Monday, March 2, 2009


It came to my attention that the differences between unmanaged, web smart and managed switches is not always clear, even for IT professionals, so here it is:

Managed Switches

A managed switch allows you to control the individual ports of your switch. Features of course vary with manufacturers and models, but even the most basic will have the ability to turn the port on or off and control its link speed and duplex settings. That control is for security; it prevents someone just walking in and connecting to your lan through an unused port.

Beyond that, you might be able to specify a particular MAC address that is allowed to connect. That prevents someone from replacing machines with their own. You might be able to set login authentication, also. You may be able to designate certain ports as "high priority"; for example the ports your servers are on. Setting bandwidth limits, monitoring port traffic and of course logging are also features.


Unmanaged Switches

Unmanaged switches require no configuration and are often ideal for small, simple networks. Ready to go out of the box, you simply unpack, power up, and connect to your network.  The switch will automatically build a switching table and then forward data out only the appropriate ports with no additional user intervention required.


Smart Switches

The smart switch is aimed at small-to-medium size businesses, which don't have full-time network technicians, and don't want to learn a network operating system like IOS. Given that target market, it's no surprise to find Netgear involved - the company sells mostly to small companies, SOHO businesses and home users, and is a leader in unmanaged switches.

"We've pioneered the smart switch," boasts Netgear product line manager Peter Newton. "It gives you the key management features without having to buy a managed Layer 2 switch."

The switches don't have a console port or a command line interface, he explains: "You don't need to know IOS, but you get management features through a browser interface - it's easy to use.


Here's a couple of other great reading resources:

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