What is a VLAN?
As I said, a VLAN is a virtual LAN. In technical terms, a VLAN is a broadcast domain created by switches. Normally, it is a router creating that broadcast domain. With VLAN’s, a switch can create the broadcast domain.
This works by, you, the administrator, putting some switch ports in a VLAN other than 1, the default VLAN. All ports in a single VLAN are in a single broadcast domain.
Are VLANs required?
It is important to point out that you don’t have to configure a VLAN until your network gets so large and has so much traffic that you need one. Many times, people are simply using VLAN’s because the network they are working on was already using them.
Another important fact is that, on a Cisco switch, VLAN’s are enabled by default and ALL devices are already in a VLAN. The VLAN that all devices are already in is VLAN 1. So, by default, you can just use all the ports on a switch and all devices will be able to talk to one another.
When do I need a VLAN?
You need to consider using VLAN’s in any of the following situations:
- You have more than 200 devices on your LAN
- You have a lot of broadcast traffic on your LAN
- Groups of users need more security or are being slowed down by too many broadcasts?
- Groups of users need to be on the same broadcast domain because they are running the same applications. An example would be a company that has VoIP phones. The users using the phone could be on a different VLAN, not with the regular users.
- Or, just to make a single switch into multiple virtual switches.
How can devices on different VLAN’s communicate?
Devices on different VLAN’s can communicate with a router or a Layer 3 switch. As each VLAN is its own subnet, a router or Layer 3 switch must be used to route between the subnets.
What is a trunk port?
When there is a link between two switches or a router and a switch that carries the traffic of more than one VLAN, that port is a trunk port.
A trunk port must run a special trunking protocol. The protocol used would be Cisco’s proprietary Inter-switch link (ISL) or the IEEE standard 802.1q.