Managed vs Unmanged Switches - Which is right for you?

Managed vs Unmanged Switches - Which is right for you?

If you are looking for a way to increase the number of Ethernet ports available in your home or business then you will almost certainly need a switch, but with so many options available it can be confusing to know what you need. This quick guide should help you to understand the differences in types of switch.

What is a Network Switch?

A switch is essentially a way to increase the number of Ethernet ports available on a network, you might like to think of it as a kind of splitter but smarter. Switches pass network traffic but unlike a splitter, it isn't a free for all, network switches abide by a strict set-of rules which means they can operate on any network. 

Switches have ports or  network plugs providing a point for a network cable to connect to, the more ports the more connections available. Switches can have as little as 4 ports and go right upto 48 ports, sometimes even higher. The more connections you want the more ports you'll need. 

How much does a Network Switch cost?

The price of switches can be as low as £5-10 or as high as several thousand pounds. The larger and more feature heavy the switch the more it costs. Some switches are also able to provide power to devices using something called Power over Ethernet (PoE). These switches are know as PoE switches and they will almost always be more expensive than a non-PoE equivalent. 

Do I need a managed or unmanaged switch?

'Unmanaged' and 'managed' are actually very good descriptors. A managed switch can be configured (or managed) an unmanaged switch cannot. It's pretty much as simple as that. 

Unmanaged switches are preconfigured with certain settings to allow them to operate as 'Plug and Play' devices. They can be taken out the box and used immediately. They are perfect for non complex networks, such homes or small business. 

If you have a more complex network and are using features such as VLANs then it is likely that a managed switch will be required. Managed switches provide the option to configure each port to operate exactly as you require. It takes a certain understanding of networking to configure a managed switch. Most managed switches now have the option of remote or cloud based management. 


For most normal domestic or small business use an unmanaged switch should be more than adequate. If you are trying to operate a more complex network then a managed switch may be more appropriate.  If you still aren't sure what you need or if you have more questions please get in touch with our team


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