Managed vs. Unmanaged Network Switches
The main difference between managed and unmanaged switches lies in their capabilities; the former enables better control of the networks along with the data frames moving through them, while the latter enables communication among the connected devices in the most basic form. Managed switches are ideal for larger organizations, while unmanaged ones are functional for residential and small-sized businesses.
Therefore, the differences between managed and unmanaged network switches are in terms of the following:
Did you know that your network switches act as the building blocks for your industrial network? That's simply because these switches are responsible for connecting devices over the network for smooth data transmission. Among the different types of network switches, the most popular ones are the managed and unmanaged switches. Therefore, before comparing managed and unmanaged switches, let’s get a glimpse of managed and unmanaged network switches for reference.
What are Managed Network Switches?
A managed network switch is responsible for providing complete control over how your data travels over the network. Along with this, it also enables the users to determine the data accessibility of other users to maintain the utmost security and confidentiality of the company’s sensitive information. So, managed network switches are the technology that enables Ethernet devices to communicate seamlessly with each other over the network while offering easy management, configuration, and traffic monitoring.
These managed switches provide SNMP or Simple Network Management Protocol. As a result of SNMP, the users can check and monitor the switch status while determining the statistics like port status, traffic throughput, and network errors. Network administrators get to track this data and use it for network capacity as well as troubleshooting problems. Also, these switches are available with a remotely accessible console which helps make adjustments from any physical location without hassles.
What are Unmanaged Network Switches?
Unmanaged switches are the fundamental plug-and-play switches that offer no remote configuration or management options. These switches lack the concept of VLANs or virtual LANs. Instead, these are locally monitored and configured using the DIP switches and LED indicators.
The unmanaged ones are affordable and the best solution for homes, temporary workgroups, and small enterprises. Since these do not require any complicated setup for their functionality, they can set hassle-free communication between devices on business networks that need to simplify the installation of IP-based surveillance cams and wireless access points.
Unmanaged switches are known for maintaining a media access control or MAC address table, which can dynamically track the stored MAC addresses along with the switch ports on which the address was learned. Such an inclusion enables the unmanaged switches to provide a separate, per-port collision domain. In case a collision occurs between any two devices present within the same domain, the switch will drop the data packets while re-transmitting through the end devices.
Managed Vs. Unmanaged Network Switches: Similarities
The following are the standard features available in both managed as well as unmanaged network switches:
- Both of these network switches allow multiple devices to connect with the network for smooth communication.
- Managed switches connect with both managed and unmanaged ones via ethernet. A similar connection is possible between unmanaged switches and other types of network switches.
- Manufacturers like Cisco, Extreme Networks, D-Link, Dell, and Netgear are known for producing both unmanaged and managed switches.
Managed Vs. Unmanaged Network Switches: Differences
So, how do you differentiate between the unmanaged and managed network switches? Refer to the key features and their functionalities to determine the dissimilarities that sharply distinguish the unmanaged switches from the managed ones:
Let's begin the comparison between managed and unmanaged switches with their key features. With respect to their characteristics, managed network switches are the clear winner here. Both of these network switches come with a plethora of features like in-built redundancies, data recovery solutions, the capability to create virtual networks for managing devices separately within a business, etc.
The unmanaged switches are pretty simple and are required for connecting the Ethernet devices to the larger network with fixed configurations that need no changes or customizations. So, these are available with the pre-configured QoS services, which allow prioritizing the internet traffic of specific devices, facilitating a smoother and faster connection.
On the other hand, the managed switch enables the users to manage, monitor, and configure the settings of LAN connections, including prioritizing the channels while controlling LAN traffic and creating virtual LANs for traffic management. These switches also offer redundancy features which can help in data recovery in case of network failure.
A brief listing of characteristics of managed and unmanaged switches can give you a fair idea:
|Managed Switches||Deployed on a broader array of topologies like mesh, Spanning Tree Protocol, aggregation, stacking, and ring, thereby increasing reliability and greater redundancy|
|Offer easy management and troubleshooting of the larger networks, with SDN (software-defined network) management while supplying electric power to endpoint devices|
|Advanced security and quality-of-service (QoS) features help in performance optimization|
|Unmanaged Switches||Offer plug-and-play operations which mainly rely on the auto-negotiation feature|
|Can create and store MAC-address tables, which helps in traffic management|
|Limited to simple network topologies|
In terms of performance, which one is dominant in the market? Well, looking closely at the features of the unmanaged ones, you get to see how they might lack slightly in this regard than the managed ones. However, when it comes to performance, the unmanaged ones give you the advantage as these are plug-and-play switches. No setup is required here; these are available with built-in QoS services that maintain steady performance. No wonder these unmanaged switches are ideal for medium- and small-sized enterprises with no complicated network requirements.
In the case of the managed switches, you experience a much higher ceiling as you can prioritize the channels as per preferences. This way, you experience the best performance of the managed switches. Furthermore, with features like Priority SNMP, remote troubleshooting gets easier, making it the powerhouse of your IT infrastructure.
No matter how big an enterprise is, every organization has set aside a fixed budget for selecting the network switches. So, if the expense is a critical driver in determining the right switch for your network, you need to know how managed and unmanaged switches differ in their costs.
You can find unmanaged switches at affordable rates in the market, while managed ones are slightly higher in price. But before jumping to the conclusion, understand that with prices, the managed switches come with a load of additional features that aren't present in the unmanaged switches. Unmanaged switches are also easy to run, while managed switches always require proper expertise and skills to maintain the network.
Check out the list of these switches available on DC Gears, which brings you the top brands offering network switches at attractive prices globally.
Vulnerabilities are often hidden in your network, which gets easily attacked by potential malware or hackers. So, if your business is associated with handling sensitive client information or guest connections, you need to be aware of the security offered by both managed and unmanaged switches.
Unmanaged switches aren't a great option if you need to conceal or secure the client information in your network. On the other hand, managed switches are known for offering IT security by enabling professionals to manage network traffic efficiently. It helps shut down potential cyber threats even before they become an issue for your organization. The managed switches come with a long list of security features that limit the access of people with limited training and understanding of your network.
Unmanaged switches aren’t really useless here. They offer basic security and can be managed with accessories like lockable port covers, which lower the occurrences of any safety tampering. Also, since the managed network switches have a lot of control over the network, they can become a threat if not controlled and appropriately monitored by experts.
Unmanaged switches might be an ideal solution for residential purposes as well as for small offices. That is because these switches do not require any complex configuration and enable the users to easily add their devices to the network. However, these devices are known for increasing the number of machines on your network or relieving network congestion without management or regular maintenance.
But the scenario is slightly different for the managed switches. These switches need complicated configuration and require serious undertaking. These are ideal for enterprise-level businesses that might be available across multiple locations. They can scale larger network requirements according to the traffic needs and monitor them carefully without any hindrance.
But as these managed switches come with complex configurations, they always require an IT professional for smooth operations, which adds to the company's overall expense. However, it might seem like an expensive affair initially, but such network switches ultimately help reduce troublesome downtimes while improving the network's performance.
|Managed Switches||Unmanaged Switches|
|Features||Dynamic ARP inspection, IPv4 DHCP snooping, QoS, SNMP, VLAN, CLI, IP routing, port mirroring, redundancy etc.||Fixed configuration-doesn't support any configuration interface or options|
|Performance||Switch can be configured control over Access Control over LAN traffic-Priority SNMP-Allows for remote troubleshooting of the network||Plug and play with limited confuguration like default QoS setting|
|Security||Very good. Provide protection of the data plane, control plane and management plane||Not very good. No security other than accessories such as lockable port cover|
|Application Places||Data center, large size enterprise networks||Small size business network, home, lab, conference room etc.|
Managed Vs. Unmanaged Network Switches: Which One to Choose?
By now, you are pretty clear about the features, performance, and other details that sharply distinguish the managed switches from the unmanaged ones. You can select any of these depending on your business requirements, scalability, security, and budget, provided you find the top brands for network switches.
If you are still deciding to select the right vendor for your business, here is a quick solution for you. Check out the best brands offering network switches and other security solutions at DC Gears. We partner with only the industry-best brands in the market to provide you with excellent cybersecurity and data center solutions globally with exceptional 24*7 on-site expertise at realistic prices. Contact us to know more.
Director - IT Solutions Engineering
Rahul Bogala is a seasoned IT leader, responsible for driving IT solutions, Products, Pre-sales, and customer experience. He has a successful track record of solving complex IT solutions. He also acts as a partner alliances leader nurturing partnership relationships & vendor management fostering the organic growth of business Rahul has expertise in designing and implementing solutions around: Network and Infrastructure Security, Server, Storage, and End computing Virtualization and cloud computing