We buy, sell and refurbish some of the world’s most important networking equipment.

Managed vs. Unmanaged Switches – Which Is Best For Your Business?

What is a network switch? It’s a device that’s used to connect multiple devices that are on a network. Its purpose is to identify a MAC address and route and protect the data going from one device to another. 

Think of a switch on a train track. You have two trains on one track, but a switch directs one train to a second track to avoid a collision. Network switches do the same thing, they track what IT device is attached to which port. They analyze the information and direct incoming traffic to the right port.

In your business, you might have four employees in your office. Each staff member has a VoIP system that connects to the network through an ethernet cable. They also have computers, printers, and an audio system for music that are all wireless. Switches help direct this traffic so that while someone is on the phone, their connection isn’t interrupted if another worker is printing a document.

There are managed and unmanaged switches, but which is best for your business? What are the differences between managed and unmanaged switches?

Why Choose Managed Switches?

With a managed switch, you get the highest level of control and the best configuration options. You’re in control. Managed switches let you do all of this:

  • Create access control lists (ACLs)
  • Enable Quality of Service (QoS) to prioritize some IT devices or workstations over others
  • Establish virtual local area networks (VLANs)
  • Scrutinize network traffic to watch for possible hacks and threats
  • Troubleshoot network errors and glitches
  • Use port security to keep unauthorized users out of your network

Are there any disadvantages to managed switches? They do have a higher price point because you have better control and security. For a larger company or business with a very complex network, it’s important to have that level of customization and control.

Why Choose Unmanaged Switches?

The biggest advantage to unmanaged switches is that it has a cheaper price point, and it’s simple to set up. You don’t have to do a lot to get it set up and running. If you’re a smaller business without a lot of IT equipment, it’s the best way to go. With unmanaged switches, you gain:

  • Built-in QoS services
  • Equipment with Priority SNMP provides remote troubleshooting and network fixes
  • Simple setup and plug-and-play use

The disadvantages of unmanaged switches are clear. You do not have the same level of control and you’re stuck with limited ability to configure anything to suit your exact needs. Security on an unmanaged switch offers basic protection, but nothing more than that standard level, which may not be ideal.

Which Type of Switch Is Best For Your Business?

When you’re deciding on the best network switch for your business, you should weigh these factors.

  1. Are you looking for any specific features? 

What features are important to your business? Do you need to have a network switch that allows VLAN support and that’s equipped with ethernet ports for devices like VoIP or security cameras? If you’re still growing your business, expandability may be an important feature. Are you looking for features like…

  • Built-in Power Distribution Unit (PDU)
  • A metal case for durability or plastic for affordability
  • QoS for traffic prioritization
  • STP support
  • Surge protection
  • A web-based GUI with built-in management software
  1. How many ports do you need?

Think about the equipment your employees use and how much of it has wireless connections vs. ethernet connections. If you have 20 employees and each one has a credit card reader and VoIP that must connect via ethernet cables, you would need 40 ports to connect all of these devices. 

  1. How many users will be connecting to it?

Take a headcount of the employees who are on your network. If you have 12 employees connecting to your network, you’re not going to find an unmanaged network switch. If you have 200 employees in your building, a managed network switch is essential. Knowing the size of your business and the number of IT devices also helps determine if you need multiple network switches.

  1. What is your budget?

How much money are you willing to spend? If you’re a startup, you may not have a lot of money to spend. You need to determine how much you can afford, what the switch you want the most costs, and figure out if it’s possible. You may need to adjust your budget or adjust your top equipment choices. If you work with an expert in networking equipment, it’s easier to go over all of your options within or very close to your price range.

  1. What is your current network setup?

How is your network designed? Do you use a cabinet or racks? Network switches will be mounted or installed, and you need to make sure the switch you choose works for your current setup.

You have to consider the bandwidth you need right now within your network and where it might be in the months and years to come. You also have to consider what your employees do the most while working. Transfer speeds of 100 Mbps are good for transferring small files. If you’re sending large videos for an advertising agency, 100 Mbps isn’t going to be helpful.

Where are you going to need a network switch? Network switches are set up to deploy in one of three ways:

  • Aggregation – Set in the middle layer of the network to connect router data to core switches
  • Core – Connect aggregation networks to the router
  • Edge – Handle incoming data at either the entry point and as it exits the network

Data centers may use spine-leaf architecture to eliminate the need for aggregation deployments. Instead, each spine-leaf branches into at least two core switches, which improves latency. Mesh networks also reduce latency, so that may be another consideration for a business when deciding which network switch is best.

It’s Best to Work With a Network Specialist

In general, your choice comes down to how large your office or business is, how many devices are being connected to the network, and how much control you need. You can’t ignore your budget, however. It’s a lot to keep track of and understand, especially if you don’t have a dedicated IT team in your small business.

Here’s where BrightStar Systems helps out. We are the world’s largest stocking dealer of pre-owned network equipment from Arista, Cisco, and Juniper. Get a refurbished network switch at a fraction of the cost, up to 95% off to be exact. You save money on quality equipment, which often means you can choose equipment that’s better than you expected for less than you were planning to spend.

Email or call BrightStar Systems’ network specialists for a free quote. We’ll help you understand the options within your budget and go over whether a managed or unmanaged network switch is better for your business needs.