A Comparison of Managed vs Unmanaged Ethernet Switches

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At times, people are hesitant to invest in a managed ethernet switch because it’s more complex and harder to maintain than an unmanaged switch. However, using managed ethernet switches can be advantageous in certain situations. To determine which type of ethernet switch is right for you, consider this comparison of managed vs unmanaged ethernet switches.

Unmanaged ethernet switch

An unmanaged ethernet switch’s capabilities are far more limited than those of managed switches. Unlike managed switches, these switches have a fixed configuration that can’t be changed. Essentially, the only capability of unmanaged ethernet switches is they can allow ethernet devices to communicate.

Managed ethernet switch

The main difference between these two types of switches is that managed ethernet switches can be configured to prioritize LAN traffic. In doing so, one can ensure high-priority data can always get through. Managed ethernet switches also provide various advanced features which allow users to further control the flow of traffic by managing and monitoring their LAN. Such features include the following:

  • Quality of service: This feature provides users with more control over network traffic by assigning critical traffic with a higher priority. In doing so, they ensure consistent network performance and prevent important data from being dropped or delayed.
  • Virtual LAN: Also known as VLANS, virtual LANS can group devices together in a logical order and then isolate traffic between the groups—even if such traffic is passing through the same switch. As a result, the system can reduce unwanted traffic, increase security, and networks can perform better.
  • Redundancy: Redundancy can effectively safeguard a network in the case of a failed connection or cable. To do so, it provides traffic with an alternate data path.
  • Port mirroring: By working together with a network analyzer, port mirroring can help diagnose data issues. The feature can do this by copying the network traffic in the switch and forwarding it to a single port on that same switch. After this is done, a network analyzer can analyze it. This allows a user to solve problems without the need to take the network out of service.

The decision regarding which type of ethernet switch to use will depend largely on the capabilities you require and your network’s size and complexity. If you have a small network that only requires the basic functions of an ethernet switch, then unmanaged might be the best option. However, if you have a large, complex network, it’s probably more advantageous to invest in a managed ethernet switch.

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