The Differences Between Managed, Unmanaged and Web-Smart Switches

There's a lot to consider when choosing the right Ethernet switch for your network. With three main types to select from — managed, unmanaged and web smart — finding the best option will come down to cost, size, security and other factors. To help guide your decision, here's a deeper look at each type along with their benefits and applications. 

Managed Switches

If your network requires redundancy, flexibility and quality of service, managed switches are a superior option. They allow for prioritization of critical data to ensure appropriate service levels. Managed switches also offer features such as VLANs, LACP and advanced filter and multi-cast algorithms.

When and Where to Use Managed Switches

If you manage and troubleshoot your network remotely, managed switches can help you reach optimal network performance and reliability. They should be used on any network where traffic needs to be monitored and controlled. They offer a response time of milliseconds as well as complete control of data and bandwidth. Some switches also come equipped with SFP slots so you can easily expand your network in the future.

Applications for Managed Switches

Managed switches are ideal for large-scale subway systems that need to construct lengthy transit lines. They are also beneficial to traffic control operations that transmit video, voice and data over a single network. They also allow for swift response to incidental situations when traffic between locations is interrupted, such as when malicious or accidental damage occurs to your traffic control system.

Benefits of Managed Switches

  • Include reliable, secure and effective network availability
  • Feature resiliency though built-in resistant ring redundancy
  • Enable self-recovery of your network within 20 milliseconds of system failure
  • Offer advanced software functions for easy network planning and management
  • Integrate data, video and voice over one network for reliable security monitoring

Unmanaged Switches

Unmanaged switches allow devices such as a PC and network printer to communicate with one another. They offer a simple plug-and-play setup and are often less expensive than managed switches. However, unmanaged switches can also have some drawbacks, depending on your needs. They come with a fixed configuration that does not allow changes, and they don't support IGMP. They also treat multi-cast traffic like broadcast traffic, which can overwhelm your network if uncontrolled.

When and Where to Use Unmanaged Switches

Unmanaged switches are ideal for connecting edge devices on network spurs or on small standalone networks with a few devices. They are a good option if you want to simplify installation of your wireless access points and IP-based surveillance cameras. They can also be applied to homes, SOHO networks, small businesses, or when adding temporary workgroups to larger networks.


Applications for Unmanaged Switches

Unmanaged switches are a wise choice for maritime facilities that need to upgrade their power substation control systems. They can also connect hardened video servers that operate in extreme temperatures or where electromagnetic fields from power lines create interference.

Benefits of Unmanaged Switches

  • Affordable solution for connectivity switching needs
  • Include simple plug-and-play setup with no configuration
  • Can operate in harsh environments
  • Feature long-distance transmission capabilities
  • Support remote access, control and monitoring 24/7 from anywhere

Web-Smart Switches

If you have a midsized network that requires management, web-smart switches are the optimal solution. They offer features such as port monitoring, link aggregation and VPN through a simple web interface. While they lack SNMP management capabilities and a CLI, many web-smart switches offer several features of a fully managed switch.

Applications for Web-Smart Switches

Web-smart switches are ideal for network monitoring, traffic prioritization and VLAN functionality thanks to a browser-based management GUI. They handle data, voice and video with control over VLAN segmentation, QoS and basic SNMP status monitoring. They are also useful for simple network management.

Benefits of Web-Smart Switches

  • Feature easy manageability, security, QoS and high performance
  • Enable you to configure and manage through a normal web browser
  • Enhance network security by screening traffic and allowing password-protected access
  • Configure batch operations for multiple switches
  • Offer network control from remote locations, even without trained IT personnel

Industrial Switches

All three types of switches described above are available in commercial and industrial models. If you need network connectivity between industrial environments and enterprise business applications, industrial switches are the best option. These switches are designed for harsh conditions. Combined with Power over Ethernet (PoE), they can bring power and networking capabilities to even the most remote areas.

Applications for Industrial Switches

Industrial switches are ideal for various industries, including marine, mining, oil and gas, rail and transport, and manufacturing. They can withstand extreme temperatures, vibrations and shocks while contributing to a cost-effective, reliable and secure network. Redundancies ensure that you can maintain communication without interruption.

Benefits of Industrial Switches

  • Can withstand harsh conditions
  • Able to configure settings to VLAN mode
  • Carry video, voice and data for industrial applications
  • Include features to enhance cyber security at no extra cost
  • Use PoE to give you remote supply power and network connectivity

Black Box offers a range of switching solutions that can help you achieve a reliable high-speed network, whether in your corporate office or in the field. Download our free whitepaper, "The Difference Between Managed, Unmanaged and Web-Smart Switches," for more on how to select the right switch for your network.

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