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How do I choose between a managed and an unmanaged switch?

13 April 2017

When setting up your Ethernet network, you will need to choose between a managed switch and an unmanaged switch.

Unmanaged switch

An unmanaged switch (plug-and-play) is a cost-effective solution with no built-in intelligence and no configuration options. Its basic function is to send incoming Ethernet frames through the right port (only the specific port that leads to the destination device). It usually has LEDs for basic diagnostic, indicating if the Ethernet traffic is working properly. With unmanaged switches, we cannot calculate how much bandwidth is being consumed or know the number of retries. Unmanaged switches are conveniently priced due to their elementary features and are suitable for simple Ethernet applications where a downtime can be tolerated.

Managed switch

A managed switch is a high-availability solution, providing a better control of the network since it adds intelligence and customization options compared to an unmanaged switch. For example, it can be configured, it can prioritize the traffic and provides better control over data flows. Assigning higher priority to the critical traffic can radically improve your network performance. Another important feature of a managed switch is redundancy, which means being able to provide an alternative data path to network traffic to safeguard a network in case a connection or cable fails.

Different IT protocols operate via managed switches, including SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol) and LLDP (Link Layer Discovery Protocol). With these two protocols, you can retrieve data from the switches. For example, with SNMP you can be alerted in case of an excessive number of retries and you can check the bandwidth utilization in real-time. LLDP enables topology detection and the replacement of devices with no software tools or settings.

A managed switch is the best option in case you need to provide information that helps preventing downtime and making troubleshooting easier. Furthermore, fully managed switches are the right choice if you are looking for the highest levels of security, the most precise control and management of the network. In some facilities (such as logistic or fresh food production), high system availability is crucial and networks need to be reliable since downtime is very expensive: a break in communication can generate additional costs and losses. Managed switches are obviously more expensive than unmanaged switches but they include diagnostic features that can reduce additional expenses and downtime during the entire life of an installation.

VPSwitch Go

VPSwitch Go

PROCENTEC recently launched a new product line: VPSwitch Go is a line of unmanaged, lite managed and full-managed switches with RJ45 and M12 ports. The lite and full managed switches have an additional MODBUS TCP functionality that could be utilized in a MODBUS TCP server. Further, the VPSwitch Go switches will work with VPGates, to connect your MODBUS TCP, PROFINET (non-certified), or Standard Industrial Ethernet network.

With the unmanaged switches, users can create very basic networks at a competitive price. The optional fiber SFP connection removes the obstacle of long distances.

The lite-managed switches allow engineers to create a network that is more manageable than standard unmanaged switches, creating a cost effective solution for any network. Lite managed switches have functionality such: setting IP address, topology capabilities QOS, VLAN, SNMP, LLDP, HTTP, Traps, RMON, Broadcast Protection and extended temperature range.

With the 10 Port M12 Full Managed switch, there is also an option for a Security Switch that has topology capabilities, QOS, VLAN, SNMP, LLDP, HTTP, Traps, RMON, Broadcast Protection, loop protection, 1:1 NAT, Firewall and extended temperature range.