Specialized devices such as switches, routers, and access points form the foundation of computer networks.
Switches connect and help to internally secure computers, printers, servers, and other devices to networks in homes or organizations. Access points are switches that connect devices to networks without the use of cables.
Routers connect networks to other networks and act as dispatchers. They analyze data to be sent across a network, choose the best routes for it, and send it on its way. Routers connect your home and business to the world and help protect information from outside security threats.
While switches and routers differ in several ways, one key difference is how they identify end devices. A Layer 2 switch uniquely identifies a device by its “burned-in” MAC address. A Layer 3 router uniquely identifies a device’s network connection with a network-assigned IP address.
Today, most switches include some level of routing functionality.
MAC and IP address uniquely define devices and network connections, respectively, in a network. A MAC address is a number assigned to a network interface card (NIC) by a device’s manufacturer. An IP address is a number assigned to a network connection.