates and runs when protecting your network. It’s true to say that components of a computer network are often confused because they look the same. However, while they may have similar structures, each one has a completely different role in your network. Operating together they ensure that your network is protected.


The three main pieces of equipment you’ll need to secure a network are:

  • Switch
  • Router
  • Firewall

Each one looks the same with physical ports and status lights but doesn't let their basic structure fool you. On the inside, these systems are very different, so let’s explore them in a little more detail and establish how they function to form a cohesive system.

Switches Explained

A switch is best described as a high-performance hub that is uniquely intelligent. Data goes back and forth between the switch and during this time, the box records the MAC addresses. These addresses are unique identification numbers for hardware that is network enabled. Each sender and recipient will have different mac addresses. During this process of discovery, the hub then learns which device is linked to which port.

By doing this, the hub knows and can identify where the traffic came from, accessing the mac address data and then directs it to the right port. As such, it ensures that the right data goes to the right computer system on the network. This is particularly crucial on a larger network and does offer enhanced security because it guarantees that data is not being sent to insecure areas on the network. As well as providing security benefits, it means that bandwidth levels are kept under a tighter level of control as well.

Routers Explained

Switches deal with data exchanges within your network but routers are different. They provide a way to exchange data between a variety of different networks. As such, they are set up at gateway points where two networks are connected.

A classic example of this type of set up would be connecting your home LAN network to your ISP internet provider. Routers have a further level of intelligence compared to hubs and can provide a number of different services. For instance, they can be used for several ethernet ports.

They can also translate multiple IP addresses on the internal network and ensure that they appear as one IP address. That IP address can then be used when accessing the larger internet network. As well as this when data arrives from the public facing IP, this is then changed into the internal IP.

Furthermore, A DNS will be part of your router and ensure that domain names are converted into IP addresses. This ensures that a router does know where outgoing traffic should be directed.

The last part of a router is a dynamic host configuration protocol. With a DHCP an IP address is given to devices on the internal network. That ensures that all devices are able to connect to the internet and IP addresses are also renewed after a short period.

Firewalls Explained

While it is true to say that each part of the network and the system does play a part in security, Firewalls are the most important pieces of the puzzle. These are used purely to ensure that there is a high level of network security between different systems. Firewalls monitor the traffic being sent out and help ensure that any unauthorized traffic is blocked completely, thus keeping the network secure.

Modern, next-gen firewalls provide a far greater level of security and can include a number of systems that help protect the network. This includes deep packet inspection, website filtering, antivirus inspection, TLS/SSL encrypted traffic inspection, and third-party management integration.

How does the Equipment Work Together?

As such, then it’s easy to see how these three different components work together. While the switch manages data being transferred across the network, it also ensures that information is sent to the right place. This guarantees that no data is sent to the wrong system while still providing the bridge for your network to operate effectively. Of course, this only manages the internal network. To connect to the internet, you need a router system, connecting to other networks and allowing you to transfer data packets.

At this point, there is data being transferred from outside of what should be a secure internal network. The firewall then essentially acts as a gatekeeper checking and keeping tabs on data coming into your internal network. Any dangerous data from viruses to unauthorized content should be vetted and blocked. Be aware that a physical firewall is not the same as the typical software that you can purchase for your computer system. Although, both do have the same basic purpose. Without a firewall, traffic will blindly be passed between two separate networks and this can lead to issues with unauthorized data passing through.

As well as acting as a gatekeeper to separate the LAN from the greater internet, you can also use network firewalls for another reason. They can be set up to ensure that important data is identified and separated from typical data in the LAN system. As such, this can ensure that an internal invasion is avoided as well.

How are they Connected

Typically, a router will be the first part of your LAN system. You will then set up a network firewall in the middle of the internal network and the router so that everything flowing in and out can be checked and filtered. The switch is typically last. With fibre optic services, you will also need a modem in place as well. This ensures that digital signals can be transmitted through Ethernet cables.

Today then it’s typical to have the internet, modem, firewall, and switch. The switch then connects all the devices on the network together.

We hope this helps you understand the importance of these systems and how they work to keep your network protected.

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