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The Importance of OSI in SMB Network Switching

Author Leslie

Date 06/26/2024

This article explains what the OSI model is and its role in SMB networks. By reading this article, you can better understand how to deploy an SMB network.

The OSI model and SMB switches are key components that ensure seamless data communication. Although they are only a small part of many protocols and devices, understanding how they interact with each other is crucial for network practitioners, especially those dealing with small and medium-sized enterprises. This article will take you to an in-depth exploration of the role of the open system interconnection model in SMB switches and its application.

What is The OSI Model

The open system interconnection model is a conceptual framework for understanding and designing the communication process of network systems. It divides the network into 7 layers, each with its specific functions and responsibilities. In this way, the OSI model helps achieve interoperability and compatibility between different networks and systems.

Why the OSI Model is Important

The open interconnected system model allows two independent systems to communicate through standardized interfaces or protocols based on the current operating layer. Its layers encapsulate each type of network communication across software and hardware components. The following are the advantages of the open system interconnection model.

Understanding of Complex Systems

Network managers can organize and build complex network system architectures by using the OSI model. The operating layer of each system component can be separated according to its main function. By breaking the system into smaller, manageable parts, it is easier for administrators to conceptualize it as a whole.

Simplify Network Maintenance

When a network failure occurs the open system interconnection model breaks the network into 7 layers, each with specific functions and responsibilities. By performing a cause analysis of the failure, network engineers can quickly identify and isolate the layer where the problem is located. This greatly simplifies the troubleshooting process and network maintenance, helping to resolve network problems quickly.

Flexible Standardization

The OSI model specifies the tasks performed by protocols rather than those used between levels. It standardizes network communication development and provides a common framework to help devices and systems from different manufacturers achieve interoperability. By following this standard, various network hardware and software can work seamlessly together, promoting the development and popularization of network technology.

What are SMB Switches

SMB switches refer to network switches designed for small and medium-sized enterprises. They are mainly responsible for forwarding data between network devices, such as computers, printing devices, etc. It aims to provide cost-effective network solutions that meet the needs of small and medium-sized enterprises, including performance, management, scalability, and security.

Types of Small and Medium Enterprises Switches

SMB switches are generally divided into three types:

Managed switches: The managed switch can provide advanced control over network traffic, allowing network administrators to configure traffic priorities, set VLANs and security policies, and monitor network traffic. This switch is suitable for enterprises with complex network needs.

Unmanaged switches: This is a plug-and-play device that does not have the advanced management functions of managed switches. However, for enterprises with simple network architectures, it has higher cost-effectiveness and lower technical requirements.

PoE switches: This switch can not only provide data transmission but also provide power to devices such as IP phones, surveillance cameras, and WiFi access points through network cables. It helps enterprises simplify wiring and facilitate the installation of various devices that require power supply, which makes it an ideal choice for enterprises that need to deploy a large number of powered devices.

What Are the 7 Layers of the OSI Model

As mentioned earlier, the open system interconnection model divides the network into 7 layers. Next, I will introduce you to the different responsibilities of each layer:

Physical Layer

It refers to the physical devices in data transmission, transmitting digital and electronic signals through various physical channels such as cables and switches.

Data Link Layer

The data link layer provides data frame transmission and error monitoring and correction between nodes. It involves framing, addressing, and media access control. The data link layer is also divided into two sublayers, namely the media access control layer and the logical link control layer.

Network Layer

It is mainly responsible for the routing and forwarding of data packets. It can also manage traffic control. Its protocols include ICMP and IGMP.

Transport Layer

Its function is to provide end-to-end transmission services, including data segmentation and reassembly, as well as transmission reliability and flow control. Commonly used protocols at this layer include TCP and UDP. TCP is often used when the data is intact, while UDP is used when it is not necessary to keep all data packets.

Session Layer

Its function is to coordinate the network between two independent applications in a session and to manage the start, end, and synchronization conflicts of one-to-one application connections. Network File System (NFS) and Server Message Block (SMB) are common protocols for the session layer.

Presentation Layer

It is responsible for formatting, encrypting, decrypting, and compressing data to ensure that the data can be correctly interpreted by the application layer. Its main function is to ensure that the data is in a usable format.

Application Layer

It is the only layer that touches user data. It provides an interface between network services and applications for end users. For example, browsers can communicate using Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS), while HTTP and email clients can communicate using POP3 (Post Office Protocol Version 3) and SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol).

Application of OSI Model in SMB Switches

Physical Layer

At the physical layer, SMB switches are responsible for the physical connection with network cables and optical fibers. They provide ports for Ethernet cables, such as RJ45 interfaces, and support different speeds (such as 10/100/1000 Mbps). At this layer, switches focus on transmitting raw bit streams through the transmission medium, and do not involve error checking or data decoding.

Data Link Layer

This is the main working layer of SMB switches. SMB switches use MAC addresses to transmit data frames to the correct destination within the same local network segment. They have the function of learning MAC addresses, which can record the MAC addresses of devices connected to each port and build a MAC address table to decide how to forward frames. Support VLAN (Virtual Local Area Network): SMB switches can segment the physical network into multiple logical networks to improve management efficiency and security. Some high-end SMB switches also provide Layer 2 functions such as Spanning Tree Protocol (STP) to prevent network loops.

Network Layer

Although traditional SMB switches mainly operate at Layer 2, some advanced SMB switches also have Layer 3 functions. Layer 3 switches (or multilayer switches) can perform routing tasks, routing packets between different subnets or VLANs using IP addresses. These switches support IP routing protocols, can handle more complex network topologies, and facilitate data communication between different network segments.

Transport Layer and Above

Typically, SMB switches do not operate at the transport layer (layer 4) or above of the OSI model. However, some advanced layer 4-7 switches and application-aware devices may include load balancing, quality of service (QoS), and traffic filtering based on transport protocols (such as TCP/UDP ports). In some cases, managed or intelligent SMB switches may provide access control lists (ACLs) and QoS features to prioritize certain types of traffic, thereby indirectly affecting the performance of the transport layer and application layer.


The OSI model and SMB switches are essential to seamless data communications in small and medium business networks. The structured framework of the open system interconnection model facilitates efficient troubleshooting, standardization, and understanding of complex systems. SMB switches designed specifically for SMBs need to leverage these principles to provide reliable and cost-effective network solutions. If you have any questions about the OSI model, please feel free to contact QSFPTEK's CCIE/HCIE engineers at support@qsfptek.com


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