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Making the Switch to Stackable Switches

These devices can better accommodate a growing network and, therefore, your growing business.

As your business grows is your network prepared to grow with you?  When building your small business network, you undoubtedly used stand-alone switches to connect employees to the resources they needed. But as a burgeoning small business, you may be finding that managing individual switches and adding new switches is a complex process. If that’s the case, it may be time to consider implementing stackable switches.

Most Stackable switches are fully managed switches that offer advanced features and functionality, such as enhanced security and quality of service (QoS). The switches are configured in a daisy-chain or ring fashion (see illustration below) and appear as a single unit, operating under one IP address, and are configured and managed as such. This not only minimizes your network’s complexity but also saves administration time.

In a small business where access to data and resources are critical, stackable switches significantly reduce downtime and make your network more resilient. For example, if a switch within the stack goes down, another switch will take over, ensuring that your network remains up and running. In this way, stackable switches provide additional protection and redundancy for your network. Also, you can replace the failed switch in the stack without having your network offline for extended periods and impacting employee productivity in the process.

Clustered and stackable are not the same

If you’re looking to add stackable switches to your network, make sure you’re investing in true stackable switches and not “clustered” switches. Like stackable switches, clustered switches appear as a single unit; however, there’s a striking difference. Despite their unified appearance, switches in a cluster must be configured and managed individually. Additionally, each switch in a cluster has their own SNMP/RMON Agent and Spanning Tree Instance. Also cross-stack applications such as Link Aggregation Groups, QoS, VLANs, and port mirroring are not possible in a cluster. In this way, clustered switches don’t provide the management, time, and cost benefits of stackable switches.

Also, don’t get sidetracked by interconnect speeds. A stack with 1 GB interconnect speed can provide al;l the benefits of stacking while being offered at the right price point to meet the needs of Small Businesses. Although some stackable or clusterable switches tout faster interconnect speeds, what’s most important in stackable switches is that they appear as, and can be managed and troubleshot as a single unit, such as the SFE and SGE family of Cisco Small Business switches. . With typical network consumption being average around 10% and data traffic being bursty, 1 GB interconnect speed is not a hindrance.

You wouldn’t replace all of your stand-alone switches with stackable devices. But at the core of your network that serves business-critical data and applications, stackable switches provide the performance and resilience your company needs while reducing cost and complexity.

Has your small business implemented stackable switches? We’d love to hear about your experience!

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