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Managed vs Unmanaged Switch: Which One Can Fit Your Real Need?

Updated on Dec 31, 2021 by
87.6k

Are you looking to upgrade your network infrastructure but unsure which switch type suits your needs? In this article, we will explore the differences between managed and unmanaged switches so that you can decide which one is right for you. We'll look at their features, benefits, and drawbacks to help determine which switch type can satisfy your real needs.

Managed Switch and Unmanaged Switch: What Are They?

What is a Managed Switch?

Typically, managed switch employ the SNMP protocol, which allows users to monitor the status of the switch and its ports, allowing you to read out throughput, port utilization, and more. Managed switches are designed and configured for high workloads, high traffic, and deployments that require customization. In large data centers and enterprise networks, fully managed switches are often used as the core layer of the network, providing a wide range of tools and functions.

Figure 1: S5850-48T4Q, L3 Managed Switch

 

What is an Unmanaged Switch?

An unmanaged switch requires no configuration and is easy to set up. The unmanaged switch only allows Ethernet devices to communicate with each other by providing network connectivity, with no management function.

Figure 2: S1900-16TP, L2 Unmanaged Switch

Exploring the Benefits of Managed and Unmanaged Switch

Managed switch:

• Can be deployed in a wider array of topologies such as Spanning Tree Protocol, ring, mesh, stacking, and aggregation. These allow for greater redundancy and reliability.

• Ease of managing and troubleshooting large networks, through remote management, software-defined network (SDN) management, access to telemetry data showing traffic flow, and even supplying of electric power to endpoint devices.

• Many security features to control who is accessing the network, monitor for attacks, and help remediate any breaches that occur.

• Ability to optimize the performance of devices and applications on the network, through quality-of-service (QoS) features that help prioritize traffic and group types of devices that use common services.

Unmanaged switch:

• Plug-and-play operation that relies on auto-negotiation for settings.

• Suitability is limited to simple network topologies, such as star and daisy chains.

• Ability to create and store MAC-address tables, making traffic management a step better than with the use of Ethernet hubs.

• No distinction in how the switches treat multicast traffic and broadcast traffic, which can cause severe congestion issues called broadcast storms (a problem especially for industrial IoT devices, which often rely on multicast traffic for device-related commands).

What Key Differences Exist Between Managed and Unmanaged Switch?

Managed switches and unmanaged switches differ in four areas: configuration, performance, safety, and cost.

Flexibility in configuration

Managed switches allow customers to tailor, design, and filter LANs. They help users manage traffic efficiently and enable users to create new LANs and separate smaller devices. What's more, its advanced features enable users to recover data in case of device or network failure.

Although unmanaged switches are simple to operate, their pre-installed configuration prevents you from making changes to the networks. Because of this, new businesses with limited data exchange use it the most.

Network performance

Plug-and-play ethernet switches are unmanaged switches. They are easy to set up and use because they come with built-in QoS services. Managed switches, on the other hand, allow you to prioritize channels to control performance because they monitor the performance of all connected devices on the LAN using protocols such as Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP).

Through a graphical user interface that is simple to comprehend, the managed switch also makes use of SNMP to examine the current performance of the network's devices. Moreover, SNMP likewise empowers far-off administration of the associated gadgets and organization, without requiring actual mediation on the switch.

Features for safety

Advanced features in managed switches help identify and quickly neutralize active threats while protecting and controlling data. Unmanaged switches do not offer security capabilities.

Costs

Unmanaged switches are cheap, as well as very simple to run. Managed switches, with all their additional capabilities, cost more than unmanaged switches. They also require more expertise to provision and manage, meaning added costs for staff with the skills to maintain the network.

 

 Component

 Managed Switch

  Unmanaged Switch

 Configuration

Open to configuration

No configuration

 Technical  skills

Requires skilled IT staff to set up and maintain

 Plug and play

SNMP support

Yes

No

VLAN support

Yes

No

Capabilities

Spanning Tree Protocol support, QoS, bandwidth rate limiting, and port mirroring

Maintains MAC address tables

Cost

More expensive

Less expensive

Finding a Switch That Fits Your Needs: Managed vs Unmanaged Switch

Choosing the appropriate switch type needs to be based on network capacity and network management and security requirements.

managed-vs-unmanaged-switches questions

Figure 3

Scalability: Is it anticipated that the network and business will expand in the future? If that's the case, you might need a few managed network switches that can be set manually and can scale. 1G managed switches, like FS S3900-48T6S-R switch, can be used for small network layouts with complex networks. If you have a medium & large enterprise or network architecture, 10G managed switches will be a good choice, such as FS S5860-20SQ switch.

Efficiency and speed: The unmanaged switch is a better choice if you're just starting and want to save money upfront. A managed switch, on the other hand, is an option if you frequently need to transfer a significant amount of data.

Security: If only a small amount of data travels over the network, you would be reluctant to change the information as well, but it may contain sensitive information. Managed switches are the best choice in this circumstance.

Conclusion

All in all, you need to know in advance the type and size of management your network will require when choosing a managed or unmanaged switch. Managed switches offer more features and customization options than unmanaged switches but can also come with higher costs. Unmanaged switches are cheaper but lack some of the advanced features that managed ones have. Ultimately, both types of switches can provide reliable performance if they meet all your requirements in terms of speed, security, scalability, and cost-effectiveness.

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