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Switching, as applied to networking and IT, is the practice of directing a signal or data element toward a particular hardware destination. Switching may be applied in various formats and can function in diverse ways within a greater network infrastructure.
Switching hardware pieces or switches can operate in different ways. These devices can use multiple layers of the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) model for data. A switch that uses more than one layer is a multi-layer switch.
An example of a switching setup includes a residential gateway, which is used by Internet Service Providers (ISP) and other parties to deliver a signal to an individual destination, such as a home or piece of property. Another example is an Ethernet LAN, which uses a media access control (MAC) address to route data to a specific workstation.
Some experts contrast the switch with the less precise hub, which delivers a signal to all linked destinations in the LAN or other network.