If you were talking to someone whose organization is considering NETGEAR Switches, what would you say?
How would you rate it and why? Any other tips or advice?
We're getting into maintaining our network more. From a service standpoint, we do maintain networks. On rare occasions, we have uplinks to clients' networks where a client starts to maintain networks. Typically, if that is the case. It's not part of their workflow to upgrade firmware or make any changes to switches. They just like to monitor the status of the switches. It is valuable for the AV use case. Test it in the environment that you're looking to utilize these switches, then create a process and procedure going forward on how to implement. Fortunately, there is not much of a process. That would be my suggestion. I would rate them highly. I would go with a nine (out of 10).
It's a good switch. The only recommendation that I would have is to put in a wizard for some of the more advanced features. Outside of that, I'm very happy with the product. It does fit in a hole that's typically been missed by a lot of switch vendors who are not targeting the Pro AV space, like NETGEAR is. I would rate the product between an eight point five and nine (out of 10). We are working with NETGEAR to train our employees on the product as well as get a closer relationship with them. It is more than just buying the product. We are working with NETGEAR to help develop the product a bit as far as referring back to them what we've seen in the field. Then, they're helping to train some of our offices on how to use it.
I would tell anybody looking for switching solutions for their AV platforms to take a strong look at the NETGEAR M4300 platform, specifically their modular unit. It allows so much customability in the design and you are not stuck with trying to piece together multiple switches to get the functionality that you need. I really think that their modular switch is a game changer in the marketplace. In the marketplace, we are putting this product into a lot of our projects. As the need arises for network products, NETGEAR is one of our recommendations for our designers for the design of their systems for our clients. It depends on what the client needs. If clients are open to it, we will put NETGEAR in. Some clients are restricted in what they can use. The majority of clients, from what we've seen, will allow whatever type of AV network we recommend for them. The product is great. There is some room for improvement in some of their models. I would probably give the product line an eight and a half (out of 10). Their focus on the AV industry is long overdue from any vendor. As the AV technology moves towards being more IT based, which it has over the past five or six years, NETGEAR has been positioning themselves well to take a big piece of that. Their joining with SDVoE is a big deal as well, so their name is displayed prominently within that organization. The AV industry as a whole is taking notice of what they are doing.
My advice would be: Don't be afraid to look at manufacturers who aren't the big names in networking. You can find switches that will meet your needs without having to pay a premium for it. What I've learned from using this solution is that it's possible to provide great features in a network switch without having to pay a ton of money for it. The 10 GB switching is something that we're starting to see more and more of, especially as the costs keep coming down. In our company specifically, we actually do a lot more of 1 GB than 10 GB. The 1 GB AV over IP solutions are primarily what we're delivering to customers. We haven't much need to use the 10 GB solutions. We use the switch as part of commercial AV large format displays, video walls, and high-capacity HD real-time displays. I don't honestly know, off the top of my head, what the number of displays would be. I typically just handle the network side of things so I'm not sure how large those installations have gotten. But once you move past having a single switch and you go to multiple switches, it does start to get increasingly complex to properly configure the network, as does the troubleshooting if the need arises. They do offer a network monitoring tool that we plan on looking into more. We just recently got it set up and installed. That is the next thing that we'll be looking into, to see how much we can utilize it. I would rate NETGEAR a nine out of 10. Once they get that REST API rolled out then it will be a 10.
The advice I would give: Work with somebody, if possible to think about your backbone needs. Think about the network deployment and the design, because the last thing that you want to do is a four switch stack and run out of trunk capacity, switching capacity, or PV capacity. Even though the 96X is a more expensive piece of hardware than the other parts of the M4300, do not discount it as a great solution for a master or core switch. There is one other guy in our organization who helps in terms of service and support, but for anything network-oriented, it's me. I would rate the M4300 as a nine (out of ten). I was a non-expert, who felt fairly comfortable configuring and managing the switch. This is a big part of my rating. Also, the ease of doing things, like switch stacking and setting up trunks, which can be sort of confusing and scary, was great. The available types of of hardware options for the 96X are amazing. In the same physical switch, you can put a 40Gb card, 10Gb copper, 10Gb fiber, and 1Gb copper or fiber, and you are able to hot swap it. It's just killer. There are not a lot of solutions which do this, and not anywhere close to the price point that NETGEAR does.
To have unlimited, uncompressed, 4K transmission, you cannot go with 1GbE, you need 10GbE. The 4300 Series is the way to go. We run two different High-Bandwidth AV over IP systems simultaneously and haven't seen any limitations yet.
From an IT vendor's perspective, make sure to get the right licensing. Make sure to get the licensing that allows you to do the tenants and have it all separated. Definitely make sure to get the higher-end licensing, the Pro version and not the Basic or Premium. For end users, my only advice would be to keep it simple. Don't get too crazy with it. It's hard to not keep it simple with these devices. They are made for small business and they are made to be simple. Don't over-complicate things. Just get what you need. They're pretty easy. A switch is a switch and an end user typically is not doing anything too complicated, other than linking a bunch of devices together. It's pretty much just plug it in, for them. Our organization is an IT company, and there's only two of us using it inside the building. He's a network technician and I'm a network engineer. And as a technician, he hasn't had any issues using them either. He hasn't even really needed to call me for help, as an engineer. He hasn't needed my expertise. It's been easy for him and he's new to managed switches too. It's been good. I've been able to let him do stuff in them without having to oversee him, because it's been easy for him. Deployment and maintenance need something like one person for every 100. They're really easy and you can manage them all from one place, in one website. You don't need a lot of people watching over them. It's really easy for one person to watch over hundreds of them. We're actually going to start using it as our Hardware as a Service and start trying to market it that way and push out these devices where we own them and allow clients to use them as a service. We're going to use the NETGEAR stuff for that. They just redid their management on the backside. Before it was either Premium or Basic but now they have the Pro version which allows me to group all my clients together. I can group locations by client and I can give clients direct access to their own stuff too. So I can have admin-level access to all my clients and then give the individual clients direct access to their own stuff, so we're not holding anybody hostage either. It's been pretty cool for that. We've just been really happy with it. We're moving to them as our main networking and WiFi products. I was just at the NETGEAR SMB Council. The Insight product has been out for about a year, and some of the people who got on it when it first came out had a lot of complaints about how it was dumb when it first came out and about the issues they had. They did say it got a lot better for them. I got on the products a little bit later, I didn't get into to it until three or four months ago. For me it's been pretty smooth, other than that one update where we had to reboot stuff. So depending on when someone started using the stuff they might have different opinions. The early adopters might not have liked it as much because of the issues they had in the beginning, issues that NETGEAR fixed, going forward. I noticed that some of the partners there who had been using it longer did have a bad taste in their mouths. That was because they onboarded so early that it didn't really have a chance yet. Overall, I would rate the solution a nine out of ten. I will give some stuff a ten, but it's pretty rare. The updating process has been easy, it works over the web, but it's been a little too often, and that's causing email triggers. We get annoyed by the constant bombardment of emails from their devices - and the more devices you have, the more you get bombarded. Any time there's a firmware update, they have to reboot and there's an email notification, so you start to get a lot of emails. The notifications need to be a little cleaner. But from a functional standpoint it's been pretty solid, if we're just talking about just the switches.
If you're building out a network, utilize the skillsets of a consulting company that knows what they're doing, that understands what your problems are so that they find the right solution and the right products. Don't go to ABC Company and get a cookie-cutter package that's not really going to solve the problem that you have. Each does something different so having the right product on the network and knowing what the functionality of that product is, that's the big key to the puzzle. Regarding the high-bandwidth AV over IP functionality, the property that we're managing has 270 units and they're all streaming on the network, either 4K or HD movies. They have Netflix and a lot of them use Amazon software or Amazon Fire, or they use a Roku or different streaming platforms through their TVs and on their network. High-bandwidth AV over IP allows the switch to just do its job, and the switch works really well. We're not doing any routing through the switch, although it also has that capability which is great. Right now we have a firewall that's on the network that is controlling the routing but the switch does a phenomenal job, especially with the AV side of things. It has never held us back and the speed through it is pretty phenomenal. Most of it is through fiber optics so we're getting almost the full speed, which right now is at 250 by 250, at everyone's complex. Most of them are getting about 200, and we just upgraded the network to one gig, up and down, so we can't wait to see what the switch is able to do. This solution is serving about 300 users. It doesn't take much for maintenance. As long as you do the firmware updates, and normally there aren't too many, it's good. We've put in place a lot of little things so backing it up is easy, it's automatic. The configuration file is easy. There's not much to do to maintain it because it does it automatically. It automatically backs up and it automatically updates the firmware. As long as the configuration file is saved, if there's ever an issue, uploading it is very easy too. We don't have plans to increase usage at this time. We're using about 85 percent of the switch when it comes to the functionalities of what the switch does. We're at the point where we don't need to utilize it more because I designed the network to future-proof it ahead of time. Once I installed it I didn't have to change it anymore, because I knew that we were going to be getting the one-gig circuit. All of the equipment that's there is already built for a one-gig circuit. Once we get the new internet I just change the IP addresses and that's it. I won't have to touch it again. It's helped us tremendously, in terms of the equipment, knowing that we can rely on the NETGEAR product. It will allow our customer to save a ton of money, in the long term, because we were able to remove all of the extra equipment. We were able to put in one piece of equipment, versus utilizing four different switches to run the network, switches which were bottlenecking the full network itself. It's helped us tremendously to be able to show them that we're a reliable company and that we offer great products. It does the job that we said it was going to do, and that's why I would continue using the NETGEAR product. I would rate the M4300 a ten out of ten. Even with the issues I mentioned, it has saved me time and money, and it has saved our company money over any other switch. This switch, with the modular input of the fiber optic and the ethernet in the same switch, has saved us having to purchase extra equipment and troubleshooting that extra equipment. It's one piece of equipment, one point of access for us to go in and troubleshoot if we need to.
Go for it They're very straightforward to purchase and setup time is very minimal, especially if you've got a lot of small, remote offices, because you get the central management. The big feature for us that centralized management and the remote capabilities. The apps for the phones are good. I have an Android phone, and it's also available on iOS. You can remotely manage and monitor even without having to sit at a desk. That is very useful. The Insight platform itself - for VPN, firewalls, and storage devices - is a good, centralized platform for managing all of that. Although we've only really talked about the switching, it has other features as well, which make it sensible for us as a centralized management platform. It's appropriate for medium to large businesses. I haven't really had to use the remote troubleshooting much. The one time I did, it was very detailed regarding the point where the problem was and we could identify the problem. It ended up being on a non-switch device so we had to have an engineer go to the site to fix it. But it was very quick to identify exactly where that problem was, down to an individual port and the device connected into that port. I have been troubleshooting the network as opposed to the devices and, in my experience, it's very good. In terms of maintenance, it's all done remotely so we've needed only one staff member, with very little overhead. At one of the offices, for example, they turn everything off at night. We get an alert saying the network is down, but when they turn it back on in the morning, we get an alert saying the network is back up. There's very little management on top of that. The businesses where we deploy them have plants and office locations. As they sign up and grow, we'll definitely deploy more.
If you are an MSP, you should definitely look into it and plan to use it. I would recommend it. Overall, we're very happy with the product. It's become our standard going forward. But there are some exceptions. One being the tiered administration. The other one is lack of support for support multicast packets. Regarding staff for deployment and maintenance, it depends on if you're looking at our entire fleet of these Ethernet switches, which is scattered across multiple clients; then it's probably a tenth of a person. If it's one switch, it's less than a tenth of a person. Switches are low maintenance as a device, it doesn't matter whose they are. We've got half a dozen deployed at various clients right now. And there will be more because we've got projects in the queue. Overall, I would rate it an eight out of ten. The issues I mentioned that still need to be resolved come to mind, as well as the licensing structure that doesn't really make sense for us.
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.
I don't know of any remote management tools. Everything we manage them with is onsite. I would give it an eight out of ten. It's the most cost-effective solution out there. The management, as I said, from a browser standpoint, is very difficult in some cases, because we have some of them that are very old and we have to bounce around between browsers to manage them.
If you're in a small to medium-sized business, if you're a business owner, or if you're an IT company providing services to small and medium-sized businesses, this is a great solution. Seriously consider it, especially if you're looking for a cloud-managed solution that's not very expensive. Overall, the remote management tools of the GC switch are good. There were some issues at the beginning with the initial firmware, getting it updated. We've pretty much sorted those out. This is a new product for them, so we knew that there were going to be some speed bumps but, overall, it's still better than having no easy portal to see through. The normal way you would log in to a switch is much more difficult than what they're providing. The only thing that I didn't realize when I was setting these up is that you need to make sure that it gets to the right firmware. It doesn't get online as easily as possible, as easily as some other Ethernet switches. It does go through a few rounds of firmware updates. But everything else is really easy. Even the VLAN setup is pretty straightforward. I didn't have any issues besides that firmware. I haven't set up a new switch in a few months, so this could be a moot point. I'm just cautioning new users. We only have one customer currently using this, with nine locations. There could be some 50 users total. They don't have a high concentration per building. We've gotten the 24 ports for all the locations, and it seems to be handling the traffic very well. We're still testing it every day, and NETGEAR has been great about working with us if we see any issues. They've been on it to get feedback addressed. I would give it an eight out of ten. The only reason is that it is a new product. They're working out some kinks. Otherwise, in a year it's going to be the best solution out there in terms of price and value. When we first got it, they didn't even have a 52-port switch. Now they do. They're coming up with all of these additional products to give the full solution. They're coming out with a cloud-managed router as well, connecting all of those things into a full solution: they have the access points, now the switches, and the routers. That, and the consistency of the network, making sure the devices are always connected to the cloud reporting correctly, would make it a full ten. I know they are working on it. I was out there with NETGEAR telling them my concerns and they heard me, and I know that they've already addressed a few of those things and were just working on the last few.
Just try it. It's a good product, it's a good solution. If you come from Ubiquity, it's a little bit different but, in the end, it's all about the devices and the reliability of the devices. With NETGEAR you get that good device reliability and you get a little cheaper price than Cisco Meraki. As for the remote management tools, the general look and feel are okay, but the speed could be increased. That's one of the minor points of the Insight portal, is that it sometimes lacks in speed when loading certain pages for certain clients. In general, there are about 18 to 20 internal users. For the guests it ranges from, let's say, from one to 100 or 120. We require no staff for deployment and maintenance. With Insight, if you look at it from the standpoint of a reseller, you don't need to have one dedicated person for management of it, because it's all done on one portal, one application. When there is an alert from a device or a client, you can have a look at it, but you don't need a dedicated resource for management of the environment. For the moment it's not necessary to increase usage. It's pretty brand new. I rate the solution a nine out of ten. They could make it a ten by making the interface faster, providing more devices to choose from to put in Insight, and by adding a few more features to the Insight portal; software features, like reporting and alerting. Those two things should be extended with extra features.
Just buy it. If the network is the same scale as my network, about 100 PCs and about ten to 15 servers, it's an ideal solution for that. Also, go look on Spiceworks for help. Ask for Kieran. That is somebody from NETGEAR who helped me out a lot. I don't think anything is missing in the product. I don't think there should be any improvements. At the moment, we have about 15 users and we will scale up in the coming months to about 50 users. In terms of deployment and maintenance, it's just me. I do everything related to IT in the company. Everybody uses the product because it's our core switch. I think we have some overhead in regard to the number of clients that are connected at the moment. In that context, I think its usage is about 30 or 40 percent, at the moment. We don't use the high-bandwidth AV over IP functionality. Overall I would give it a nine out of ten. Nothing is perfect. If it were perfect, I would just have to plug in some cables and the system would manage itself. Then I would call it perfect. But you still have to put some work into it, and that's normal.
Strongly consider using NETGEAR in replacement of some of the other larger switch manufacturers. Recognize that the manageability is there at a lower level so you can employ less-highly-skilled people to maintain the devices. As far as small and medium businesses go, they need to be able to have that ability because they don't always have dedicated IT people. You're better off going with this type of implementation because the features are there, the ability to program is there, and the ability to understand them is far easier than it is for a lot of others, making the implementation a lot easier. In terms of the AV over IP, we split everything up in the VLAN so we don't differentiate AV. We don't have a lot of AV traveling over the networks, just yet, other than the occasional IP camera. Most of them are still in their own switch network. Deployment could take one or two people. A lot of times it would be myself as the network architect and then another system administrator to help move things, unplug things. It's more of a physical issue. The switches themselves are very quick and easy and barely even take any time out of my schedule. I don't really schedule for them because they can be done on the fly. It's more about the physical limitations that cause scheduling to go awry. As for extent of usage, for us, any new or refurbished network is 100 percent NETGEAR as far as the backbone and switching go. We will continue to be using them. They're making good advancements in their product lines and they're well-positioned where they are now for how we need to use them. I'm very happy with them. I would rate NETGEAR at about an eight out of ten, only because I always think everyone has room for improvement. As I said, they need a little bit better Knowledge Base, they need a little better help or support online, directly on the switches or from the switches. Documentation is key for me. And, as I said, I need more stacking when I do virtual stacks. I want to be able to do a lot larger virtual stacks.
Definitely consider the Insight product line, but make sure that you understand what you're getting and that you're getting the right piece of equipment within the Insight product line. Consider getting that licensing so that you can manage it online. The number of users in our organization is about 25. In terms of their roles, there are financial folks who are using it for the organization, there are service people who are using it, and the executives are obviously on the system and using it as well. For deployment and maintenance, as far as staff goes, I don't even need a full-time person for it. Their role is just to do the configuration: Set up the devices per the design that was done for the network and then maintain it. The maintenance is just monitoring it and then fixing anything that might come up. I don't need full-time people to do that. Insight is, today, about 15 percent of the equipment on the infrastructure. My plan is to actually get it to 100 percent. My intention is to take it all the way and have everything Insight-based.