How to choose between a managed or unmanaged network switch?
A switch is a device that allows the connection of multiple devices to a LAN (Local Area Network). It is an effective and intelligent device that receives messages from the connected devices and transmits the message to the intended target device and manages the data transmission on the network.
There are two types of switches,
- a Managed and
- Unmanaged Switch.
What is a Managed Switch?
- A Managed Switch allows connected network devices to communicate with each other, and also gives the network administrator greater control over managing and prioritizing LAN traffic.
- It manages the data traveling over a network as well as the security access to the data by using protocols like SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol), which monitors all devices connected to the network.
- SNMP allows the network devices to exchange information and monitors this activity to detect network performance issues, bottlenecks, etc.
- A Managed Switch uses SNMP to dynamically present a current status on network performance through a graphical interface, which is easier to understand and use for monitoring and configuration.
- SNMP also allows remote management of the network and connected devices, without having to physically work on the switch.
- Depending on the make and model of the switch, will determine the technical capabilities and advanced features available.
- A Smart Switch is a ‘lighter’ version of a fully Managed Switch that offers additional features on different levels for security, quality of service, monitoring, analysis, VLANs etc, but are not very scalable. This is a more cost-effective version of a fully Managed Switch and can be used for less complex networks.
- The capabilities of the Smart Switches and Fully Managed Switches vary greatly but generally will have a browser-based graphical interface to configure and monitor the devices and network, and in some cases the device management can be done through the command line interface, or Remote Network MONitoring (RMON), etc.
What is an Unmanaged Switch?
- An Unmanaged Switch allows devices connected to a network (LAN) to communicate with each other.
- It is a plug-and-play switch that does not require or allow any user intervention, setup, or configuration to be usable.
- The Unmanaged Switch is manufactured with a standard configuration that cannot be changed.
- Depending on the make and model of the switch, graphical interfaces are sometimes provided to simply monitor the network without any user interaction possible.
- Similarities between Managed and Unmanaged Switch
- Both the Managed and Unmanaged Switch allows multiple devices connected to the network to communicate with each other.
- Managed switches can be connected to other switches (managed or unmanaged), and unmanaged switches can also be connected to each other via Ethernet.
- Manufacturers produce both types of switches, such as CISCO, Dell, D-Link, and Netgear.
- Difference Between a Managed and Unmanaged Switch
- A Managed Switch allows LAN traffic to be controlled and prioritized through configuration changes whereas an unmanaged switch is manufactured with a standard configuration that cannot be changed.
- Managed switches provide the tools to monitor, configure and essentially assist with improving network performance for a consistent, stable network.
Cost Difference Between a Managed and Unmanaged Switch
- Managed switches cost more than unmanaged switches because they typically have better technical specifications, advanced features that allow for user management and configuration, as well as VLANs (Virtual Local Area Network).
- Smart switches (lighter managed switches) would be more expensive than unmanaged switches but less expensive than the fully managed switches.
Difference between a Managed and Unmanaged Switch