Daily Archives: June 11, 2024

What are Industrial Network Switches?

The industry requires network switches to interconnect automation equipment, controllers, and other such devices for transmitting and receiving data on computer networks. Many models of network switches are available on the market, and the industry uses them for both wired and wireless connections. The switches allow multiple devices to access the network with minimal delays or data collisions.

While the industry uses switches to interconnect automatic equipment, controllers, and other such devices, the office environment uses network switches to interconnect computers, scanners, servers, printers, cameras, and more. There are several types of network switches, the most common of them being unmanaged switches, managed smart switches, and PoE switches.

Unmanaged switches are the simplest types primarily used in offices. Although they have the fewest user-configurable options and are the least secure, they are also the cheapest option. The greatest option of most of these switches is their plug-and-play feature. This feature allows them to quickly interconnect most devices in the office, without requiring assistance from any specialist.

For properly implementing a network switch, all devices that connect to it must have unique IP addresses on the same subnet. It is also necessary they can network with each other. Therefore, a network switch is different from a gateway, which allows a device on one network to interconnect to another device on a separate network.

Although more expensive, managed switches tend to be more secure. They also have more advanced features. Depending on their level of automation, the switches determine the availability of the number of user-configurable options. For instance, many of them allow the creation of a VLAN or virtual local area network that can link several LAN or local area networks. The advantage is that a VLAN is more effective than a large LAN consisting of a combination of numerous existing LANs. Therefore, a switch capable of managing a VLAN is of significantly greater advantage for larger facilities.

One of the disadvantages of a managed smart switch is managing them through a CLI or command-line interface. Most average office owners do not possess the requisite skill level for managing these devices, necessitating help from IT specialists. For larger facilities with IT specialists, managed smart switches offer higher flexibility, speed, and greater security over unmanaged switches. Industrial facilities employ OT or operational technology specialists to diagnose and build network connections between control and automation devices.

Some network switches offer the option of PoE or Power over Ethernet, carrying low voltages through the Ethernet cable for powering devices. Although the limit of power transmitted through these PoE connections has a limit of 90 W for class 4 equipment, it offers a significant advantage over running extra cables in some cases. For instance, more cables in robotics and automation means more troubleshooting and more equipment for securing against the robot’s range of motion.

Some network switches are stackable, allowing a combination of multiple switches to form a single large switch suitable for handling more devices. For a few extra devices, a stackable switch may be a better option for now, but there must be future expansion plans also, with investments in a smart switch and multiple LANs.