Managed vs Unmanaged Network Switches

In general, network switches are the main building block of wired computer networks. It’s the networking hardware that connects other network devices together and move the data to the correct destination. There are two main types of switches, managed and unmanaged, and regardless of that network switches comes in various sizes, any number of ports(up to 48) and may have other auxiliary features such as POE.

managed vs unmanaged switches splash

Comparing Managed and Unmanaged Switches

Comparing managed and unmanaged switches is almost like comparing today’s smart TVs with that of the nineties. Both of them are serving the same basic function, but for sure, smart TVs offer much more features and extra functionality.

We are going to compare managed and unmanaged switches according to certain criterion, as follows:

Function

At basic, both managed and unmanaged switches offer the same function. They connect other network devices together and transmit the data to the correct places. However, unmanaged switches connect devices in a fixed configuration that you cannot make changes to.

On the other hand, a managed switch allows you to manage, configure and monitor the settings of your network. So, managed switches can be considered as “Smart Switches” as they bring a level of intelligence to the network.

Performance

When it comes to performance, unmanaged switches offers the ability to plug and play immediately with your network. No setup is required as it has a built-in QoS to make sure its working well, so they are considered easy to use.

Conversely, managed switch allows for channels prioritization at will, to ensure that you get the best performance according to your needs. Furthermore, managed switches comes with extra features. Like Priority SNMP, which allow for remote troubleshooting and make it easier to find out if there any issues with the network.

Security

Unmanaged switches have very basic security. They are secured by ensuring that you have no vulnerabilities from system to system. Also, some of them have some security accessories like a lockable port cover to prevent tampering with the device directly.

Managed switches have some major security benefits. Such as monitoring and controlling the network to shutdown active threats, protection of data, and management plans. The security features -according to the model- are ranging from network communication encryption, access control policy that prevent unauthorized users from accessing the network, to VLANs that can create a limited access to your network to restrict some users from full access to the network.

Application

You can get switches with any number of ports, both managed and unmanaged. However, if the network is small, such as for home, office or small business, then unmanaged switch is more likely to be used. While, in case of enterprise business with large network scope, or data centers that need much control over their network, managed switches are most recommended.

Cost

In terms of cost, the comparison is self-evident. Unmanaged switches cost much less than managed ones. For unmanaged switches the price is ranging from approximately 10$ to 100$ or more.

Managed switches, on the other hand, cost significantly more. Another thing to mention, that the prices of managed switches are affected by the features of the device, especially, security and access control features.

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Comparison Table

managed vs unmanaged switches

Choosing between Managed and Unmanaged switches

If you are not sure a managed or unmanaged switch is right for your application. We will list some questions down below which hopefully help you when you make your decision.

  • Do you need control over switch configuration? To be able to manage, configure and monitor your network settings, such as traffic control, prioritization, etc. then you need a managed switch.
  • How important is security for you? If security is highly concerned, such as in case of sensitive data is being transmitter across your network, then a managed switch is recommended. They offer many security options that help in preventing unwanted access.
  • How much down time is tolerable for you? For a business, even one minute of down time is not acceptable and it costs money. So, when down time is very concerned, then managed switches are the the right choice. Managed switches have built-in redundancy safeguards and they provide alternative data path. Also, they control traffic by prioritization, to make sure the most important data gets through.
  • Do you want to remotely access and control your network? Managed switches give you the ability to remotely control and monitor the status of your network. It can notify you of potential problems and let you troubleshoot the issues remotely, which will reduce the time of onsite monitoring.
Disclosure
Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. Keep in mind that I link these companies and their products because of their quality and not because of the commission I receive from your purchases. The decision is yours, and whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you. Read more

Recommended Switches

Here is a list of some of the most recommended switch units for every use case.

Cisco - Catalyst - WS-C2960X-24TS-LL

Cisco – Catalyst – WS-C2960X-24TS-LL

  • Suitable for medium-size network for house or office
  • (24) Gigabit RJ45 Ethernet Ports
  • (2) 1Gigabit SFP Ports
  • Managed Switch
  • LAN Lite Software

Buy from Router-Switch.com [Use our coupon code KPJYGY to get a discount]

D-Link - DGS-1024S-CN

D-Link – DGS-1024S-CN

  • Suitable for small house or office
  • (24) Gigabit RJ45 Ethernet Ports
  • Built-in Power Supply
  • Unmanaged Switch
  • Rackmountable

Buy from Router-Switch.com [Use our coupon code KPJYGY to get a discount]

Ubiquiti Networks - UniFi switch - US-16-150W

Ubiquiti Networks – UniFi switch – US-16-150W

  • Suitable for small house or office and POE is concerned
  • (16) Gigabit RJ45 Ethernet Ports
  • (2) 1Gigabit SFP Ports
  • POE+ and 24V Passive POE Support
  • Built-in 150W Power Supply
  • Managed with UniFi Application

Buy from Router-Switch.com [Use our coupon code KPJYGY to get a discount]

Buy form AliExpress

Cisco - Catalyst - WS-C3850-48F-S

Cisco – Catalyst – WS-C3850-48F-S

  • Suitable for advanced networks
  • (48) Gigabit RJ45 Ethernet Ports
  • Layer 3 Switch
  • 800W POE+ Support
  • Fully Managed Switch
  • IP Base Software

Buy from Router-Switch.com [Use our coupon code KPJYGY to get a discount]

Huawei - S5720-52X-PWR-LI-AC

Huawei – S5720-52X-PWR-LI-AC

  • Suitable for large networks and enterprise businesses
  • (48) Gigabit RJ45 Ethernet Ports
  • (4) 10Gigabit SFP+ Ports
  • 370W POE+ Support
  • Fully Managed switch

Buy from Router-Switch.com [Use our coupon code KPJYGY to get a discount]

Buy from AliExpress

D-Link - DES-1017TP-CN

D-Link – DES-1017TP-CN

  • Suitable for network with low speed POE-powered devices
  • (16) 100M RJ45 Ethernet Ports
  • (1) 1Gigabit SFP port
  • POE Support
  • Unmanaged switch

Buy from Router-Switch.com [Use our coupon code KPJYGY to get a discount]

We recommend you check out the Switch Selector tool offered by Router-Switch.com.

Switch Selector makes it easy to find the best switch that fit your needs.

After you made your decision, you can use our coupon code KPJYGY when you purchase from Router-Switch.com to get a discount and save about $30~$50.


References:

  1. https://www.fieldengineer.com/blogs/network-switch-managed-vs-unmanaged
  2. https://www.belden.com/blogs/managed-vs-unmanaged-switches-are-they-really-that-different

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