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Netgear's ProSafe FS105: A Handy 5-Port Ethernet Switch

written by: •edited by: J. F. Amprimoz•updated: 6/11/2009
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This tiny little blue box works wonders when you need to share a network connection. In our organization, they've saved us the trouble of running new lines on many occasions.

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    ProSafe FS105

    My employer was hit pretty hard by Hurricane Katrina, and ever since then we’ve been going through a series of ‘temporary relocations’ until our new permanent structures can be completed. I work in the IT (Information Technology) department, and all that moving around means we have to provide the users with network connectivity. The type of problem we run into is that, for example, we’ll run cable for an office of three people, then they decide to add two more users. This is why my department bought a half dozen of these Netgear ProSafe FS105 5-Port 10/100 Desktop Switches to keep on hand for whenever we need to add a couple more network drops in any office. It saves us the time and trouble of having to run new cabling.

    Netgear is a very well known brand when it comes to computer network products, and they are a trusted name in the business. They make pretty much anything you can think of when it comes to hardware for networking computers together. This particular switch only has 5 ports, but Netgear makes some that contain as many as 24. It all depends on what you need. I’ve personally used Netgear products for years and rank them right up there with Linksys in terms of reliability. In short, they make good stuff.

    So what exactly is a switch? Without getting too technical, my best simple description of a switch is that it’s a network signal splitter. Connecting one network line to this switch will give you four more connections, just like connecting a surge suppressor strip to a power outlet with give you more power outlets. You may have heard of switches and hubs when it comes to networking, and they look very much the same. The main difference is that switches are more intelligent devices that do a better job of divvying up the bandwidth.

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    ProSafe FS105

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    What I love so much about this Netgear FS105 switch is how simple it is to use. It is considered a 5-port switch, though you must keep in mind that one port will be used for input. All you have to do is plug in that input line, then you can connect four more devices. There’s no software to install and nothing to configure, plus it has auto-sensing technology built it to help optimize network performance per connection. It really is just plug and play.

    All of the indicator lights for this unit are right up front, and they are pretty bright. You probably wouldn’t want this sitting on top of a desk in plain sight because the incessant blinking would drive you nuts. There’s a solid green light for power, plus two more lights for each connection. When there is activity, the lights blink very rapidly. This way, you’ll know within a few seconds of plugging in the cable if the device is getting a network connection. This can be very helpful when troubleshooting. Another cool thing about this switch is that it is fanless, so it makes no noise at all when running.

    Netgear housed this switch is a small metal blue case. It’s so small that I’d compare it to two Altoids cans placed side by side. It has rubber feet at the bottom, plus there are some slots for mounting it to a wall. Netgear also includes some mounting screws. Having the metal casing makes this much sturdier than your typical plastic home use stuff. A lot of times these switches end up on floors underneath someone’s desk and get stomped on, and I’ve seen them take a regular beating and still work fine.

    I’m very happy with the Netgear ProSafe FS105 5-port 10/100 Desktop Switch (currently $29.24 @ Amazon.com), and highly recommend it to anyone in need of one. You could use it in your home to connect a couple of PC’s, a wireless router, a networkable printer, or your home video game system. Also keep in mind that if you need more than 5 ports, Netgear makes this same type switch with 8, 16, or 24 ports.