Managed Switches vs. Unmanaged Switches

Einstein’s IQ wasn’t based on what he knew but the pace at which he dealt with information. And it’s like that for networks, too. Network switches are the “brains” that simultaneously link all devices on a LAN (Local Area Network), redirecting and routing data to the appropriate place.

Companies choosing switch hardware must consider the current and future demands on the network and understand the distinction between managed vs. unmanaged switches.

Here, you’ll learn to differentiate between the types of network switches, and what questions to ask to find the style best suited to your application.

How Many Control Features Will The Network Team Require?

Unmanaged switches are basically plug & play—everything that comes into the switch goes onto the network. That simplicity is compelling for smaller applications, but for larger organizations, a more sophisticated solution is needed.

Determining whether managed vs. unmanaged switches are right for your application (or completely wrong) depends on your required features. Here are the basics:

Unmanaged switches = fixed configurations and less control

Unmanaged switches use auto-negotiated ports to determine parameters, such as data rates and whether to apply half-duplex or full-duplex mode (moving data in one-direction or two-directions at the same time).

Additionally, unmanaged switches have no concept of virtual LANs (VLANs)—as a result, devices on an unmanaged switch all belong to the same broadcast domain.

Managed switches = full control and flexibility

With a managed switch, you have options for controlling your network. For instance, users can customize the settings for each port to manage, configure, and monitor network data closely.

A managed switch controls how data travels across the network and who has access to that data, and administrators can prioritize channels to ensure the best performance for critical pathways.

Managed switches generally include:

  • Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) – monitor the switch and its individual ports and gain stats on traffic and network errors
  • Remote accessibility – anytime anywhere access, usually via a web-interface
  • STP and VLAN support – configure virtual LANs for device segregation and traffic management
  • Redundancy/Recovery – duplicate records and recover lost data

The functionality of managed switches is best for large-scale networks with many devices. Managed switches are designed to increase network efficiency by reducing bandwidth use to avoid flooding the network with unneeded data packets.

ComNet offers over 30 different models of managed Ethernet switches. Our most popular switches are the “Made in the USA” series, which come with lifetime warranties:

  • CNGE3FE8MS – Industrially Hardened, 11 Port Managed Ethernet Switch with 3 × 100/1000 Mbps SFP Ports and 8 × 10/100 Mbps RJ-45 Ports
  • CNGE11FX3TX8MS – Industrially Hardened, 11 Port Gigabit Managed Ethernet Switch, 3 SFP Ports, 8 RJ45 Ports.

What’s The Network’s Risk From Cyber Attacks?

“When it comes to data protection, small businesses tend to be less well prepared. They have less to invest in getting it right. They don’t have compliance teams or data protection officers. But small organizations often process a lot of personal data, and the reputation and liability risks are just as real.” ~Elizabeth Denham, Information and Privacy Commissioner

The security of managed vs. unmanaged switches is like day and night.

Businesses are legally accountable for information theft, and dependable data security is non-negotiable. Being hacked erodes customer trust and leads to expensive legal fees, production loss, and downtime—on top of the cost to resolve the problem.

According to a report from Kaspersky Lab, a data breach could cost as much as $46,000 for small businesses and $620,000 for enterprise-level organizations.

Businesses with unmanaged switches are more vulnerable to cyberattacks

For example, with unmanaged switches, access to the network is often guarded by nothing more than a lockable cover plate—a physical response to a digital problem.

Security is intrinsic to managed switches

The cybersecurity for networks using managed switches is strong thanks to a variety of data protection measures.

Common features for managed switches include:

  • Access control lists
  • Port security
  • 802.1X authentication
  • Private VLANs

If an active threat is discovered, administrators can react quickly—even working remotely, they’re able to lock out unauthorized users, encrypt sensitive data, or limit access.

ComNet’s managed switches take cybersecurity to a higher level

In addition to industry-standard security features, ComNet offers Port Guardian. This exclusive feature enhances cybersecurity by enabling physical port lockout if an existing cable is disconnected, heading off potential network incursions using common spoofing techniques.

And by opting for ComNet’s “Made in the USA” line of switches, you avoid risks associated with foreign-made switches, such as built-in backdoors.

Managed vs. Unmanaged: How To Choose

The expert knowledge of a systems integrator, network technician, or switch manufacturer can help you choose between managed vs. unmanaged switches. But you can get started by asking yourself a few simple questions:

  • How much bandwidth do I need?
  • Which cybersecurity measures will protect my network?
  • How much bandwidth will the devices I’m hooking in require?
  • How much PoE (power over ethernet) power do I need to supply?

For extensive, enterprise-sized networks, managed switches are a must. They’re the best solution for connecting multiple networks and IP devices without affecting performance, and they provide built-in security and optimize bandwidth by prioritizing packet requests.

We’re here to help you make the best decisions

ComNet’s technical support and sales personnel possess talent and experience working with complex networks, and all of our switches are backed with a lifetime warranty.

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