Buying a switch for a home network is usually a simple matter of buying the cheapest one with a known brand, while choosing one for a business network, regardless of its size and function requirement, is a more complicated decision. What is the best network switch for small business? This guide will reveal the importance of choosing suitable small business switches and key factors for choosing the best switch.
A network switch is a fundamental component for any SMB building their business network. It enables SMBs to communicate and share information over a local area network (LAN), connecting people and devices in a local geography such as an office, department or building, supporting collaboration and access to vital business information.
After the pandemic COVID-19, for most small and medium-sized enterprises, investment networks have become more and more important. If you really want to differentiate your business by enhancing staff productivity and enabling better collaboration within the organization and with your business partners, you must seriously consider buying the network switch that best meets your current needs and prepares for future growth.
Though small businesses can be classified in different industries and have unique needs based on their work, a suitable switch is generally expected to meet these demands for a growing business:
Offering high network speed, whether with data, voice or video applications, make sure there is no network stuck during working.
Ensure great voice quality in business calls, which is important for small companies.
Affordable without reducing quality, if the small businesses are faced with tight budgets.
Easy to set up and use, which can save time and the cost of professionals.
Choosing a network switch fulfilling small businesses' needs requires full consideration of network switch specifications and functions.
The development of the switch has gone through 100M and Gigabit. With the increase in data transmission requirements of the majority of users, there are now 10 Gigabit switches.
In terms of transmission speed, 10 Gigabit is undoubtedly the fastest, but the power consumption of the 10 Gigabit switch is much larger than the other two. Generally, tasks such as seamless streaming and meeting require 250M, server hosting, multiple server hosting, a large number of online backup and continuous cloud-based computing require 500M, but if you want to achieve all these tasks with zero interruption, you need the speed of 1,000 Mbps. If we consider both speed and cost, then the best choice is 1 Gbps. The use of Gigabit switches is fully capable of handling Internet access for small businesses, including a wide range of multimedia applications, the frequent transmission of large file transfers, and other operations.
Generally speaking, the more the number of ports, the lower the cost of a single port, but it does not mean that the more the better, popular choices for home networking often include small-to-medium sized hubs, such as 4-port, 5-port or 8-port network switches. Meanwhile, more complex enterprise or server networks may require far more capable hardware. The number of people in the company determines the number of switch ports used. If the number of people is between 3-14 and the number of employees does not change much in the long term, you can choose a 24-port switch with more than 15 people and other network devices. When you need to do some redundancy on the number of ports, you can choose a 48-port switch.
There are two different physical ports: optical ports and electrical ports. Optical ports are divided into SFP, SFP+, SFP28, QSFP+, QSFP28, etc. The electrical port is also the network cable interface (RJ45), it is connected to the network cable. Take our previous recommendation of 1G switch as example, the most common port type of 1G switch are these two: RJ45 port and SFP fiber port.
The performance of RJ45 connection and SFP connection is basically the same, but the SFP port wiring cost is higher. Nevertheless, SFP port is still indispensable since it can support both SFP optical modules with electrical ports and optical ports. What is more, the transmission distance is obviously longer than RJ45 port when using SFP port optical transceiver. In the meanwhile, SFP connection between two switches performs better in practical applications with high flexibility and scalability.
By choosing a voice-ready switch with QoS policies, Auto-VoIP and Auto-Voice VLAN feature, like FS S2800S series, your business can run the voice traffic over a LAN. You can replace traditional PBX or telecommunications services with advanced IP phone systems and IP phones that interoperate with the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) or contracted Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Using a voice-ready switch, you can reduce toll call charges and conferencing service charges, unify voicemail and e-mail messages, and install telephones in different locations using the same extension. It also helps you enhance user and staff productivity and improve customer service.
A fully managed switch gives you the ability to manually configure, monitor, and manage the devices on your network, many large enterprises with high requirements for network configuration usually choose this one.
An unmanaged switch is often called “plug-and-play,” and while that sounds convenient, it means there is no ability to configure an unmanaged network switch because it lacks a “brain.”
Figure1: fully managed switch vs unmanaged switch
And there is the smart managed switch that represents a middle-ground between totally unmanaged switches and managed switches. Smart managed switches offer some required management capabilities whereby you can set up some important and basic features such as VLAN, speed/duplex control, SNMP, etc. For SMBs, the price of this one is much cheaper than a fully managed one, and the WEB-based management method also makes the configuration and maintenance of the equipment relatively easy.
figure2: smart managed switch
Your choice of switch type depends on the layout of your work environment, if you desire a flexible and quiet operation, desktop and fanless switches are great choices, desktop ones can sit atop your office desk or table, the fanless design provides a quiet working environment, switches with these two design are ideal for conference rooms and smaller offices. Rack-mount switches are designed to be placed in a wiring closet or other enclosed, physically secure room or data center that typically houses other network devices, such as servers and telephony equipment.
As you can see, small businesses continue to adapt and grow, and your office network needs to grow to keep up. To achieve this, carefully consider the above factors and take a close look at your current deployment and future needs to determine the right switch for your SMB network.