Connecting multiple network switches requires an understanding of the port hardware, optimum topology and the Spanning Tree Protocol. Planning switch connections is critical if you want the network to perform well. Ports must be compatible to be connected together. Ethernet crossover cables must be inserted into the network for some connections. You can insert loops into the network in order to have backup paths, but you must use the Spanning Tree Protocol in that case. Loops cannot be active in switch networks.
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Things you need
- Multiple computers
- Multiple switches
Count the computers, printers and routers that will be connected on the network. Reserve one port for every device connected to the switch network.
Calculate how many switches will be required to connect all of your end points. Remember that two ports are required for every switch to switch connection.
Design which switches will connect to which. If there will be more than three switches in the network, make sure the network plan is connected as a tree rather than in a line. Choose one switch to be the top switch and connect all others to it. This will minimise the number of switches between any two points.
Decide on the importance of resilience. What would happen if one of the switches failed? If this is a small network where uptime is not critical, there is no need to plan for failures. If this is a business network where downtime costs money, plan for failures and plan alternate paths in the network.
Examine the switches to see if they have an uplink port, sometimes called a straight port. Formally these ports are known as MDI (Media Dependant Interface) ports. Normal switch ports are MDI-x ports or crossover ports. Note that some switches have auto MDI ports. They will negotiate with any connected port to make the link operational.
Choose the cables to be used to connect the ports. A connection requires a straight-through Ethernet cable to connect an MDI port to an MDI-x port. To connect an MDI port to an MDI port or an MDI-x port to an MDI-x port, use a crossover cable. A crossover cable is made by wiring pin 1 on one end to pin 3 on the other. Pin 2 is wired to pin 6, pin 3 to pin 1, and pin 6 to pin 2.
Enable the Spanning Tree Protocol if loops are required in the network. This software feature must be present on the switches in order to connect redundant circuits.
Tips and warnings
- Try to minimise the number of switches between any two points.
- Use uplink ports and straight cables wherever possible.
- Make certain all switches run the Spanning Tree Protocol if loops are installed.
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