The networks in our homes and offices are becoming more technologically advanced and more challenging to maintain. We usually want every corner of our house to have the best connection possible, whether it is our smart TVs, gaming consoles, PCs, notebooks, and phones. All of this means that we often rely on network switches but do these switches cause latency?
The amount of latency caused by a network switch is negligible. A network switch does not cause seconds or even milliseconds of latency but rather around 3 microseconds. It would take 1000 microseconds to generate one millisecond of latency so network switches do not increase any perceivable latency.
In this article, we will dive deeper into how network switches and latency relate, and how many network switches are too many for a home or office network. So, for everything you need to know about the latency that is caused by a network switch, I highly recommend that you keep reading this article.
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Switches Do Not Increase Latency
In terms of milliseconds, which is how we generally work out a network’s latency, switches will not cause latency. However, I think it would be more accurate to say that if a network switch does cause latency, it is so tiny that you will not be able to perceive it in any capacity. Let me explain.
The latency that a network switch might cause will be in microseconds, and a “store and send” network switch will not cause more than 3 microseconds of latency. Now, we need to put that into perspective. So, let’s take a look at how much latency one microsecond can cause.
- 1 Microsecond = 0.001 Milliseconds
- 1000 Microseconds = 1 Millisecond
Even though competitive gamers might notice an increase of 10 milliseconds, they will not notice an increase of 1 millisecond. If a network is good enough for gamers, especially high-level ones, then trust me, it is good enough for almost everybody else.
The only industry that might be affected by one or two milliseconds of ping is the financial industry, such as Wall Street. Even then, they will not notice latency fluctuations if those fluctuations are in microseconds.
Let’s stick to talking about home switches, though. Most network switches that you find in small offices and homes are known as “store and send” switches. These are the kind of switches we are talking about in this article. Now, let’s think of a scenario to make sure that we are 100% clear.
Let’s say you have five switches in between your modem and your PC. Let’s say that each network switch adds 3 microseconds of latency to your network. See, we are using the high end of the spectrum just to put everything into perspective.
- Five network switches at 3 Microseconds per switch = 15 Microseconds.
- 15 Microseconds = 0.015 Milliseconds of latency.
It would be disingenuous to use that 0.015 milliseconds to say that the “latency has increased.” Like I have said, most gamers and almost anyone won’t be able to tell the difference with such small time frames.
How Many Network Switches Is Too Many?
In my experience, I’ve seen that networks that are, for lack of better words, absolutely mind-blowing. When it comes to residential or small office networks, I’ve seen some impressive networks as well. Some people have eight network switches; all daisy-chained together with no interference and no significant increase in latency. Getting these networks to run smoothly takes some work.
It is important to note that professionals set up these networks, and they know what they are doing. So, it is advisable only to set up these types of networks if you have some sort of networking background.
For the average person who has reasonable but limited networking knowledge, you should only set up around three switches.
If you start going above three switches, you begin creating room for things to go wrong. This is because you are adding more variables to the infrastructure of your network. At some point, it is advisable to call a networking professional.
Is It Faster To Have Switches Or Wireless Internet?
Using a network switch is always faster than using wireless internet. Not only does the wired network provide more stability, less jitter, less packet loss, and lower latency, it also adds convenience to your network. A wireless network might not offer the same stability, and you will have increased latency even if your wireless router is close to your wireless device.
There are several reasons why wireless networks have more latency. These reasons include:
- The number of devices using the network.
- The distance that the signal needs to travel between the device and the router.
- The number of walls and obstacles that the signal needs to pass through.
Does The Length Of An Ethernet Cable Increase Latency?
It is essential to add that you will experience latency if your cable is too long, and I don’t want you to confuse this with the switch. You will notice that ethernet cables are often capped at 100m. After about 100 meters, the cable loses its signal boost significantly, but up until this point, 100 meters, it only loses an insignificant amount of signal.
An ethernet cable will only increase your latency by about one Nanosecond per one foot. That number is so insignificant that you will get an error if you use google to convert 1 Nanosecond into Milliseconds.
What is Bottlenecking: Can A Network Switch Cause it?
To understand what bottlenecking is, you can think of a highway that goes from two lanes into one. Obviously, this will create congestion and slow down traffic, which is the logic of bottlenecking. Remember, in networking, you are always limited to your lowest common denominator.
If you have an internet line that is 200 Mbps with an Ethernet cable that is 1 Gbps and runs into a network switch that is only a 100 Mbps switch, you will experience bottlenecking, and you will have slow internet.
This can affect your latency; however, it is not the switch’s fault. Instead, you should go out and get a bigger network switch to accommodate your line speed. I had seen this before where someone had a 200 Mbps line with a cable running from the modem to a switch with their PC connected to that switch. That PC kept getting slow internet, and the guy did not realize that he was connected to a 100 Mbps switch.
It is also important to remember that most network switches divide the bandwidth equally between all the devices connected to them. So, if you have a 1 Gbps ethernet port connected to six devices, one or two of those devices might start running slow. This is because you are causing a bottleneck.
That brings us to the end of this article. The main takeaway should be that a network switch does not increase your latency in any perceivable capacity. If you are gaming and there are three switches between your PC or console and your modem, you should not worry about latency. You will not be affected.
If you are using the network to work on, you have even less reason to worry. The latency caused by a network switch will not affect anything that you are doing.