Layer 3 Switches: What Are They and Do I Need One?

Posted by Integrity Global on Sep 12th 2019

Layer 3 Switches: What Are They and Do I Need One?

Layer 3 Switches: What Are They and Do I Need One?

Consider this: your computer’s data network is suffering from a case of old or malfunctioning switches. You’ll need to replace them, and quickly, but you’re not sure what the right move is. Do you simply buy a new switch? Is it better to invest in a new router? For most small businesses, making the right move could help you save money and boost your network capabilities in one. That’s why investing in a layer 3 switch can be a great move for a company in the midst of a network transition. Unlike a traditional switch, a layer 3 switch can act both as a Layer 2 switch and a router, opening up even more dynamic possibilities for a LAN or VLAN-connected workplace. So what are layer 3 switches and how do they work? Here’s a brief overview. 

What is a Layer Three Switch?

In network routing, specific hardware is required for communicating within a data network. For devices that are connected via the same LAN network, say in a small office, using a layer 3 switch, also known as a multilayer switch, can increase speed, enhance productivity, and act as both a switch and a router to seamlessly connect computers on the same network. This switch doesn’t have a WAN interface, but it does have VLAN capabilities,

Why Do I Need One?

Before determining whether or not you might benefit from a layer 3 switch, you’ll want to consider the size of your LAN. For smaller networks, using a switch that has both connecting and routing capabilities could help boost performance and avoid glitches. A layer 3 switch also comes with 24 Ethernet ports, which is excellent for large campuses or medium-to-large-sized offices. If your network is notoriously slow and you want to boost performance and strengthen your online security protocols, getting a layer 3 switch could be an easy way to do it. It’s also a great option for companies that are thinking of expanding to a VLAN network.

What's the Price Range?

Usually, a layer 3 switch will start at about $100 and go all the way up to $10,000 for the more advanced models. Depending on how large your network is and how much money you have to play around with, you’ll want to choose something that can handle a lot of devices at once. If you’re running a small business with a low-throughput network, you might not need something as sophisticated (and expensive) as a layer 3 switch. However, if you’re trying to increase speed and protect your workplace from a major security breach, or if you’re simply transitioning from an in-house LAN to a virtual network, a layer 3 switch could be just what the doctor ordered.

Which is Cheaper to Maintain?

If you’re worried about maintenance, choose an option with an isolated switch for easy troubleshooting and updates. Many switches are advertised as “low maintenance,” which could be a good bet if you’re planning on installing your switch and using a smart control center to manage it remotely. Generally, spending more on a high-grade machine will save you time and money in troubleshooting later. However, this isn’t always the case. Make sure you ask a lot of questions before buying so you can be certain that your “low maintenance” switch won’t have you sweating over repairs down the line.

Which Has the Best Support?

If you’re concerned about support and troubleshooting, you probably want to stick with a company like Cisco or Netgear that’s considered to be the industry standard. However, if you want to save money on a less expensive option, make sure you reach out to customer support beforehand so you can see how they handle your basic setup and maintenance questions. It’s also a good idea to read reviews before purchasing so that you can spot any customer support red flags early on. You don’t want to be stuck with an overly-complicated switch that you have no idea how to program or maintain.

Which Can I Program the Easiest?

Setup can be a lot of work, especially if you opt for a more technologically advanced option. One of the benefits of going with a Nexus or Cisco brand switch is that these companies could consider your purchase of a layer 3 switch to be an upgrade to your current layer 2 service. This means a much easier integration process with a smaller margin for error. If you’re already using the services of a certain company for your layer 2 domain, it might be best to stick with that company unless you’re not thrilled with the current service or customer support.

What Else Should I Know?

When you’re looking into buying a Layer 3 switch for your workplace, always consider the following questions:

-How many ports does it have, and which port types (modular or fixed?)

-What are the uplink speeds?

-Does it need to be managed and maintained?

-Does it have a built-in fan or a fanless cooling system to prevent overheating?

-Does it support PoE stacking?

-How often will it need to be updated or serviced? Will this cost extra?

A good layer 3 switch is a true investment, and while it might be hard to justify the cost at first, consider the time your business will save in delayed loading times, slow packet inspection, and security risks. Keeping your LAN or VLAN secure is an important priority for any growing business, and using the right layer 3 switch could end up protecting you from a data breach or network failure down the line. If you’re ready to boost your TCO and secure your virtual network, it’s time to invest in a layer 3 switch for your business.

If you have any additional questions about Layer 3 switches, the experts at Integrity Global Solutions can help! Chat with us now or contact us for more information.