Managed VS. Unmanaged Switch: Which to Choose?

Switches are devices used in connecting multiple devices together on a Local Area Network (LAN). In terms of networking, the switch would serve as a controller, which allows the various devices to share information. Ethernet switches can be used in the home, a small office or at a location where multiple machines need to be hooked up. There are two basic kinds of switches: managed switches and unmanaged switches. The key difference between them lies in the fact that a managed switch can be configured and it can prioritize LAN traffic so that the most important information gets through. On the other hand, an unmanaged switch behaves like a “plug and play” device, which cannot be configured and simply allows the devices to communicate with one another. This blog will compare the difference between managed vs. unmanaged switch, and why would choose one over the other?

managed vs. unmanaged switch

Managed VS. Unmanaged Switch: Managed Switch Basis

A managed switch is a device that can be configured. This capability provides greater network flexibility because the switch can be monitored and adjusted locally or remotely. With a managed switch, you have control over network traffic and network access. Managed switches are designed for intense workloads, high amounts of traffic and deployments where custom configurations are a necessity. When looking at managed switches, there are two types available: smart switches and fully managed switches. Smart switches have a limited number of options for configuration and are ideal for home and office use. Fully managed switches are targeted at servers and enterprises, offering a wide array of tools and features to manage the immediate network.

Managed switch

Managed VS. Unmanaged Switch: Unmanaged Switch Basis

Unmanaged switches are basic plug-and-play switches with no remote configuration, management or monitoring options, although many can be locally monitored and configured via LED indicators and DIP switches. These inexpensive switches are typically used in small networks, such as home, SOHO or small businesses. In scenarios where the network traffic is light, all that is required is a way for the data to pass from one device to another. In this case there is no need for prioritizing the packets, as all the traffic will flow unimpeded. An unmanaged switch will fill this need without issues.

The Managed Switch Will Retain Predominance as the Switch of Choice

Managed and unmanaged switches can maintain stability through Spanning Tree Protocol (STP). This protocol can prevent your network from looping endlessly, because it can search for the disconnected device. However, the managed switch is still the best solution for long-range usability and network performance. And it will cover the trends in the near future.

benefits-of-managed-switches

Benefits of Managed Switches

Network Redundancy: Managed switches incorporate Spanning Tree Protocol (STP) to provide path redundancy in the network. STP provides redundant paths but prevents loops that are created by multiple active paths between switches, which makes job for a network administrator easier and also proves more profitable for a business.

Remote management: Managed switches use protocols such as or Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) for monitoring the devices on the network. SNMP helps to collect, organize and modify management information between network devices. So IT administrators can read the SNMP data, and then monitor the performance of the network from a remote location, and detect and repair network problems from a central location without having to physically inspect the switches and devices.

Security and Resilience: Managed switches enable complete control of data, bandwidth and traffic control over the Ethernet network. You can setup additional firewall rules directly into the switch. And managed switches support protocols which allow operators to restrict/control port access.

SFP: The benefit of having multi-rate SFP slots is the network flexible expansion possibility, which allows the user to be able to use 100Mbps and 1Gbps SFP modules for either multi or single-mode fibre optic (or copper) as needed. If requirements change, the SFP module can be replaced and easily protect your switch investment.

Support multiple VLAN as per requirement: Managed switches allow for the creation of multiple VLANs where an 8-port switch functionally can turn into two 4-port switches.

Prioritise bandwidth for data subsets: The switches are able to prioritise one type of traffic over another allowing more bandwidth to be allocated through the network.

The disadvantages of unmanaged switches
  • Open ports on unmanaged switches are a security risk
  • No resiliency = higher downtime
  • Unmanaged switches cannot prioritize traffic
  • Unmanaged switches cannot segment network traffic
  • Unmanaged switches have limited or no tools for monitoring network activity or performance
Conclusion

After discussing the pros and cons of managed vs. unmanaged switch, we can thus conlude that for end users, network visibility and control can be highly valued in their plants and they are willing to pay for it. Although managed switches are costlier than unmanaged switches, managed switches definitely have more benefits and consistent network performance. When the network requirements may be expanded or better control and monitoring over network traffic is needed, managed switches may be considered.

Related Article: Why Is Managed Switch Good for Business Networks?

Ethernet Switch: How Much Do You Know It?

Today, all plants are virtually networked via Ethernet. High requirements are placed on the network infrastructure and network components. Ethernet switch is the integral piece of IT infrastructure, capable of receiving, processing and transmitting data between two devices connected by a physical layer. Due to the increasing application of big data analytics and cloud-based services in various end-user segments, data centers are envisaged to fuel the adoption of Ethernet switch. The augmented global demand for data centers is the key driver for the growth of Ethernet switch market. To satisfy the large and ever-increasing market for Ethernet switch, there are many varieties of switches offered different purposes. This article will help you get a deep understanding of the different types of Ethernet switch.

What is an Ethernet Switch?

A Ethernet switch is a tool for connections between the systems and equipment to forward data selectively to one or more connected devices on the same network. These connections are generally created through the use of structured cabling that links both the station side and the device that you are trying to share data with, such as a server or another computer. In this way, Ethernet switch can control the flow of traffic passing through a network, maximizing the network’s efficiency and security. More advanced Ethernet switch, called managed switch, are also capable of providing additional functions, such as network load balancing, address translation or data encryption and decryption.

FS Ethernet switch

How Dose an Ethernet Switch Work?

Ethernet switch links Ethernet devices together by relaying Ethernet frames between the devices connected to the switches. By moving Ethernet frames between the switch ports, a switch links the traffic carried by the individual network connections into a larger Ethernet network. Ethernet switches perform their linking function by bridging Ethernet frames between Ethernet segments. To do this, they copy Ethernet frames from one switch port to another, based on the Media Access Control (MAC) addresses in the Ethernet frames. Ethernet bridging was initially defined in the 802.1D IEEE Standard for Local and Metropolitan Area Networks: Media Access Control (MAC) Bridges. The standardization of bridging operations in switches makes it possible to buy switches from different vendors that will work together when combined in a network design. That’s the result of lots of hard work on the part of the standards engineers to define a set of standards that vendors could agree upon and implement in their switch designs.

diagram of Ethernet switches connections

Different Types of Ethernet Switch

Ethernet switch are broadly categorized into two main categories – modular switches and fixed switches. Modular switches allow you to add expansion modules into the switches as needed, thereby delivering the best flexibility to address changing networks. Fixed switches are switches with a fixed number of ports and are typically not expandable. This category can be broken down even further into unmanaged, lightly managed, and fully managed.

Unmanaged Switch

An unmanaged switch is mostly used in home networks and small companies or businesses, as it is the most cost effective for deployment scenarios that require only basic layer 2 switching and connectivity. The unmanaged switch is not configurable and have all of their programming built in. It is ready to work straight out of the box. And it is the easiest and simplest installation, because of its small cable connections. An unmanaged switch is perfect in this situation since it requires the least amount of investment with regards to both expense and time.

Smart Switch / Lightly Managed Switch

A smart switch is the middle ground between the unmanaged and fully managed switches. These smart switches offer limited customization, but do possess the granular control abilities that a fully managed switch has. In addition, smart switches offer certain levels of management, quality-of-service (QoS), security, but they are lighter in capabilities and less scalable than the managed switches. Smart switches tend to have a management interface that is more simplified than what managed switches offer. They also offer the capability to set up options like Quality of Service (QoS) and VLANs, which can be helpful if your organization has VoIP phones, or if you want to segment your network into work groups. Therefore, smart switches are the cost-effective alternative to managed switches. They are still valid choices for the regular consumer, as they are generally easy to use and you can glean a bit more information off of them on how your network is configured compared to unmanaged switches.

Fully Managed Switch / Enterprise Managed Switch

Managed Layer 2 Switch: A modern managed switch provides all the functionality of an unmanaged switch. In addition, it can control and configure the behavior of the device. This typically introduces the ability to support virtual LANs (VLANs), which is why almost all organizations deploy managed switches versus their cheaper alternatives.

Managed Layer 3 Switch (Multilayer Switch): This type of switch provides a mix of functionality between that of a managed Layer 2 switch and a router. The amount of router function overlap is highly dependent on the switch model. At the highest level, a multilayer switch provides better performance for LAN routing than almost any standard router on the market, because these switches are designed to offload a lot of this functionality to hardware.

data-center-network-architecture

Managed switches are designed to deliver the most comprehensive set of features to provide the best application experience, the highest levels of security, the most precise control and management of the network, and offer the greatest scalability in the fixed configuration category of switches. As a result, they are usually deployed as aggregation/access switches in very large networks or as core switches in relatively smaller networks. Managed switches should support both L2 switching and L3 IP routing, though you’ll find some with only L2 switching support.

Conclusion

The Ethernet switch plays an integral role in most modern Ethernet local area networks (LANs). Mid-to-large sized LANs contain a number of linked managed switches. Small office/home office (SOHO) applications typically use a single unmanaged switch. This article has introduced the different types of switches. Depending on the number of devices you have and the number of people using the network, you have to choose the right kind of switch that fits your space. FS.COM has provided a comprehensive set of Ethernet switches. If you have any requirements, welcome to visit our website for more detailed information.

Why Is Managed Switch Good for Business Networks?

A network is the foundation to connect storage, servers, printers, PCs, and wireless clients with business-critical applications to enhance productivity and customer satisfaction. And network switches are like the tires of a car. Without them, the “car” cannot work normally. No matter the large enterprises, or small and midsize business, their systems and applications are interconnected and rely on the network. Today’s post is to introduce the managed switch and why it is important for business networks.

Managed Switches Basics

Managed switch is a type of Ethernet switch that has a fixed number of ports. It is designed to deliver the most precise control and management of networks. And they are usually deployed in large networks or as core switches in relatively smaller networks. In order to introduce the basics of a managed switch in detail, here take the 24 port PoE switch as an example (as shown in the below picture).

24 ports managed business PoE switch

As shown in the picture, there are three types of ports on this switch: PoE port, SFP port and console port. The number of PoE ports is 24, and they can provide both power and data transmission. There are four SFP ports which include two Gigibit combo port. These ports can connect with SFP fiber transceivers to uplink to the backbone switch at a long distance location. The last kind of port is the console port which is for effective management. With a total power budget of up to 220 watts, this managed business Gigabit PoE switch provides a quick, safe and cost-effective Power over Ethernet network solution for small businesses and enterprises.

Benefits of Managed Switches

People who have work experience with switches know that unmanaged switches and managed switches are two common Ethernet switches in networking. And unmanaged switches seem to be a better choice in terms of cost. Therefore, maybe many business owners would ask, compared with managed switches, unmanaged switches are more cost-effective. Why I need to choose a more expensive switches? Well, managed switches have other features which are more beneficial for your networks.

managed switch in network

Using SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol) for Better Network Monitor

SNMP is a protocol that facilitates the exchange of management information between network devices. SNMP quires also can help check the health and status of devices in a network. And data displayed in an easily understood format is good for IT managers to monitor the performance of the network from a remote location. And it also helps to repair the problems without inspecting the switches or devices personally.

Port Monitoring for Troubleshooting

The function of the port monitoring feature of managed switches is to diagnose problems effectively. It copies the switch network traffic and forwards it to a single port on the same switch for analysis by a network analyzer. And problems can be found by using the analyzer on the monitor port without switching off the network.

Quality of Service (QoS) to Prioritize Your Network Traffic

This feature of managed switches allows you to prioritize your network traffic by assigning a higher priority to the critical traffic, which is beneficial to improve network performance and transmit delay-sensitive data such as real-time voice.

Apart from the features mentioned above, managed switches also have another two features that cannot be ignored. One is that switches can be used in VLAN (Virtual Local Area Network) configuration to logically group devices as per the working departments, and managed switches can be used to isolate traffic between these groups, which allows better network performance and additional level of security. Another one is redundancy that can protect the network when connection failures occur.

Conclusion

Managed switch, especially managed PoE switches, offer great expandability for growing business networks. With business network growth on the horizon, having a clear evaluation of the network requirements is important. If you want to have some input and control over the behavior of traffic on their LAN, or if you plan to deploy advanced services such as wireless LANs or IP telephony, managed switches are a good choice to realize them. More information about managed switches, please contact us via sale@fs.com.