Ubiquiti UniFi Switches Review

Simple to use, open technology, with a nice GUI

What is our primary use case?

We are a solution provider and Ubiquiti UniFi switches are one of the products that we implement for our customers.

The use case for this solution depends on the size of the infrastructure. Normally, for smaller installations, we use the routing functionality because they are layer three switches. In larger organizations, we use it as a layer two switch and we use Compass routers to handle 10-gigabit bandwidth. We have one customer using this configuration who does 3D modeling and 3D printing, which requires a lot of bandwidth.

How has it helped my organization?

We have several offices in Switzerland, Germany, and Austria, and we can manage this solution, as well as for our customers, remotely.

What is most valuable?

These switches are very simple to use and the GUI is very nice. They have made administration much easier. Optionally, if you have a very advanced requirement then you can do it less comfortably using the GUI, or instead use SSH to program it. If you have experience in Linux and bash scripting then it is very easy to do.

The most valuable feature is that the technology is open. If there's a new technology then you can implement it yourself. For example, WireGuard is a very nice VLAN framework that is available on Linux and you can implement it on the Ubiquiti switches. With Cisco or other commercial products, you'll have to wait until the manufacturer starts to provide it for you. Sometimes, they need quite a long time before this will happen. It is for this same reason that we don't use macOS or Windows because they are always about five years behind current technologies.

What needs improvement?

The UniFi switches are for people who are not very into technology and if you have a big deployment with special configurations then this line of switches is very limited.

It would be nice to have a single, unique management console or a GUI because as it is now, Ubiquiti switches have two management systems and it is annoying.

The VPN technology in Ubiquiti products is really difficult for beginners who do not have the right skills. It would be very nice if they had a simple way to manage all of the VPN connections from a GUI. This would include from location to location, or from location to computer.

For how long have I used the solution?

We have about two years of experience with Ubiquiti UniFi switches.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

So far, this solution has been completely stable. We have had issues with hardware and needed to exchange it at times, although we had the same issues with Cisco.

We are operating in Germany, and the rules here for when things fail are quite nice. We normally have a two-year warranty, and it is quite easy to exchange hardware with the dealers. Normally, if something is not going to function well, then it gives up within three months. There is no difference between Cisco and Ubiquiti in this regard.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Ubiquiti UniFi has been scalable enough for our use cases. The throughput is ok. We have used it in cases with a gigabit backbone and it worked fine.

We have deployments with only five users and we have deployments with up to 500 users.

How are customer service and technical support?

We have not been in touch with official technical support from Ubiquiti. There's a big community that supports you if you have issues, which is the only support we have used.

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

We used to use Cisco switches but we had a lot of trouble with them. They are not easy to handle, which is why we switched to Ubiquiti. Cisco switches have the same capability but you have to have knowledge of Cisco IOS.

Ubiquiti is known for its access points, but the ER and ES switches are quite nice. We primarily use the Ubiquiti Edge switches and routers. The overall administration is very easy because we are able to write scripts in the same language that we use for our common operating systems. This was a great step forward from our Cisco solution.

The Cisco switches allow you do do everything because they are the standard-makers, but it is a closed community. If they don't do it then you can't do it, whereas with Ubiquiti, there is always somebody who is doing something crazy and you can get advice for your project. It is very nice.

With Cisco, normally after six years, they stop support and you have to buy completely new infrastructure. It is really awful. 

How was the initial setup?

It is a complex product so, of course, the setup is complex. However, it is straightforward in that you have the freedom to do what you want to do, without any limitations. There is a big community that supports you if you have issues with the configuration.

The deployment is quite fast. We took about two weeks to get the switches running exactly the way we wanted them to, but for simple tasks, you can do it in just two days. It's really easy.

Personally, I think that it is much easier to do if you are already familiar with the command line and the terminology from Cisco. 

What about the implementation team?

If our customer is large enough to have their own IT department and host the switch on their site then we do consultancy for them. There are cases where we conduct a PoC and then when the customer is satisfied, we implement it on their site and they take it over. Finally, if they have insufficient knowledge on their end, we sometimes implement and manage the entire solution on their site. In most cases, we handle the implementation for our customers.

Beyond what our technical department does, the economic department will discuss things with the client such as what new services or products are available. This can include things like monitoring, data aggregation, and providing information.

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

Ubiquiti switches are quite affordable and you don't have to pay extra for support.

What other advice do I have?

We are focused on open software and manufacturer-independent solutions, so Ubiquiti fits our strategy well because they operate on the Linux operating system. 

We have had no problems where this product did not do what it was supposed to do, either from the hardware side or the software side.

This is a solution that I recommend for normal operations. The suitability of these switches depends on what you want to do, what your tasks are, and what the application is. Ubiquiti is not always the manufacturer of choice. If you need really high-speed networks or have special requirements then it is important to test things out in the lab beforehand.

I have a lot of experience with different switches that are on the market and my favorite are those by Ubiquiti. They are affordable, they do what they should do, they are open, and you don't have to pay extra for support.

I would rate this solution an eight out of ten.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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