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Small Business

This entry-level managed switch provides basic features like QoS and security, but at a more cost-effective price.

We’ve written before about the difference between managed and unmanaged switches and choosing the one that’s right for your small business. However, there’s a third option you should consider if you’ve outgrown your unmanaged switch but don’t need the more advanced functionality of a managed switch: It’s a smart switch.

Think of a smart switch as an entry-level managed switch. Smart switches provide basic managed switch features—like Quality of Service (QoS), security, and web management—butwithout the advanced features of  their fully-managed counterparts. With less granular capabilities, smart switches are also less expensive than managed devices.

Similar but not the same

A smart switch, like the Cisco 200 Series Smart Switch, provides basic switch management functionality; however, unlike with a managed switch, you don’t get the more advanced levels of QoS and VLAN, and Access Control Lists (ACL) support to fine tune network performance. A smart switch also does not support static routing and more advanced security, scalability and availability features found in the managed switches.

Managed switches have more built-in intelligence, giving you the ability not only to prioritize network traffic but also to allow or disallow users, workgroups, and applications. In addition, a managed switch lets you control application performance .

Smart switches also provide basic port security, allowing you to control access to your network and requiring any users to authenticate before getting access to the network. Managed switches, on the other hand, offer more extensive network security features; for example, letting you create access control lists (ACLs) that allow or disallow users, workgroups, and applications.  Managed switches also gives security controls like time-based 802.1x which limits user access to specific times of the day or specific days of the week. Lastly, the Managed switches have numerous options to control and manage them such as, a browser based tool that simply set-up and management, Command Line Interface (CLI), SNMP or Console.

Buying a smart switch is like buying an economy model car. It has everything you need to get you where you need to go—chassis, engine, tires, etc.—at value prices. But it doesn’t offer advanced features you would get in the the higher models.

If your company has outgrown its unmanaged switch and wants more control over the network , that’s easy to configure and maintain at a cost-effective price, consider a smart switch.

Do you have any advice for choosing a switch? We’d love to hear it!

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