Encyclopedia

Difference between Managed and Unmanaged Industrial Ethernet Switches

Unmanaged Ethernet switches — These switches have no configuration interface or options. They are plug-and-play. They are typically the least expensive switches, found in home, SOHO, or small businesses. They can be desktop or rack mounted.

Managed Ethernet switches — These switches have one or more ways, or interfaces, to modify the operation of the switch. Common management methods include: a serial console or Command Line Interface accessed via telnet or Secure Shell; an embedded Simple Network Management Protocol SNMP agent allowing management from a remote console or management station; a web interface for management from a web browser. Examples of configuration changes that one can do from a managed switch include: enable features such as Spanning Tree Protocol; set port speed; create or modify VLANs, etc.

Two sub-classes of managed switches are marketed today:

Smart (or intelligent) switches — These are managed switches with a limited set of management features. Likewise "web-managed" switches are switches which fall in a market niche between unmanaged and managed. For a price much lower than a fully managed switch they provide a web interface (and usually no CLI access) and allow configuration of basic settings, such as VLANs, port-speed and duplex.

Enterprise Managed (or fully managed) switches - These have a full set of management features, including Command Line Interface, SNMP agent, and web interface. They may have additional features to manipulate configurations, such as the ability to display, modify, backup and restore configurations. Compared with smart switches, enterprise switches have more features that can be customized or optimized, and are generally more expensive than "smart" switches. Enterprise switches are typically found in networks with larger number of switches and connections, where centralized management is a significant savings in administrative time and effort. A Stackable switch is a version of enterprise-managed switch.