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What Is Packet Switching on Computer Networks?

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Question: What Is Packet Switching on Computer Networks?
Answer: Packet switching is the approach used by some computer network protocols to deliver data across a local or long distance connection. Examples of packet switching protocols are Frame Relay, IP and X.25.

How Packet Switching Works

Packet switching entails packaging data in specially formatted units (called packets) that are typically routed from source to destination using network switches and routers. Each packet contains address information that identifies the sending computer and intended recipient. Using these addresses, network switches and routers determine how best to transfer the packet between hops on the path to its destination.

Pros and Cons of Packet Switching

Packet switching is the alternative to circuit switching protocols used historically for telephone (voice) networks and sometimes with ISDN connections.

Compared to circuit switching, packet switching offers the following:

  • More efficient use of overall network bandwidth due to flexibility in routing the smaller packets over shared links. Packet switching networks are often cheaper to build as less equipment is needed given this ability to share.

  • Longer delays in receiving messages due to the time required to package and route packets. For many applications, delays are not long enough to be significant, but for high-performance applications like real-time video, additional data compression and QoS technology is often required to achieve the required performance levels.

  • Potential for network security risks due to the use of shared physical links. Protocols and other related elements on packet switching networks must designed with the appropriate security precautions.

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