NETGEAR Switches Review

A design flaw, with lights on the opposite side of the jacks, makes rack mounting very difficult

What is our primary use case?

I'm using the switches in small business environments and I'm using them with the cloud management. That way, I can get notifications when there are problems without even being on site, and I can also manage them remotely.

How has it helped my organization?

The improvement is that, if there's an issue, I don't have to go onsite to look into it. It saves time, which translates to money. If I'm on the road for any significant time, my clients are going to get trip charges. My being able to remotely manage it means they can save those costs, and it could be back up more quickly because it might be something minor that I can remotely resolve.

What is most valuable?

The cloud management is the reason I switched to them, although the regular NETGEAR product line that I've used would be less expensive. I love the cloud management feature.`

They are easy to use and deploy. The deployment can be done through the direct interface of the device or through the cloud management if that mode is selected. But it's nice, if there is an issue, to be able to go in through the remote. The fact that the remote doesn't require a static IP - even though most small businesses do have static IPs, you do run into some that don't - is nice. They initiate the contact to the outside world, without requiring a static to get in.

The switch has been really easy. Anybody who has been in the business can hop on there and change stuff right away.

What needs improvement?

I've used and sold NETGEAR stuff for a long time and I was really excited about the cloud product. But, there are some design issues on which they really missed the boat. The problem has to do with rack mounting them because the lights and jacks should all be on the front, and the power on the back. The way they did it makes it really difficult to use them in a rack environment, because when the lights are on the opposite side of the jacks. They just don't lend themselves to a rack environment.

I'm absolutely amazed that they did what they did because they've been building switches for years and this totally violates all of the design parameters on all their other products. You can't have a device that's expected to go into a rack environment - and they ship with the rack mount - yet the jacks are on one side, and all the indicator lights you need to look at are on the back. You usually can't see the back side of a rack. You can't get back there to see, so it's just crazy. It's like they designed it to hang on a wall, rather than to be mounted in a rack. They're really missing their bigger opportunity by doing that. It's so bad that I have to consider whether or not to use them. What good are indicators if you can't look at them? And you can't do so in the current design because they're on the back side.

If you look at their entire product line, nothing is like that. It just makes no sense at all. If they would put the power on the back and the indicators on the front, it would be like every other switch they manufacture, and it would resolve all those issues. 

I want to use it. I just hope that they fix their design.

Another issue, when it comes to NETGEAR's competitors, is that other companies are offering the cloud management at no extra charge, whereas NETGEAR charges for it. You have to pay per-device for licenses.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

I haven't had any issues with the stability. I just learned about the cloud model a few months ago and the first ones I rolled out were shortly after that.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

In the size of environments I've worked with, it's been working great. For example, I had one where, in some parts of the building they've got some of the 8-ports, and in other locations, they've got the 24-ports and 48-ports. The product line is there. I've interconnected them using the 10-gig cross-connects for the 24s and 48s. It's the 24- and 48-port models that have a 10-gig SPF connection option. That's really nice because you get high performance between devices.

How are customer service and technical support?

I haven't needed to contact technical support.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

I was using NETGEAR's switches prior. The Insight is the newer product line. Their sales department contacted me when I first expressed interest in the product and they had one of their sales engineers do a webinar with me, showing me the product and the management.

I ended up going with NETGEAR because I've used their switches for a number of years. I've been around forever. 3Com was the original big company doing all of the switch technology. They didn't even have switches when I started. It was all hub technology back then. 3Com, obviously, was bought out by HP, so I used the HP line. I was introduced to the NETGEAR product line through another company that I partner with on jobs. They do the phone side, I do the data side. Because of IT voice technology, they had been using the NETGEARs. They introduced me to them and I liked them. They were a better price point. They were reliable. So I switched to NETGEAR. When I saw the advertisements for the Insight and the cloud management, it drew me into checking them out.

The concept of cloud management is great. If you could get one vendor that can cover all of the products, so you don't have multiple management windows, it would be nice. That's what I'm trying to do with NETGEAR, if they can just make some more improvements to the product.

How was the initial setup?

I find the initial setup pretty straightforward. But again, I've worked on many pieces of equipment for 30 years, so it's easy for me.

You could deploy a switch instantly. You're not required to set any settings. You could just plug it in and use it. Somebody who doesn't know anything could use it. But if you want to take advantage of the management features, then it'll take a little bit longer. You'll have to set it up in either stand alone or Cloud managed mode and then configure it. But doesn't take long if you know what you're doing. It can be set up within ten minutes.

Most people in the business already know what their network structure is, so they know their IP subnets, etc. It's your option to throw your address on it or let DHCP assign it and then set up a couple things and you're done.

In terms of an implementation strategy, for my managed equipment I will always put a statically assigned address on it within the internal subnets of the company. That way, I'm not dependent upon DHCP being up and running at the time those devices reboot. On a typical network, all of the statics are documented, so I can pull up documentation to manage stuff. Of course, with the cloud management it gives you the ability to name the devices, so you can make descriptive names.

It takes one person to deploy and maintain it. I'm in an environment where I'm working with companies that don't have an IT staff. They're smaller than the size that can accommodate a full-time staff person. So, I'm the one supporting them.

What was our ROI?

Determining ROI gets tough when you get into some of these more expensive devices. Part of the problem is that it's a newer product line, so they don't have as many options as they will probably have in a couple years. Because there are fewer, there is a tendency to have more full-featured things that cost more, when you may not need all of the features.

The savings from the customer's perspective are when I can work on it remotely, without having to travel to their site. They're saving the trip charges and they can, potentially, be up quicker. That's going to save the customer money. The initial costs are more, but they can reap the benefits in the long term.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

NETGEAR is not competitive when it comes to cloud management because Ubiquity is free. Peplink is free but you have to keep the device under warranty. After its initial warranty is up, you have to buy the extended warranty to keep it under cloud management. In that situation, the $10 a year on a router would be cheaper than keeping the device under warranty. But when you get into the access points in Ubiquity, they've got NETGEAR beat because it's free for that service. It's part of buying the product.

NETGEAR's new product is definitely more expensive than their standard product line. It's a new product line for them, so I'm hoping with the maturity of the product that those costs will come down. The standard product line is considerably cheaper. I'm not quite sure why, because there's not that much on the tech side. It really doesn't cost any more to build a managed device than it does to build a non-managed. That's usually all just in software implementations. Cloud-managed is going to be the mainstay. Everybody's going to go there. It's a matter of time until that's just the standard and everybody will expect everything to work in that environment.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

Ubiquity is the one that's doing the free cloud management. I had been using some of their access points toward the concept of trying to get into unified management rather than all these different brands. I've been trying to do that with NETGEAR, with their access points, Ethernet switches, and routers. I'm just finding limitations, or it's not competitive if I have to pay $10 a year per device to manage the NETGEAR when Ubiquity will do it for free. It's part of the benefit of you buying their product. Ten bucks a year isn't much until you start having 20 devices at a company. Then it's an extra $200 that you have to get them to pay, when it's free with the other guy's product.

What other advice do I have?

In terms of advice to someone who is looking into implementing this solution, I would have to know more about what their application was and what they were doing. It is going to cost them more and, if they're rack mounting it, there's definitely a negative on the switches; a big negative, because you can't see the lights.

Some aspects of the remote management tools are good and some need improvement. If you go to the new NETGEAR Insight router, there are features that aren't supported through the cloud management and you have to do them locally. That needs to be improved so that all of those features can be done through the cloud management. I'm using the version where they sell the license for $10 a year. It gives you access to control them. It's just the ability to go in and remote-manage whatever the feature set of the device is remotely, and get notifications when there's a problem on the network.

I've probably only put in ten of them so far. I've more used it for monitoring and initial setup. I haven't done much troubleshooting because they've been up and running. I haven't had the problem of them being down.

As for whether you need to be an IT expert to deploy and maintain the solution, it's tough for somebody like me, who has 30 years of IT experience, to make that judgment. For somebody who has never touched one, if you don't have those concepts, you wouldn't know what to do. You have to have a certain level. Somebody who has never done anything in technology isn't going to hop on there and know what to do, but it's not a problem with the switch, it's because they don't understand the technology.

In the first organization I implemented the solution in, there are about 40 devices on that network. There are four switches there.

I love the concept, I want to continue to use it. But I'm torn on this issue of whether or not they're going to correct the physical layout so that the lights are on the correct side.

In terms of how I rate it, I'm going to have to hit it, because it has the design flaw. Even though I'm using it, I'd throw it down at a three out ten, because it is really bad that the status lights can't be seen from the front. It's a major flaw. They anticipate rack mount, it comes with the rack mount kit. I can't believe it shipped; that it was designed that way. If that was resolved I'd probably throw it up around an eight. If they got rid of the fees for the management, I'd probably give them a nine or a ten. They have to look at the marketplace. They're not being competitive by charging the $10 per device for management.

I like NETGEAR as a company. I'm hoping that they will actually pay attention to the feedback and make changes to improve the product.

**Disclosure: IT Central Station contacted the reviewer to collect the review and to validate authenticity. The reviewer was referred by the vendor, but the review is not subject to editing or approval by the vendor. The reviewer's company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: Reseller.
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