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What is Switch Stacking & Why is it Important?

Switch Stacking & Your Network

There are countless ways to design a network and meet the criteria it needs to follow. Not all of these methods will be as efficient or affordable as others. That’s why network administrators are constantly learning new concepts.

Switch stacking is commonly used in high-end networking, but many small and medium businesses are missing out on the technique. Taking a minute to learn more about it could reveal a better way to run your network that saves time and money while improving network functionality.

What Is Switch Stacking?

Switch stacking is a term that describes a technique for linking networking switches together. Stacked switches are connected in such a way that the multiple units operate as if they were a single device.

This setup allows you to rapidly expand your network capacity without having to manage each switch individually. Switches that are designed for stacking can be easily put into a stack which saves time and energy with both planning and execution of network administration.

How Does Stacking Work?

Primarily, network stacking hinges on preconfiguration done by the manufacturer. Stackable switches are designed to go into stacking mode fairly easily. Some operate on a completely preconfigured design while others allow for more manual control. In either case, the switches will use designated ports (by the network admin or the manufacturer) to communicate with each other.

Ultimately, the stack is managed through a master switch. This is the switch that you configure and control directly. It’s then disseminated configuration and instructions to the rest of the switches in the stack. You can control every unit in the stack by connecting to the master.

Robust stacks will use a backup. This is predesignated to fill the master role if the master switch goes offline. Having a backup allows the network to endure master switch failure without meaningful downtime. When the backup takes over, it becomes the master and a new backup can be designated. Ideally, the network never has to go down for you to change the master switch.

It is important to note that some switches come with built-in stacking capabilities, while others need a separate stacking module. Also, some switches require specific stacking cables. It is important to know which switch you are purchasing or that you need for your specific project to make sure you are getting exactly what you need for your setup.

What Are the Major Advantages of Stacking?

The biggest reason to use stacking is for scalability. You can expand the network whenever you need to. As long as you have enough space, power, and cables, you can throw in another switch, up to the stack's maximum capacity.

That alone is a powerful motivator, but switch stacks bring other benefits to the table. They can improve network redundancy, flexibility, and ease of use.

Redundancy

In a stack, if an individual stack fails, the rest of the stack can operate just fine. While part of the network might experience downtime, this prevents total failure from the loss of a central switch. With the use of a backup, the network has robust redundancy that can prevent network outages.

Flexibility

Single switches in the stack can be removed or added ad hoc. This makes it easier to adjust network capacity. It also helps with repairs. If a single switch is failing, it can be replaced without taking the rest of the network offline. It is easier to manage and saves abundant time and energy in terms of network planning and strategy.

Ease of Use

Stackable switches are designed for easy connection. Many of them can operate on a plug-and-play level, as long as the master is up and running.

On top of that, they are designed for physical grouping. This allows you to centralize key parts of the network so you don’t have to run extra power and data infrastructure to accommodate more switches. Adding a stackable switch requires significantly less labor than adding individually managed switches.

If you want to look deeper into switch stacking, you will likely find that it is a promising solution for many business networks. A good stack can provide plenty of capacity at high speeds with all of the other features your network needs.

Cisco 2960S 48 Port Gigabit 370W PoE+ Switch, WS-C2960S-48LPS-L, Refurbished, Original

Cisco 2960S 48 Port Gigabit 370W PoE+ Switch, WS-C2960S-48LPS-L, Refurbished, Original

Cisco WS-C3750X-48PF-S Catalyst 3750X 48 Port Full PoE, Refurbished, Original

Cisco WS-C3750X-48PF-S Catalyst 3750X 48 Port Full PoE, Refurbished, Original

Cisco 3850 Series PoE+ 48 Port Switch, IP Base, WS-C3850-48P-S, Refurbished, Original

Cisco 3850 Series PoE+ 48 Port Switch, IP Base, WS-C3850-48P-S, Refurbished, Original

Cisco Stackwise Stacking Cable, 50CM, CAB-STACK-50CM, Refurbished, Original

Cisco Stackwise Stacking Cable, 50CM, CAB-STACK-50CM, Refurbished, Original

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