Ethernet network switch marks the backbone of your enterprise network, with which you can connect multiple core devices like routers, printers, PCs and other hardware. There exist a dazzling array of network switches with various feature sets and functions. With regard to management options, there are primary three categories of switches: unmanaged switch, smart switch and managed switch. Among which smart switch has ranked as a moderate choice for better regulating business network – as a perfect mix of essential functions and affordability. What is smart switch? If you’ve outstripped your unmanaged switch but don’t expect for a more advanced managed switch, it’s the right time to consider a smart managed switch.
Smart switch, or smart managed switch, fills the middle ground between the unmanaged switch and managed switch – it offers certain levels of management, basic quality-of-service (QoS) and limited security features with limited numbers of ACLs (access control lists) . Smart switch generally has a browser-based interface for management and it also enable segmentation of the network by creating VLANs, which makes it quite a versatile solution. Smart switch fits best at the edge of a large network (with managed switches as core switch). Here we make a further comparison between smart switch vs unmanaged switch, and smart switch vs managed switch.
Unmanaged switch presents the most cost-friendly plug-and-play solution for deployment that require only basic layer 2 switching and connectivity. It cannot be modified/managed and requires no configuration at all. Primarily targeted for home and SOHO, unmanaged switch is generally used to small network with only a few components, or to add temporary workgroups to larger networks. Compared to “dumb” unmanaged switch, smart managed switch opens the door to manage, monitor and configure the network, but only with very limited capability.
Fully managed switch is designed to deliver the most comprehensive set of features to provide the highest level of security, the most precise control and management and the greatest scalability. Managed switch can be deployed as aggregation/access switches in very large professionally networks or as core switches in relatively smaller networks, allowing organizations to manage and troubleshoot network remotely and securely, and to expand with flexibility.
Smart switch can be seen as a “lighter” managed switch – less capable and scalable than the managed switches, with lighter management capabilities and less VLAN groups and nodes (mac address). As such, smart switch offers a less expensive alternative to managed switches. Additionally, managed switch generally allows for full configuration by command line interface (CLI) via a console port and telnet and or SSH session, and often a web GUI. While a smart switch often lacks any console port, have less configuration flexibility via a web-based interface. Seen as an entry-level managed switch.
The choice typically depends on two factors: budget and application. If you just want to setup a home network and keep things simple, an unmanaged and smart managed switches are good enough. But if you want to manage a LAN and need configuration options like VALN and QoS, or to deal with mission-critical applications that demands massive data traffic, it is better to use at least a smart managed switch or the more powerful managed switch.
As unmanaged switch is targeted for home and SOHO while fully managed switch for data centers, enterprises and relatively professional networks, smart switch, therefore, is mostly for small to medium sized business (SMB) users who may need some or certain configuration and management. They offer access to switch management features such as port monitoring, link aggregation, and VPN through a simple Web interface.
We have gone through the basics of three primary categories of network switch – unmanaged switch, smart switch and fully managed switch, as well as deployment scenarios of each. Smart managed switch can make an excellent transition solution when unmanaged switch is never adequate and the cost for a managed switch cannot be justified. Organizations and enterprises nowadays have reap significant benefits from using smart managed switch, which proves that it is a journey worthwhile to take, especially for SMB networks.
Related Article: Managed vs Unmanaged Switch: Which One Can Satisfy Your Real Need?