Router? Bridge? Switch? Hub? What's the difference?
Reference: LAN and WAN Subnetworks Under IP - Lan Interconnection, by Thomas A. Maufer
Ever wonder what the difference is among these boxes? Which one do you use when? Let's take a look. We'll start with the simplest device, the Hub.
A hub is a repeater, which is a OSI model device, the simplest possible. A hub takes the data that comes into a port and sends it out all the other ports in the hub. It doesn't perform any filtering or redirection of data. Although it's actually a little more complicated, you can think of a hub like a piece of wire. A better analogy might be that of an Internet Chat room. Everything that everyone who joins a particular chat is seen by everyone else. If there are too many people trying to chat, things get bogged down. More info on hubs can be found here.
Bridges (sometimes called "Transparent bridges") work at OSI model Layer 2. This means they don't know anything about protocols, but just forward data depending on the destination address in the data packet. This address is not the IP address, but the MAC (Media Access Control) address that is unique to each network adapter card.
With a Bridge, all your computers are in the same network subnet, so you don't have to worry about not being able to communicate between computers or share an Internet connection. DHCP servers will work fine across Bridges, or if you assign your own IP addresses, you'll use the same first 3 "octets" of the IP address (Example: 192.168.0.X).
However, the only data that is allowed to cross the bridge is data that is being sent to a valid address on the other side of the bridge. No valid address, no data across the bridge. Bridges don't require programming. They learn the addresses of the computers connected to them by listening to the data flowing through them.
Bridges are very useful for joining networks made of different media types together into larger networks, and keeping network segments free of data that doesn't belong in a particular segment.
Switches are the same thing as Bridges, but usually have multiple ports with the same "flavor" connection (Example: 10/100BaseT).
Switches can be used in heavily loaded networks to isolate data flow and improve performance. In a switch, data between two lightly used computers will be isolated from data intended for a heavily used server, for example. Or in the opposite case, in "auto sensing" switches that allow mixing of 10 and 100Mbps connections, the slower 10Mbps transfer won't slow down the faster 100Mbps flow.
Although switch prices are dropping so that there is very little difference from hub prices, most home users get very little, if any, advantage from switches, even when sharing "broadband" Internet connections. "Broadband" connections for most users are in the 1-2Mbps range, far below even 10Mbps speeds. Since you share that bandwidth, you can see that your speedy 100BaseT connection isn't even breaking a sweat when you're using the Internet.
Routers forward data packets from one place to another, too! However routers are OSI model Layer 3 devices, and forward data depending on the Network address, not the Hardware (MAC) address. For TCP/IP networks, this means the IP address of the network interface.
Routers isolate each LAN into a separate subnet, so each network adapter's IP address will have a different third "octet" (Example: 192.168.1.1 and 192.168.2.1 are in different subnets.). They are necessary in large networks because the TCP/IP addressing scheme allows only 254 addresses per (Class C) network segment.
Routers, like bridges, provide bandwidth control by keeping data out of subnets where it doesn't belong. However, routers need to be set up before they can get going, although once set up, they can communicate with other routers and learn the way to parts of a network that are added after a router is initially configured.
Routers are also the only one of these four devices that will allow you to share a single IP address among multiple network clients.
I can't believe you're a "member" and posted this.
Anyway, after the inital shock, here's the story.
1. A Hub is just a network connector. It's just about the most basic one possible, other than a null cable. A hub lets you connect more than 2 computers together (if it was 2, you'd just need a null cable). Most are stackable, nowdays, so if you buy one that has 4 inputs you can later plug it into another hub for more connections without having to "swap" out the hub.
2. A switch is a really upgraded hub. If you have only 3 computerz hooked up, you're not going to see any speed difference between a hub and a switch. Once you have about 10 devices, then you're going to start getting collisions and errors. That's when you need a switch. *But*, you can buy a switch if that's what you really want. I'm just saying, if you have no planz to hook up at least 5 xboxs together, there's no reason to get a switch. You will pay out the @$$ for it, compared to a hub.
3. A router is like a hub, in that your computers into it, and all the onez sold nowadays also act as hubs. But, in addition to hubbage, it's also a gateway (and nowadays) a firewall. The practical side of the router is: if you have 3 computers, and one cable modem, and you figure the cable company is already sucking enough money out of you, then you need a router. Rather than pay the co. $5/month for each extra ip address, you can run a router in there and setup NAT. If you have 3 computers hooked up, you'll recap your expenses within about a year from the monthly fee you'd be charged otherwise.
Bottom line: soundz like you want a hub or router. Router if you're hooking two xboxes up to the internet, a hub if you're just hooking two xboxes together. Actually, if you're just hooking two up, I'd go with a null cable instead. You can buy them (already crimped, since I guess you don't have your own crimpage) down at the local computer hack shop. Don't bother checking Worst Buy or CompedUSA; they won't carry them.
Hub: Multi-port Repeater - will transmit network traffic out all ports.
Bridge: A selective hub - will allow only the network traffic it has been told to allow based on the NIC's MAC address.
Switch: A multiport bridge essentially.
Router: Like a switch, but traffic is filtered by the use of IP routing, rather than MAC address blocking. Can communicate with other routers based on routing tables, to locate next hop or destination IP addresses for the network traffic.