Purchasing a network hub is one of those things that most administrators don't give much thought to. Beyond the port count and the speed of the hub, little else other than price may seem to matter at first glance. But there are a number of other factors that you should consider that can help you get more out of your network hub, and can save you money and aggravation down the line.
Beyond speed, port count, and price, you should look for the following features:
- Stackable. Some hubs can be connected to other hubs to expand your network so that the combine unit acts like a single hub, even going so far as to be configured as full rack mounts.
- Form factor. Many hubs have their own special enclosures, while others allow for rack mounting. When possible, even if you don't have rack-mounted gear now, get hubs that can rack mount later in case you need it.
- Auto-sensing. Dual speed hubs (10/100) can protect your investment in legacy equipment, and increase your networking flexibility. There's little price penalty these days from buying auto-sensing hubs and switches, which determine speed on a by-port basis, and they are preferable to single speed hubs.
- SNMP support. The Simple Network Management Protocol lets a network manager configure a hub remotely, and provides information about the performance of the hub, traffic, errors, and so forth.
It's worth paying more to get these features, as they often save your company hundreds or thousands of dollars later on in equipment that you can continue to support or equipment that you can avoid purchasing.
Barrie Sosinsky is president of consulting company Sosinsky and Associates (Medfield MA). He has written extensively on a variety of computer topics. His company specializes in custom software (database and Web related), training and technical documentation.
This was first published in October 2002