If you’re like me, and want almost every device in your home to have constant internet speeds and little to no chance of interference, you go wired, right?
It’s a pretty convenient solution to combat the wireless congestion in an apartment complex, and is simple to set up (see my article on how to run Ethernet in an apartment here).
While going this route, though, you might find that the number of devices you plan on wiring up outnumber the amount of Ethernet ports on your router.
So what to do in such a drastic situation?!? That’s where Ethernet Switches come into play. In this article, I’ll try to relay some helpful info I’ve found in my own research regarding setting up an expansive wired home network.
What Are Ethernet Switches?
Ethernet Switches are devices in the shape of a small box and have multiple Ethernet ports on them.
The number of these ports can range from not many to a lot, which can cause the shape of the Ethernet Switch to be comically long.
With this in mind, you might think of Ethernet Switches as surge protectors, but for internet. This also kind of helps in understanding what it is exactly that they do.
What Ethernet Switches Do
Essentially, Ethernet Switches expand the number of Ethernet ports available to your devices.
They do this by taking in a wired internet signal from your router to one of their ports, and then splitting it up so that the remaining ports can act as an output for that signal.
This allows more devices to utilize Ethernet when all the ports on your router are taken up by simply connecting to one of the output ports on the switch.
Do Ethernet Switches Decrease Internet Speeds?
You might be wondering, if Ethernet Switches split up an incoming internet signal, does it cause that signal to slow down at all?
That’s what I was wondering, too, until I looked it up.
From what I’ve found, the switch’s efficiency in splitting up an incoming internet signal and managing the output of internet from its Ethernet ports allow it to not be a hindrance on your network speeds.
Most modern switches can operate at very high internet speeds, with 1,000 Mbps being common in my searches. For me, at least, this is more than enough headroom to work with.
In the event that you’re using every device connected to the switch simultaneously, you might start experiencing some interference. This would be due to all the devices competing for the same amount of wired internet speed. All the info that I’ve read on this type of situation, though, concludes that this decrease is not incredibly noticeable.
The only real limiting factor that I’ve seen is the speeds provided by your ISP. So, in other words, you’re only limited by what you can pay for.
How Ethernet Switches Can Be Useful To You
Now, the big obvious reason that Ethernet Switches would be helpful is that they expand the reach of your wired network, which allows for pretty much constant internet speeds and low interference for devices that previously relied on a crowded wireless network.
However, I’ve come up with some specific scenarios where an Ethernet Switch would help you get the most out of your internet.
In one scenario, you could be turning your apartment into a smart home. If you know anything about smart homes, you know that a smart home hub is an important asset to have, and while some can simply connect to your network over the WiFi, a wired Ethernet connection is superior.
If you’ve used all your router’s Ethernet ports, though, you’d be stuck with the wireless connection. An Ethernet Switch would be handy in this situation.
Another scenario, which would be more likely for me, is that you have multiple game consoles set up in a central area like your living room. For online play, a wired connection is optimal, but the number of consoles you have may surpass the number of available ports on your router.
Again, this is where an Ethernet Switch comes to save the day by increasing the number of Ethernet ports, without sacrificing the internet speeds.
Incorporating Ethernet Switches Into Your Network Setup
There are a number of specific uses that Ethernet Switches can have in your home network setup. The two scenarios I listed above could just be a part of whatever grander scheme you might have in mind.
I think that’s what I like most about Ethernet Switches; the fact that their purpose is so general that they can be incorporated in multitudes of different ways within various parts of a home network.
In the subsection below, I’ll list some potential ideas and ways to make Ethernet Switches a part of your network setup.
Already stated was the video game console setup. Having multiple consoles using a wireless network is only going to make things more crowded and can potentially drag your WiFi speeds down.
To make the transition to wired, you’d need to have the Ethernet Switch close to the consoles and, preferably, out of sight or in a pleasant-looking manner.
Personally, I’d go with keeping the switch out of sight, but that’s just me. If you’d rather show of your Ethernet Switch whilst not having cables strewn about everywhere, you can read my cable management subsection below.
Another possible setup would be if you have multiple people living in your apartment with multiple desktop computers. While it might be unlikely, having multiple home offices in an apartment would be more than enough of a cause for an Ethernet Switch.
Since you’re most likely going to have different personal computers in different rooms of the apartment, I’d suggest having the switch closer to the main location of the router this time, and either running the cables to different rooms or using MoCA adapters.
Also, if you’d like to learn more about determining the best spot for your router to be in your apartment, you can check out my article on it here.
One last setup idea that you might want in your home is somewhat of a mix of my smart hub scenario and an entertainment center.
Let’s say you’re constructing a smart apartment and want the least amount of traffic on your WiFi network as possible. Let’s also say that you have one of those higher end streaming boxes that are big enough to support wired Ethernet.
Armed with an Ethernet Switch, you now are able to have those two devices, along with any other devices (personal computer, game console) wired directly to the internet. You also have more headroom in your WiFi network to advance your smart apartment.
As far as placement for the switch goes, I’d have it similar to the video game console setup, and keep the switch closer to the hub of entertainment devices.
Now that I’ve shared some ideas on getting everything wired with Ethernet, let’s talk about managing the inevitable jungle of cables that’ll come as a result.
By the time you’ve got everything connected, you’ll probably have at least a decent sized mess of cables running to different places.
Luckily, though, cable management for this sort of thing should be relatively simple.
One thing you need to know, however, is that the management needed depends on your own setup and situation. Let’s go over some specific forms of cable management using some of the scenarios and setup ideas I mentioned above.
I’ve found that velcro cable ties would probably be a good cable management solution if your setup was like that of the video game console or entertainment center scenario.
They’re really easy to apply, and they’re reusable! You just wrap them around a bundle of cables to form it into somewhat of a singular, easier-to-manage cable. This helps in keeping things out of sight and tidier.
As for someone with a setup closer to my multiple home office scenario, the “Managing The Cables” section of my article regarding running Ethernet through an apartment pretty much covers all you need to know on it (find it here).
Finally, if you want the Ethernet Switch out of sight in your setup, I’d suggest using double-sided tape and attaching the switch behind a desk or an entertainment center while using velcro ties to keep everything nice and clean. You could also just put it behind whatever piece of furniture your router is on if that suits your needs.
Either way, it really all just comes down to your personal preference and what you have in mind for your apartment. I’m just here to give you some ideas and potentially get you started in optimizing your network setup.
Hopefully, I’ve helped you learn something new today that could be helpful in your home-networking experience. Thanks for reading!