In a nutshell, layer 3 switches are valuable tools in enterprise networks because they increase network efficiency, especially where multiple subnets and VLANs are concerned. But, what exactly is a layer 3 switch/layer 3 connectivity, and why would it be important to your network? Check out the important details below.

So, What Is A Layer 3 Network?

Layer 3 connectivity is not to be confused with layer 2 connectivity, which has a more limited function. In fact, a layer 3 switch (also known as a multilayer switch) can be compared to a 2-in-1 switch and router.

So, you’ll find that layer 3 switches are quite similar to routers in terms of physical appearance, and the way they support the same routing protocols and have the same mode of function.

However, unlike with routers, layer 3 connectivity is all about the improved hardware internals. The internal hardware for a layer 3 switch combines that of a switch and router to provide better network routing performance for local networks. Since they’re designed to be used on intranets, layer 3 switches don’t have wide area network features and ports that come with a standard router.

Characteristics Layer 3 Switches

Typically, a layer 3 switch has the following characteristics:

  • 24 Ethernet ports, but as mentioned, no wide area network interface
  • Functions as a switch that ensures connectivity between devices found in the same subnet
  • Makes use of a switching algorithm used for most simple routed protocols
  • Operates on both layer 2 and layer 3 OSI layers

Benefits of Layer 3 Connectivity/Switch

Generally, layer 3 switches combine the following functions and purposes in one package:

  • Facilitates routing between virtual LANs
  • Reduce network latency since packets don’t have to be rerouted as much
  • Lower broadcast traffic volumes
  • Improved segregation of traffic by separating routing tables
  • Simplify the configuration process for VLANs
  • Simplify troubleshooting and fault isolation

As you can see, layer 3 switches come with a wide range of benefits. According to data from the FCC, about 21.3 million Americans don’t have access to high-speed internet with speeds between 25 Mbps down and 3Mbps up. The digital divide is real, and while it’s still a long way from closing, it’s great news that there are technological improvements like layer 3 connectivity to make the world a better place!

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