Switched Network: What Is It and What Are Its Advantages?

Switched Network: What Is It and What Are Its Advantages?

 By Charles Joseph | Cybersecurity Advocate
 Last update: November 25, 2023

Think of a switched network as a big city, where all the buildings (which represent different computer systems) are connected by a vast network of roads (which represent the connections between the systems). Just like how you can take different routes to get from one building to another, data can also take different paths to travel between systems.

These paths are created using a technique called switching, which comes in two forms: circuital switching and packet switching.

Circuital switching is like booking a private road for your car only. It establishes a dedicated pathway for your data to travel from one place to another, which guarantees smooth traffic but can be a bit wasteful since that road is reserved only for you even when you’re not using it.

On the other hand, packet switching is like carpooling with others on the same road. Your data is broken up into small pieces (or packets), and each piece takes the best available route to reach its destination. This is more efficient because it allows the network to handle more traffic.

Some networks use only one method, while others use a combination of both to get the best of both worlds.

The whole idea behind a switched network is to ensure that communication between different computer systems is smooth, quick, and secure. The network automatically chooses the best path for data to travel based on things like how busy the network is, the fastest route, and the most secure way to send the information.

What Are the Advantages of Using a Switched Network?

Switched networks offer efficient use of resources by allowing each connection to independently carry its own data load, increasing overall network performance.

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They provide better performance as they dynamically allocate resources based on demand.

Switched networks are also highly reliable as they can reroute data if a path fails and offer enhanced security by controlling data paths and access.

They are scalable, accommodating growth in devices and users with ease.

The chances of network congestion and collisions are reduced due to each data packet having a dedicated path.

Lastly, they offer Quality of Service (QoS), prioritizing certain data types for applications that require consistent, reliable data flow.

Switched Network Examples

1. Telephone Networks

Telephony or telephone networks are one of the earliest and most recognizable forms of a switched network. This system connects phones to each other, both locally and globally, using a vast web of interconnected switches.

When you dial a number on your landline phone, the process of circuit switching begins. The telephone exchanges your picked numbers and finds an available path or line to the phone you’re trying to reach. In this manner, a dedicated communication channel is formed and retained for the duration of the call.

This system ensures that you’re speaking directly through an established connection, resulting in clear and uninterrupted communication. Therefore, during a telephone call, you are, in essence, using a switched network.

2. Ethernet Networks

Ethernet networks are a common embodiment of switched networks in the computing world. Often installed in Local Area Networks (LANs), Ethernet facilitates data transfer between connected devices such as computers, printers, and servers.

Ethernet uses a method known as packet switching. In this process, information from a sending device is broken down into smaller units known as ‘packets.’ Each of these packets is then sent individually across the network to the destination device. The packets can follow different paths and arrive at different times but are reassembled back into the original information once they all reach the destination.

Ethernet switches play a crucial role in this network. They receive incoming data packets and forward them to their intended recipients based on the devices’ MAC addresses. These switches ensure that data is sent and reached accurately, making Ethernet networks reliable and efficient examples of switched networks.

3. Railway Network Systems

A railway network system, although unusual, can be considered a non-digital example of a switched network. The trains act as data, while the tracks provide the paths that connect various nodes, which in this case are the stations.

Trains move from one station to another through a series of tracks that are interconnected, much like circuit paths in a conventional switched network. These tracks are regulated by railway switches, also known as points, which can be changed to direct trains along specific routes.

By dictating the path a train should take, rail operators can effectively manage traffic, prevent collisions, and ensure that all trains reach their intended destinations – a process much like how a digital switched network operates. This method of traffic control makes railway systems a practical and accessible example of a switched network setup in the real world.


Switched networks play a pivotal role in facilitating effective communication pathways in various fields, ranging from telecommunications to computing. Whether it’s sustaining your phone call, transferring a file over Ethernet, or managing complex railway systems, switched networks remain a fundamental part of our digital and non-digital lives.

Key Takeaways

  • Switched networks refer to setups where communication between nodes is achieved using circuital or packet switching or a combination of both.
  • They are crucial for effective and efficient data communication in various digital and non-digital environments.
  • Telephone networks use circuit switching to establish a dedicated line between two parties for the duration of a call.
  • Ethernet networks use packet switching, transmitting information in small units called packets that are then reassembled at the destination.
  • Railway networks, while not a digital example, can also be considered a form of switched network, demonstrating how switching principles can apply in different contexts.

Related Questions

1. In a switched network, what is the role of a switch?

A switch in a network directs data to the correct device based on specific identifiers like MAC addresses in an Ethernet network. It makes sure the data packet arrives at its intended destination efficiently and accurately.

2. What is the difference between circuit switching and packet switching?

Circuit switching establishes a dedicated communication path between nodes for the duration of the communication. On the other hand, packet switching breaks data into small packets and sends them to their destination independently, where they are reassembled.

3. Can Wi-Fi technology be considered a switched network?

Yes, Wi-Fi can also be considered a switched network. Wi-Fi routers act as switches, sending data packets to the correct devices in the network using both packet and circuit switching methods.

4. What makes a switched network efficient?

A switched network ensures the efficient transfer of data by establishing optimal paths for communication, reducing the risk of data collision, controlling traffic, and thereby increasing overall network performance.

5. How does a switched network improve security?

Most switched networks come with built-in security features. By controlling data traffic and confining data to specific paths, switched networks limit the opportunity for malicious parties to intercept or modify data, enhancing network security.

"Amateurs hack systems, professionals hack people."
-- Bruce Schneier, a renown computer security professional