Managed Versus Unmanaged Switches: What is the Difference Between Managed and Unmanaged Switches?
What is a network switch?
A network switch is a piece of networking equipment that connects devices on a local area network. The network switch is a core component of network infrastructure and facilitates the transmission of data between connected devices. Unlike a network hub (which sends all data to all ports), a network switch only sends data to the device it is intended for.
There are two types of network switches: managed and unmanaged. It is important to understand the differences between managed and unmanaged switches when setting up a network.
What is an Unmanaged Switch?
An unmanaged switch is often referred to as a plug-and-play type network solution. This is largely due to its fixed configuration and minimal setup requirements. As the term “plug-and-play” suggests, IT teams can quickly and easily incorporate unmanaged switches into the local area network. Unmanaged switches are most commonly used for smaller networks, or to extend an existing network with additional ports. Due to its simplicity and lack of customization, unmanaged switches are usually available at a lower cost when compared to managed network switches.
What is a Managed Switch?
A managed switch provides network administrators with the ability to manage, configure, and monitor local area network settings using a graphical user interface or command line. Each port can be configured separately to maximize the performance of the network and the endpoint devices. Troubleshooting and monitoring are simpler and can be done remotely. Compared to an unmanaged switch, managed switches offer more enhanced network control features and configuration options at the cost of complexity. Setting up a local area network using managed switches will require a skilled network administrator. This is especially true when looking to get the most out of the device’s capabilities.
Managed network switches also provide significant security benefits. Network administrators can monitor and manage network traffic in real time. This provides a faster and more effective response to active security threats. Managed switches also support VLAN segmentation. This will allow administrators to separate network applications connected to the same physical network without installing multiple sets of cables and networking equipment. Managed switches are usually much higher in cost due to their enhanced feature set and robustness.
Do I Need a Managed or Unmanaged Switch?
The type of network switch you need will largely depend on what it will be used for and what size of the environment. Unmanaged network switches are ideal for smaller LAN environments, such as a home, small business, or single retail shop. Unmanaged switches are also ideal for those who want to quickly and easily set up a local area network.
Managed switches are more suited for medium and large enterprises, or those who need to manage network traffic and accessibility. Many network engineers and managers would suggest the use of managed switches for networks with a large number of users. Managed switches are also ideal if clients, partners, or other external individuals need to gain access to your network.
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