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Let's say that I have a non modular switch, and that in future I might need to expand my LAN, connecting it to more switches. If I take stackable switches, physically how do I bind them? May I take a stackable switch and buy another switch and stack to it when I need to expand my LAN or is a modular switch needed?

Example

I'm not looking at a particular switch, I am looking at many switches and I haven't still not decided which one to buy. One that I saw is this, it has 4 SFP ports, but I need all the 4 SFP ports to link it to other switches. So the question is: may I link this switch to other 4 switches, plus another (or more) stacked switch linked via UTP cable?

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You don't neccessarily need to stack the switches to expand your network. You could simply link two or more switches together with Ethernet ports. –  joeqwerty Mar 14 '13 at 15:22

1 Answer 1

up vote 6 down vote accepted

It depends on the switch.

Some have a special port which either takes an standard ethernet cable, proprietary cable or one of a few other standard types between the switches.

Others just use a regular port and link through ethernet, and the software keeps track of managing them as a stack.

enter image description here A Cisco 6224P switch stacking interface

A switch being stackable doesn't always mean the same feature set - so you need to look closely at what features stacking gets you when comparing different models and brands. For some, a stack is just a set of switches managed together from one IP address. For others it means a dedicated high speed connection between switches with various types of failover and redundancy.

Or you might not need stacking at all

If you are not concerned about managing the switches as a single unit (or they are in fact unmanaged switches to begin with), and don't need extremely high speeds (2-10gbit+) between the switches, and aren't looking to setup any sort of redundant switching - then you don't need stacking at all. You just chain one switch to the next with a regular ethernet cable (or a cross over cable, but if you still have a switch that doesn't do automatic cross over, you really should upgrade!).

The limitation here is that all traffic that travels between the switches is limited by that single link, probably at 100mbit/s or 1gbit/s. Whether or not that is a problem depends on your network design and needs. You also have to be careful to make sure you don't create loops between the switches, or have Spanning Tree Protocol enabled on all switches to prevent loops.

About the netgear smart switch and similar designs

The SFP ports are not necessarily for stacking or chaining switches - you can use the regular ethernet ports to chain switches together.

What the SFP ports give you is the option to use fibre optic cable instead of ethernet. This requires an SFP at each end. You would use fibre in cases where:

  • The run needs to be longer than 100m - such as between buildings. Fibre can be configured to run for kilometers without any issues
  • the run will be going through areas with heavy electrical interference where copper may not work
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Newer netgear switches use HDMI cables for stacking. Mysteriously. –  Tom O'Connor Mar 14 '13 at 12:59
    
Dell switches use HDMI connections as well. –  joeqwerty Mar 14 '13 at 15:21
    
Makes sense - HDMI cables are readily available and can handle the required speeds - much cheaper than creating a new proprietary connector and cable. –  Grant Mar 14 '13 at 16:11
    
So I cannot link them via an UTP port, right? –  Ramy Al Zuhouri Mar 14 '13 at 17:06
    
It all depends on the switch. If you have a particular model you are looking at, I can certainly update the answer with that information. –  Grant Mar 14 '13 at 17:08

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