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Managed vs Unmanaged Switches: What should a business take into account when choosing?


Managed switches allow a much higher degree of control over one's network. However, they are obviously more expensive and need a professional who understands how to configure them. What criteria need to be considered when a business is deciding between managed versus unmanaged switches, and what are the pros and cons of each?

ITCS user
44 Answers

author avatar
Top 5Real User

Managed switches allow you to;

a) Enable Spanning Tree which will prevent loops.

b) Configure VLANs in order to segment the network and isolate segmented parts from each other.

c) Configure Quality of Sevice for optimum traffic and prioritization.

d) Take security measures. You may ban certain traffic. You may ban traffic coming from certain sources or traffic going to certain destinations. You may isolate PCs from each other even when they are in the same VLAN (private VLAN). This will be useful in hotels and dormitories isolating rooms from each other.

Such measures will result in more stable, more problem-free and more secure networks.

e) Managed switches will also give you reports on;

1. Status of the switch and ports (such as switch location, port description, whether a port is down, whether a port is in half/full-duplex mode, etc.)

2. Traffic statistics (such as number of broadcast/multicast/unicast packets, number of 64/128../1518 byte packets, etc.)

3. Error information and error statistics (such as if there is a fan or temperature alarm, a loop is detected, number of CRC errors, number of runt/giant packets, etc.)

These reports will allow you to pinpoint and analyze problems and subsequently take corrective actions.

However, if your network is VERY SMALL, and if you can pinpoint the problems by;

a) Visually checking the network topology and switch/port LEDs,
b) Checking your PCs against viruses and worms,
b) Testing cable faults by cable testers

You will not need managed switches.

You also will not need managed switches if you are not worried about security issues in such a small community. In which case, segmenting the network (VLANs), other security measures and quality of service issues will not be of your concern.

author avatar
Top 10Real User

I use the Ubiquity Unifi network products now. Not to expensive for a fully managed switch.

author avatar
Top 10Real User

Who has the best skillset on hand today in the future to manage the devices. Who will maintain architectural control of the changes? Who and what are the guidelines around life cycle management IOS, PSIRT and Bug upgrades. Pro's smaller service delivery organization as the provider becomes your smart hands. Con, changes can require more red tape, cash outlay. As for more expensive...recommend more understanding of total cost of ownership versus price

author avatar
Top 5Real User

Question is, who will manage the devices? If you don't have a full-time staff member to look after your network, choose un-managed. You need someone with the skillset and time to look after managed switches.

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