Industrial Automation

Difference between Managed Switch and Unmanaged Switch

Define a Switch

  • Basically, a switch is an effective and intelligent device for making various connections between multiple devices to a Local      Area Network called LAN.
  • The switch receives message signals from linked devices and propagates the received message to the desired target device.
  • The switch also governs the data transmission on the network.

How do you classify the switches?

Switches can be classified as 

  1. Managed Switch and 
  2. Unmanaged Switch

Define Managed Switch

Difference between Managed Switch and Unmanaged Switch1
  • Managed Switch enables communication of network devices among each other by giving higher administrator control to the network to manage, & prioritize the LAN traffic. 
  • Managed Switch governs data transmission & Security access over a network by using Simple Network Management Protocols (SNMP) to monitor various devices connected to the network. 
  • A Managed Switch makes use of SNMP for the forceful presentation of the current status of network performance through a graphical interface for easy realization for monitoring and configuration.
  • Managed Switch through SNMP, monitors the status of the individual switch ports to furnish traffic throughput, port status, & network errors. 
  • Managed Switch helps Network admin to track data over time, & to use it for both troubleshooting and network capacity purposes.
  • SNMP permits the network devices to transact and monitor the received information to detect network performance issues.
  • A managed switch offers redundancy to reduce the amount of unplanned downtime.
  • The managed switch provides high bandwidth value to be allocated and certifies that the IP data reaches the destinations easily with zero interruptions.
  • The managed switch consists of embedded agents to furnish support for the SNMP.
  • A managed switch offers efficient network, & data frame control to move through them.
  • Managed switch ports may be designed, & arranged as a trunk.

Define Unmanaged Switch

Difference between Managed Switch and Unmanaged Switch2
  • An unmanaged Switch enables network devices to connect to LAN for communication among each device.
  • These are plug-and-play switches that do not allow or don’t require any user interference for configuration and installation.
  • These Unmanaged Switches are designed using a standard configuration that cannot be changed.
  • These switches don’t exhibit remote configuration and remote monitoring functionality.
  • Here the graphical interfaces provided monitor & control the network without any user intercommunication possible.
  • An unmanaged switch certifies that the Ethernet devices can have compatible connectivity with one another
  • Installation of Unmanaged switches is simple, these switches allow various types of installations.
  • An Unmanaged switch does not support Internet Group Management Protocol (IGMP). 
Difference between Managed Switch and Unmanaged Switch3

Difference between Managed Switch & Unmanaged switch 

  • Managed Switch & Un-managed network switches vary in control and cost.
  • Managed switches offer granular control whereas unmanaged switches are easily affordable due to lower prices.
  • Managed switches have more capability compared to un-managed switches
  • Managed Switch exhibits the following features compared to Unmanaged Switch such as 
  1. Quality of Service

A Managed Switch hierarchies LAN traffic by permitting higher user control for critical traffic, whereas an Unmanaged Switch consists of default settings. An unmanaged switch, on the other hand, is a plug-and-play device that requires no configuration.      Unmanaged switches are typically used in simple networks where basic connectivity is needed, without the need for advanced features or monitoring.

  1. Virtual Local Area Networks (VLANs)

A managed switch allows VLANs and is configured manually to connect network devices together to isolate traffic to minimize potential traffic jams.

  1. Redundancy
  • This activates in case of any critical breaks in the network as Plan B 
  • Managed Switch includes Spanning Tree Protocol (STP) for path redundancy to manage multiple paths between switches on a network
  1. Port Mirroring
  • This feature is used to troubleshoot the traffic on one port and transfers the duplicated traffic to another port. Managed switches often provide monitoring tools and statistics that enable administrators to monitor network traffic, identify potential issues, and troubleshoot problems. They may offer features like port statistics, SNMP network monitoring, and event logging.
  • Managed switches are more suitable to use in larger, & in enterprise companies, but unmanaged switches are more suitable for home, small to medium businesses. Unmanaged switches typically do not provide advanced monitoring or troubleshooting capabilities. They are primarily designed to provide basic network connectivity without additional management or monitoring features.

The below shows the difference between a Managed and Unmanaged Switch

Managed SwitchUnmanaged Switch
Allows Remote AccessRemote Access is not allowed
Requires Technical experts to setup and maintain.Technical experts are not required since it is plug and play type.
Provides advanced featuresDon’t have any advanced features
Allows expansion modules to be addedNo expansion modules
Ports can be expanded as per requirementComes with a fixed number of ports and cannot be expanded.
Requires Simple Network Management Protocols SupportDoesn’t require Simple Network Management Protocols
Requires VLAN SupportDoesn’t require VLAN Support
Costly Cheaper than managed switch 

Similarities between the Managed switch and Unmanaged Switch

  • Both the Managed Switch and Unmanaged Switch offer multiple devices to be linked to the network for efficient communication among each network device.
  • Both Managed Switches and Unmanaged Switches provide Multi-layer Networks
  • These Managed switches and Un-managed switches are manufactured by various companies such as CISCO, Dell, D-Link, and Net-gear.

Important points to be considered when purchasing Managed switches versus Unmanaged Switches

  1. Number of Ports

Usually, the number of ports defines the number of users, but a large company requires a maximum number of ports 

  1. Speed and Performance

If the network is transmitting large data through wireless devices and added printers then the technical specification of the switch must support the network satisfactorily.

Managed switches prioritize and manage the traffic accordingly. 

Price Variation among Managed Switch and Unmanaged Switch

  • Managed switches are more costly compared to unmanaged switches since these have better technical specifications with advanced features for user management and configuration and allow VLANs (Virtual Local Area Networks).
  • Smart switches or lighter managed switches are more expensive compared to unmanaged switches but cheaper than fully managed switches.

What are locally managed switches?

The locally managed switch requires an administrator for direct connection, & have the capability of remote access.

What is Cloud Managed Switches?

Cloud-managed switches are used in public cloud environments, these architectures can simplify the remote management process.

Sundareswaran Iyalunaidu

With over 24 years of dedicated experience, I am a seasoned professional specializing in the commissioning, maintenance, and installation of Electrical, Instrumentation and Control systems. My expertise extends across a spectrum of industries, including Power stations, Oil and Gas, Aluminium, Utilities, Steel and Continuous process industries. Tweet me @sundareshinfohe

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