Let's get this one out of the way... wireless networking is a lot easier to physically setup than Ethernet. For wireless, all you need are a few wireless cards, a wireless router and/or access point and you're all set. Granted, if your home or apartment has lead pillars all over the place, your connection may not be all that great, but generally, there is no need to knock walls down or drill any holes.
The problem with wireless, especially if you're stuck with anything slower than 802.11g, is the networking speed isn't all that great and unless you're operating under ideal circumstances, your connection may not be reliable. If you're doing nothing more than web surfing, this may not be a concern, but gamers, frequent downloaders and streaming media depend on more bandwidth and reliable connections. Ethernet cabling is my personal choice for networking for speed and reliability. It isn't expensive at all, costing maybe a few cents per foot of cable, and anything over Category-5 cabling will be more than enough for most people.
Almost two years ago, I had a custom home built. Prior to the walls going up, I spent a couple weekends running CAT-5E cables throughout my home with the intention of having a fast home network. I chose CAT-5E because of the Gigabit support, and although I would have liked to have Cat-6, the cables weren't in stock when I needed them. Nonetheless, I had the potential for Gigabit speed though all my rooms, entertainment areas and my office. I mention "potential" since up until I got a D-Link DGL-4300 Wireless 108G Gaming Router, I was stuck with a 10/100 Linksys router. Now, my main PCs are riding the Gigabit highway, but some of our other PCs are limited to 802.11g or 100MBits since I was daisy chaining the D-Link Gaming router (which only has 4 Gigabit ports) to my Linksys.
This will change though as we've recently received D-Link GigaExpress DGS-1008D which will add eight more Gigabit ports to my network. We've covered the Gaming Router late last month, so today, we'll be focussing on the GigaExpress DGS-1008D.
The D-Link GigaExpress DGS-1008D
The D-Link GigaExpress DGS-1008D arrived neatly packaged in a retail box. Inside the box, we have the switch itself, a power brick and a small manual. There were no Ethernet cables included, so you'll need to pick up your own or use your existing ones. Keep in mind that to maximize the performance, you'll need CAT-5E and up as well as a Gigabit network connection on the PC.
While the GigaExpress DGS-1008D supports Gigabit speeds, it can also handle 10/100MBps speeds, so if your existing wiring or network cards are not CAT-5E or Gigabit, you'll still be able to use the switch and upgrade your cables and/or NIC at a later date. The switch will automatically recognize what kind of connection the PC is on, and displays it on the front panel with coloured indicators. Amber lights mean the connection is 100MBit or lower, while yellow is 1000MBps.
There are a total of 8 network connections located on the rear of the GigaExpress DGS-1008D, but keep in mind one will be lost if you connect it to your router. The switch is very easy to setup, as all eight connections are Auto MDI/MDI-X crossover ports. What this means is there is no need for crossover cables that are normally required when daisy-chaining networking devices. For our testing, we used a standard straight through network cable, plugged it into port #1 and plugged the other connection into port #2 on the D-Link Gaming Router. Also, as mentioned earlier, the ports are Auto-negotiating, meaning they will determine what speed to use based on the cables and PC's NIC.
The GigaExpress DGS-1008D has an 8,000 MAC address table, which means it can scale up to 8000 IP devices (PCs, routers, and printers for example). The switch has a 16Gbps switching capacity, address learning and aging ability, 802.3x Flow Control for full duplex mode, and back pressure flow control for half-duplex mode. The switch supports a non-blocking architecture which will make expanding the network relatively easy when compared to the typical method of setting up a switching network. For home networks, this is overkill but for businesses the switch should be sufficient for most small to medium size enterprises that do not require an advanced switching matrix. That being said, at about , the pricing is within the range of the home user.
The GigaExpress DGS-1008D is a layer 2 switch, meaning it is a network device that forwards traffic based on MAC layer addresses. There are 7 networking layers in all, so some of the higher level functions such as managing and terminating connections between applications, encryption and authentication will not be supported. Typically, you will not find these in switches under $1000, so these omissions aren't surprising.