Unmanaged vs. Managed Switches
When connecting different parts of your network together, it is important to consider how you would like to bring new devices onto your existing network. The most common method to connect new devices to your network is through a network switch. Network switches are essentially hardware that connects devices together on a LAN network and forwards their data to a new destination.
What are the differences between managed and unmanaged switches?
At its core, an unmanaged switch is the most basic type of device, which allows you to simply plug your device onto your existing network. There is usually not any set up required from the switch, and one is unable to make any changes to the set up. There can be some built in features which help direct the traffic, but usually everything is automatic and requires little to no configuration. In manufacturing, machines transmit large amounts of data on a network, and with increased traffic there is additional risk for jitter, network failure, or packet loss, which can be extremely costly. One way to assure your network operates efficiently is to select an unmanaged switch that includes QoS (Quality of Service). QoS assigns prioritization for the data, so the most important timely information is sent and/or received before nonessential traffic.
The unmanaged switch is the ultimate plug and play solution. A managed switch, however, provides a higher level of functionality and customization. Managed switches allow you more flexibility and provide advanced security features like network segmentation (VLANS), automatic alerts, and the option for locking down a port to a specific device (sticky MAC). Managed switches are also able to introduce advanced protocols and network topologies (how your network switches are positioned within your network) to ensure the network traffic arrives without interruption. If your specific network cannot afford downtime due to a connection failure, one might consider utilizing redundancy protocols which can keep connections active even during these types of failures.
Which switch is right for my network?
This can depend on any number of different factors. Consider the following questions:
- Where is the switch going to be placed within the network?
- How many and what type of devices will connect to the switch?
- What advanced features are required?
Simply adding devices via an unmanaged switch onto some industrial applications may bog down your network without enabling more advanced QoS features. The truth is, there is never a one size fits all solution, and often networks will fully realize their potential from a combination of both managed and unmanaged switches strategically deployed throughout the network.
Managed Switch Price
Typically, managed switches will have a higher upfront cost at the time of purchase. Unmanaged switches can be significantly less expensive than a comparably sized managed counterpart. However, many network engineers feel that the additional cost of a managed switch is worth the extra features and provides a greater return on investment. A managed switch provides additional QoS features, the potential for far more reliable topologies, and a safer and more secure network.
Where can I learn more about the right networking switch for my application?
Please feel free to contact a Mid-Atlantic Rugged Systems engineer to help assist you in your product selection. Our highly trained staff are happy to assist in the design, implementation, and troubleshooting of your network.