Choosing a Fiber Switch


Do you have the experience of setting up a fiber switch for your network system? Or do you feel distressed for choosing an ideal fiber switch for your clients? Fiber switch is the dispensable telecom device that joins multiple devices within one network. There are many factors to be considered before you make a product choice. One of the key points is that the fiber switch must accommodate servers and storage devices both for the present and future proof. Today’s article has concluded the frequently asked questions about selecting a fiber switch, and provide some assistance to you.

Fiber Switch Overview

Before we come to the main part, let’s have a brief overview of the fiber switches. Generally, the fiber switch is broadly divided into two main category—modular and fixed configuration. The modular fiber switch just like the Cisco 4500 series switch (seen in the below image), allows you to add expansion modules into switched as needed, thereby delivering the best flexibility to address changing networks.


While the fixed configuration fiber switch, as the name implies, are switches with the fixed number of ports and are typically not expandable. Cisco Catalyst 3750 is a good example of this. The fixed configuration switch category is further broken down into the unmanaged switch, smart switch and managed L2 and L3 switch. Each of them can be used in different situation.

How to Choose a Fiber Switch?

In the previous article entitled “Why Choose to Use a Managed Ethernet Switch?”, it mentioned the reasons why people should use managed switch other than the unmamaged switch. A managed switch can give you better control over LAN traffic and offer advanced features like remote management, Redundancy, QoS services. Besides the above factors, some common features about choosing the right fiber switch are listed below.

Transmission Speed
Fiber switches are typically in Fast Ethernet, Gigabit Ethernet, 10 Gigabit and even 40/100 Gbps speeds. These switches have a number of uplink ports and downlink ports. Downlinks connect to end users, and uplinks connect to other Switches or to the network infrastructure. Currently, Gigabit speed is the most popular interface speed through Fast Ethernet is still widely used, especially in price-sensitive environments. 10 Gigabit has been growing rapidly, especially in the data center and, as the cost comes down, it will continue to expand into more network applications. And the 40G/100G is still emerging and will be mainstream in a few years. For example, the commonly used Catalyst 3750 is armed with 48 Ethernet 10/100/1000 ports with IEEE 802.3af PoE and 4 SFP uplinks, which is suitable for the 1G application.

Fiber switches typically come in 5, 8, 10, 16, 24, 28, 48, and 52-port configurations. These ports may be a combination of SFP/SFP+ slots for fiber connectivity, but more commonly they are copper ports with RJ-45 connectors on the front, allowing for distances up to 100 meters.

PoE Versus Non-PoE
Power over Ethernet (PoE) is a capability that facilitates powering a device (such as an IP phone, IP Surveillance Camera, or Wireless Access Point) over the same cable as the data traffic. One of the advantages of PoE is the flexibility it provides in allowing you to easily place endpoints anywhere in the business, even places where it might be difficult to run a power outlet.

However, switches have a power budget set aside for running the switch itself, and also an amount of power dedicated for PoE endpoints. For example, PoE switches according to 802.3af standard deliver power up to 15.4 Watts on a switch port, and IEEE 802.3at (also known as PoE+) delivers power up to 30 Watts on a switch port. For most endpoints, 802.3af is sufficient but there are devices, such as Video phones or Access Points with multiple radios, which have higher power needs. It’s important to point out that there are other PoE standards currently being developed that will deliver even high levels of power for future applications.

Whether to choose a PoE switch or non-PoE switch, you need to consider the features associated with the PoE capacity as well as your power needs. When connecting to desktops or other types of devices which do not require PoE, the non-PoE switches are a more cost-effective option.


When you are preparing a new installation with Fiber running, choose a suitable switch is essential. But if you search on the internet, you will find there are many types of switches on the market. Take Cisco as an example, it had launched a series of switches, and each has different performance. I hope this article can provide you some steep learning curve about fiber switches. It is advisable for you to ask an expert for help, or you may waste your money.

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