The lowdown: Ethernet workgroup switches

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What is it? A managed Ethernet workgroup switch generally supports up to 24 10/100-Mbps Ethernet/Fast Ethernet copper ports and two 1-Gbps Gigabit Ethernet copper or fiber uplinks to fast network backbones.

What does 'managed' mean? A managed workgroup switch comes with hardware or software tools that include such features as port monitoring, packet error detection, fault isolation and support for variable port speeds.

What is the difference between a Layer 2 and Layer 3 switch? A Layer 2 switch can work at wire speeds because it doesn't handle individual data packets. A Layer 3 switch also performs high-speed routing functions.

How much do managed workgroup switches cost? Many Layer 2 switches with basic management features cost less than $100 per port. When Layer 3 capability and advanced management features are added, the prices rise considerably.

Must-know info? 1-Gbps Gigabit Ethernet switching capacity to the desktop will eventually replace 10/100 technology, but for the time being the models listed in this guide are the most useful, versatile and cost-effective switches on the market.

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