Network switches are like the “brain” of a home network or an enterprise network. Therefore, choosing suitable and well-performing network switches is an important task for network managers. For a long time, many users feel confused that how to choose between a managed switch and unmanaged switch. In this post, the problem that users care much about—managed vs unmanaged switch: which is the real one I need—will be explored. And the use of managed switch or unmanaged switch for business or home will be discussed as well.
Managed switches are usually to deliver the most comprehensive functions for a network. Due to their diverse and rich features such as VLAN, CLI, SNMP, IP routing, QoS, etc., managed switches are often used in the core layer in a network, especially in large and complex data centers. However, in order to meet different size of networks demands, there are some lightly managed switches in the market, which is also known as smart switches. These switches only have part capabilities of managed switches. When users have limited costs and do not need all the features of fully managed switch, smart switch offers them an optimal alternative. Take S2800-24T4F fanless switch for an example. This Ethernet access switch has optimized function for WEB configuration of Internet bar, which offers great control experience for enterprise users. As a managed switch, it’s easy to be deployed in small or medium-sized businesses, labs, schools and Internet cafes with a cheap price of $209.
Compared with managed switches, unmanaged switches seem to be more “brainless”. They are a type of plug & play Ethernet network switch. What users need to do is to plug them in and wait them to work. Because unmanaged switches require no configuration at all. Therefore, when users need a few ports on their home or in a conference room, unmanaged switch can be used as a simple desktop switch to satisfy their demand.
There are various types of managed and unmanaged switches in the market like Cisco managed/unmanaged switches, Netgear managed/unmanaged switch, HP managed switches, etc. And opinions about applications of these network switches vary from person to person. What’s the difference between managed switches and unmanaged switches?
|Managed Switches||Unmanaged Switches|
|Features||Dynamic ARP Inspection, IPv4 DHCP snooping, QoS, SNMP, VLAN, CLI, IP routing, port mirroring, redundancy, etc.||Fixed configuration—doesn’t support any configuration interface or options|
|Performance||Switch can be configured
Control over Access
Control over LAN traffic—Priority
SNMP—Allows for remote troubleshooting of the network
|Plug and play with limited configuration like default QoS settings|
|Security||Very good. Provide protection of the data plane, control plane and management plane||Not very good. No security other than accessories such as lockable port cover|
|Application Places||Data center, large size enterprise networks||Small size business network, home, lab, conference rooms, etc.|
In many cases, network managers have to choose the most suitable network switches to ensure the whole network system goes well. Then, managed switches vs unmanaged switches: how to choose the suitable one for the practical network demand? Here are two questions many users may ask.
Actually this question cannot be answered by a simple “yes” or “no”. Whether to use managed switches or unmanaged switches depends on how big the business network is, the features that are required and the complexity of the network. Plenty of really small business networks do not have a managed switches, because what they need is the basic functions of an Ethernet switch. While for complex business network or large data centers, there are thousands of users using the Internet at the same time. Managed switches can isolate the data traffic based on different groups such as users, guests, backups, management and servers. This not only offers managers a better way to control the data traffic, but also provides strong protection for the whole network.
If you searched on the related forum, you will find that many people choose to use 8 port managed switch or 24 port managed switch for their home. Does that mean managed switches are more popular in the home network? No. If the user wants to have more control for their home network and pay more attention for privacy security, choosing a managed switch for home use is much better. However, if the user just want to get the home network worked normally and do not want to spend much time on the management, then plug-and-play unmanaged switches are the best fit for them.
We have run through the comparison between managed and unmanaged switches, and how to choose them for your business network or home use. If you are comfortable with managing a LAN and configuring everything, then a managed switch is a powerful option. Those who wish to keep things simple at home should go with an unmanaged solution.
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