Dell vs. HP: Choosing the Right Networking Solution for You
Choosing the right networking solution for your business is a complex decision. You’ll want to take many factors into consideration including price, the number of devices and users on your network, and what you need your network to do.
The first step in deciphering the differences in Dell vs. HP networking is to understand the different layers in a network and how they operate.
Basics of Networking
A small, traditional network is typically comprised of an internet provider (or multiple providers) along with a router and firewall security device. Generally, there are very few ports with this kind of network.
In order to support a larger organization with more users and devices, you will need a switch. Most switches have a maximum of 52 ports. When you run out of ports, you can “daisy chain” several together for greater connectivity, but this is where things get tricky. As the network expands with multiple connections and becomes more complicated, you need to start controlling the data to avoid bottlenecks.
“Think about networking like a highway system,” says Lance Kosmal, director of technology for Aventis Systems. “A hurricane comes through and puts an obstacle on the road, so you have to reroute to navigate between Point A and Point B. As you scale out and look at the city, you see more and more routes that connect together. You have to have some kind of traffic system in place, or it will be chaos. That is how network switches are designed.”
In this example, you have a physical layer (the road) and the data link level (a subdivision or small part of the infrastructure with a finite amount of space). In order for all these pieces to talk to each other, you need intersections and routes.
The Science of Switches
In simplest terms, a switch is used inside a network to connect devices, so they can communicate with each other. This connection can be configured in multiple ways — with certain levels of logic behind the connectivity — depending on what kind of switch you choose.
“Stacking” is the ability to manage multiple switches at once.
When it comes to switches, there are many choices and price points. Some switches cost around $1,000, while others can cost upwards of $12,000. Some switches are “smart” enough that they not only connect you, but also intuitively help you get where you need to go more efficiently.
Generally speaking, the lower the quality of the switch, the slower information is delivered within your business. The majority of providers sell switches that fall into these categories: Layer 1, Layer 2, Layer 3 and Layer 4 (and above).
A Layer 1 device acts as a simple bridge that moves information from one point to another.
A Layer 2 switch, which is what most small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs) need, can be compared to a subdivision with roads coming in, and it has multiple devices that connect to the network. This type of switch allows you to optimize your network, and it improves overall performance and productivity. Layer 2 switches (and beyond) also allow you to segregate users, devices and networks, so they can talk to each other or another group with permission.
“Think of people around a conference table in an office. Everyone is connected to the table, which is the switch,” Kosma says. “The uplink is the door to the conference room, where you can navigate outside of the room if you want to talk to someone in the organization. Let’s say you need to talk to Mike, but you don’t know where he is. A ‘dumb,’ unmanaged switch won’t be able to direct you. It will go out into the office and bug everyone, looking for Mike. It has no brains, it just screams. This creates a business problem because it is slow and inefficient. A ‘smarter,’ more managed switch keeps track of where everyone sits. It knows your name and can quickly find Mike.”
A Layer 3 switch can navigate and perform light routing within itself, providing even more connectivity within multiple racks of switches that need to talk to each other. Layer 4 switches, which are the most expensive, can actually filter and prioritize information between multiple devices.
A Closer Look at Dell Networking
When it comes to networking, both Dell and HP offer very strong solutions for SMBs that include state-of-the-art switches and firewalls.
Dell Networking solutions are designed to manage systems that integrate seamlessly with one another, making it easy for SMBs to manage their network. Dell Networking is very flexible and can support a wide range of services and platforms. It also gives SMBs the freedom to choose from multiple open operating systems from Dell EMC and selected third-party partners.
Dell Networking and Dell PowerConnect Switches are available in a variety of port sizes (and costs), and all deliver high-performance networking through high-density, versatile, feature-rich designs. The total cost of ownership is also relatively low, making it ideal for smaller businesses on a limited budget.
Dell SonicWall Security protects against intrusions, blocks malware and controls applications, while providing security to distributed environments and remote sites — all without compromising performance. Dell SonicWall offers two series of firewall appliances: the SonicWall NSA Series for mid-sized businesses and enterprises and the SonicWall TZ Series for small businesses.
Dell Access Points provides enterprise-level wireless performance and security and is easy to setup and manage.
The HP Networking Option
If cost is a factor and you don’t need as much IT support, HP networking is another viable option. With its acquisition of Aruba Networks — a leader in wireless networking — and others, HP is a strong competitor of Dell.
HP Networking gives small businesses enterprise-level connectivity for a price that works within their budget. All HP switches are high performing and scalable, so they can grow with you as your business needs evolve.
Aruba Switches provide the connectivity you need to keep all the devices in your network securely working together. The HP OfficeConnect series of switches are designed especially for SMBs and are easy to administer and support.
HP Networking Routers are made to deliver fast and secure wired or wireless internet access to small and mid-sized businesses. They are known for their reliability and performance and are also scalable to grow with your business. Security is a priority with these routers, which include wireless encryption features, content filters, MAC filters, trusted user management and Stateful Packet Inspection.
Overall, HP networking is a more cost-effective solution than Dell, but be aware that its IT support is less robust.
“If you know what you’re doing with networking and aren’t as concerned with the support side, HP is a good choice,” Kosmal says. “However, this model is starting to change. HP is beginning to adopt the mentality that you have to have support to go along with the products.”
HP currently offers IT support and has a team of engineers to help with configuration, though troubleshooting is less complete than what Dell offers, Kosmal says.
Which Choice Is Right for You?
When it comes to upgrading or replacing your networking components, ask yourself these important questions: What do you need your network to do? How important is price? How many total devices are on your network?
If you have fewer than 52 devices on your network, a single switch should suffice. But that switch should be at least a Layer 2 managed switch, so you will get optimal performance and be able to segregate your user network, employee network and customer networks.
If you are managing a datacenter with multiple servers and services and thousands of customers — or if you need more than two switches in your environment — a Layer 3 switch will allow your servers to talk to each other at maximum capacity. It will also provide more functionality and better network speed.
“Just because you have 48 servers doesn’t mean you have 48 devices. Each port can be virtualized with hundreds of servers behind it,” Kosmal says. “The number of ports you are using and how many devices or connections you expect with each port will ultimately determine what kind of switch you need.”
When shopping for a networking solution, consider all the options, as well as what your future needs may be.
“Ten years ago, Layer 2 and Layer 3 switches were thousands of dollars apart,” Kosmal says. “Now they’re just a few hundred dollars apart.”
For more help determining which networking solution is right for you, contact us today at 1-855-AVENTIS.