If talking about a tool that help connect other devices together or we call it network equipment, it can be divided into several types depending on the functions and features as follows.
Network equipment such as a router is a device that connects network systems together. It finds routes and send data from a computer network to another desired destination network by finding the best route and acting as an intermediary in transferring data to other networks. In case that the best route is not working, the router can also choose an alternative route instead. From the above definition, network equipment such as routers can connect more than one computer at the same time. The router will have slots for plugging in a network cable called LAN ports. It can connect 1 port per device. You can also use a network hub to increase the number of computers that are attached to the system. A router generally has at least 4 ports and can also comes with 8 or 16 ports.
Additionally, new routers now also incorporate the capabilities of modem and switching hubs on the same machine.
Hub is a device that helps to distribute signals to various devices in the system. If the network has only 2 machines, there is no need to use a hub since they can be connected to each other directly. However, if the network has more than 2 machines, it needs to have a hub to act as an intermediary. To buy a hub, you should select a hub that has the same speed with your card. For example, a 100 Mbps card should use a hub with a speed of 100 Mbps. The hub should have enough ports to support all of your devices. But in case that the number of ports is insufficient, you can expand the slots by connecting to another hub. We recommend you to buy a hub that can accommodate the number of your expected devices in the future.
Switch is a device that combines signals from multiple transmitters as well as hubs, but with some difference which is it sends data to some specific destinations unlike the hub that distributes data to all parties. This is because the switch will receive the data packets and check the destination address first. The switch will reduce the data collision problem because there is no need to distribute data to all stations. It also offers an advantage in protecting data from being sniffed through the networks.
We can use the router to create a computer network as same as a hub, assign IP Address as same as a switching hub, and connect to the Internet the same as a modem.
Therefore, this router can assign IP addresses to computers on the network. It can act as an intermediary for data transmission between each computer. It can also distribute Internet signals to all computers in the network. In addition, the router is currently available in both wired and wireless models. The wireless model will be able to send Wi-Fi signals to allow computers and other devices connect to the network immediately. It can also use this Wi-Fi to connection to distribute the Internet as well.
Another network equipment is an access point (AP). It is a device that is responsible for wireless signal distribution. It is a basic tool that can easily create a wireless network from a local area network (LAN). Access point will distribute the signal to the clients that are in the surrounding radius. The design and characteristics of each access point will vary depending on the manufacturer. But one common thing is that the AP will have only one LAN port. This slot will be used for receiving the Internet signals or connecting to another LAN network that has wireless clients connected. AP functionality will work under the standards of IEEE802.11 which means all devices that have the same standard can use this AP in its full capacity.