An Ethernet/Network switch is a device that that connects multiple devices, such as computers, servers, or game systems, to a Local Area Network (LAN). Most of us have a single ethernet (RJ45) port on our computer but we need an ethernet connection for each DMX controller. A network switch takes one input and manages the ethernet traffic to and from multiple outputs. So we connect our PC to the switch using the ethernet port. Then we use the outputs to connect to the controllers. The switch handles the routing of messages between the PC and the attached controllers.
10/100Mbps vs. Gigabit
Ethernet network speeds have evolved over time and range from Ethernet (10Mbps), Fast Ethernet (100Mbps), Gigabit Ethernet (1000Mbps) and 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10Gbps). Keeping in step, Ethernet switches have also escalated from 10/100Mbps switches to Gigabit (10/100/1000Mbps) switches and so on. Most switches are intelligent enough to handle the slower data rates and determine the appropriate rate based on what is plugged into them.
Before I went shopping for my first switch, I did a little research and was told that a 10/100Mbps switch would be more than sufficient for my lighting needs. So I started with two 10/100Mbps switches, a 5 port and an 8 port. I spotted a sale at my favorite electronics store for Gigabit switches that were "Just too cheap to pass up" so I bought a couple of them. I have used both the 10/100Mbps and Gigabit in my show with no discernable difference.
Many of the manufacturers of light controllers have started adding a network switch to their boards to enable daisy-chaining of controllers without an external switch. While this is helpful, I still like having an external switch in a central place in my yard from which I can connect controllers with shorter cables.
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