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Time: August 23rd, 2023

How to connect two switches together? Are you looking to expand your network infrastructure and connect multiple switches together? Connecting switches can be achieved through two common methods: cascading and stacking. In this guide, we will explore these two approaches and provide you with the necessary details to make an informed decision.

How to Connect Two Switches Together?

Cascading Switches:

Cascading involves connecting two switches using two twisted-pair cables. It allows you to increase the total number of available ports by combining the ports of both switches. The switches can even be from different manufacturers. To perform cascading, simply connect the ports of the two switches using twisted-pair cables. The switches remain independent devices, utilizing the port redundancy provided by the cascading connection.

Stacking Switches:

Stacking requires switches that support stacking functionality. It involves connecting the two switches through the designated stacking ports located at the back of the devices. To establish a stack, specialized stacking cables (often called "daisy-chain" cables) and stacking modules are used. It is important to note that switches from different manufacturers generally cannot be stacked together. Stacking not only utilizes port redundancy but also leverages the redundant backplane bandwidth, providing significantly increased bandwidth compared to individual switches.

How to Connect Two Switches Together? Key Considerations for Connecting Switches:

Although both stacking and cascading can expand the number of ports available, there are significant differences between the two in terms of logical management, device requirements, connection media, maximum connection capacity, management approach, connection bandwidth, and network coverage range.

Logical Management:

When switches are cascaded, each individual switch or hub remains a separately managed device. In contrast, when switches are stacked, multiple switches become a single managed device.

Device Requirements:

Cascading can be achieved between switches or between switches and hubs from different manufacturers using a single twisted-pair cable. Stacking, however, can only be implemented between devices of the same manufacturer that support stacking functionality.

Connection Media Requirements:

Cascading requires only a single patch cable, while stacking requires specialized stacking modules and stacking cables, which need to be separately purchased.

Maximum Connection Capacity:

In theory, there is no limit to the number of switches that can be cascaded. However, each manufacturer imposes explicit limits on the number of switches that can be stacked within a stack.

Management Approach:

Stacked switches are managed as a single entity, allowing for unified configuration and management of all switches in the stack. In contrast, cascaded switches are treated as independent devices, requiring individual configuration and management for each switch.

Connection Bandwidth:

Cascading multiple switches can lead to cascading bottlenecks and significant forwarding delays. For example, when four 100Mbps switches are cascaded using patch cables, the connection bandwidth between them remains at 100Mbps. Consequently, communication between computers connected to different switches is restricted to this 100Mbps link, creating a bottleneck. Additionally, as the number of forwarding hops increases, network latency also becomes substantial. However, when four switches are stacked together, the stacking cables provide backplane bandwidth greater than 1Gbps, enabling high-speed connections between all switches. Although cascading can utilize link aggregation technology to increase bandwidth between switches, it comes at the expense of available ports.

Network Coverage Range:

Cascading switches can significantly expand the network coverage range. For example, in a twisted-pair network, the diameter of a network covered by a single switch is 100 meters. When two switches are cascaded, the diameter increases to 300 meters, and with three cascaded switches, it can reach 400 meters. Stacking cables, on the other hand, are typically only 0.5 to 1 meter long, serving the purpose of interconnecting switches without affecting the network coverage range.

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, both cascading and stacking provide methods to connect multiple switches together, offering their unique advantages. Cascading is a commonly used approach that requires only twisted-pair cables and provides an easy way to interconnect multiple switches. Stacking offers higher efficiency, convenient port expansion, and significantly improved bandwidth by utilizing dedicated stacking ports and cables.

Remember to consider factors such as the proximity of the devices, desired bandwidth, and the compatibility of switches from different manufacturers. By carefully evaluating these factors, you can ensure a reliable and efficient network infrastructure that supports your growing connectivity demands.

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