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Differences Between Managed vs Unmanaged Switches

What Is a Network Switch

A network switch (also referred to as Ethernet switch) connects devices like computers, printers and wireless access points and allow them to communicate by exchanging data packets on a Local Area Network (LAN). It is the"brain"when designing a network.

Unlike the hub, the switch does not simply send data packets to all connections, but only to the port of the selected target device. The device stores the required destination addresses (MAC) and the associated ports in a source address table (SAT) during transmission.

Network Switches come in various sizes, typically including 5-port,8-port,16-port,24-port and 48-port, there are many difference when it comes to Unmanaged and Managed Switches.in this article, we will learn what benefits and disadvantage of Unmanaged and Managed switch are, and how to choose them for our application.

What Are Unmanaged Switches

The unmanaged switch is a type of plug-and-play Ethernet network switch that enables Ethernet devices to communicate without configuration. It is equipped with a fixed configuration that cannot be changed or modified.

Unmanaged switches use automatically negotiated ports to determine the data rates and half-duplex or full-duplex mode to be used, unmanaged switches have no concept of Virtual Local Area Network ( VLAN ). Therefore, all devices belong to the same broadcast domain.

Unmanaged switches keep a MAC address table (Media Access Control). It helps reduce the overall number of broadcasts transmitted, limiting the number of potential collisions within the domain.

A conflict occurs when two devices within the same domain try to send data at the same time. When this happens, the switch will discard these two packets and the terminal device will be forced to retry the transmission.

Benefits of Unmanaged Switches

●  Inexpensive with limited functionality

●  Simple and Easy to setup.  No settings are required as they are plug and play

 Basic network control

 Doesn't need an IP address

 Built-in QoS service to ensure switches working well

Disadvantages of Unmanaged Switches

 No advanced features

 Not possible to monitor other devices on the network

 No provision for monitoring network traffic

What Are Managed Switches

Managed switches provide all the functions supported by unmanaged switches, in addition, they can monitor and control network events, quickly shut down detected threats, prevent unauthorized access and encrypt communication. They also have built-in redundancy so data can be replicated and can be recovered in the event of device or network failure.

Managed switches provide extensive management functions for Local Area Network (LAN). They come with a variety of features, such as:

Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP)

SNMP function allows users to monitor the status of the switch and provides statistics such as data throughput, network errors, and port status. Network administrators can track this data over time and use it for troubleshooting.

Virtual Local Area Networks (VLANs)

The VLAN feature in managed switches facilitates the distribution of network traffic. Even if all devices are active at the same time, blocked traffic will not be a problem.

Quality of Service (QoS)

This feature prioritizes bandwidth and ensures that IP data comes in smoothly and without interruption.

Port Mirroring

Port mirroring essentially helps you to diagnose any network problems that may arise.

It allows you to send copies of traffic that may be causing an issue to a single port on the managed switch for analysis.


Redundancy is a method to ensure continuous network availability in the event of network device failures or traffic routing failures.

It serves as a backup mechanism that allows you to quickly switch to a redundant side of the switch, which just waits until it is needed.

Spanning Tree Protocol (STP)

This protocol allows alternate cabling paths to prevent loop situations that may cause network failures.

Port Aggregation

Port aggregation is a way of combining multiple ethernet links together so that they can work like a single logical link.

If you have a managed switch with several ethernet ports available, you can make use of them and connect them all to another device that also has multiple ports available.

This can be used to balance the network traffic among the links and potentially improve overall performance.

Access Control List

Managed switches provide intruders protection through the ACL (Access Control List) function to prevent unauthorized access to protect data.

Benefits of Managed Switches

●  Allow you to configure the network

●  Allow you to check and access to useful network statistics

●  Provide remote control and adjustment by network manager

●  Suitable for medium and large business setups

Disadvantage of Managed Switches

●  High price

●  Complicated setup procedures

●  Requires assistance from IT Professional

Difference Between Managed and Unmanaged switches

Managed and unmanaged network switches differ in many aspects, including features, performance, security, cost and application.

The five main differences between managed vs unmanaged switches are follows:

Managed Switches

Unmanaged Switches


VLANs,  redundancy, DHCP snooping, port mirroring, QoS, SNMP, etc.

Mostly  fixed configuration


Highly  configurable, control network traffic based on user-defined parameters

Plug and play with  limited configuration

Built-in QoS  settings


Very  good. Security protocols for the data, management, and control planes

Not very  good. Physical security only.


Can be Changed

Fixed, cannot be  changed


More  complex

Easy,  plug and play

SNMP  Function



VLAN Tagging



Quality of  Service



Port Mirroring






Spanning Tree Protocol



Port  Aggregation




Data  center, large size enterprise networks

Small size  business network, home



Less expensive

●  Features

An unmanaged switch is simply to provide Ethernet devices with network connections so they can communicate with one another, it is equipped with fixed configurations that cannot be modified, there is no need to set anything up.

Unmanaged switches use autonegotiated ports to determine parameters for data packet transmission.

On the other hand, A managed switch allows you to manage, configure, and monitor LAN settings, including controls over LAN traffic, prioritizing certain channels, and create new virtual LANs to keep smaller groups of devices segregated.

Managed switches also offer features such as CLI, SNMP, QoS, STP, RSTP and built-in redundancy so that data can be duplicated and can be recovered if a device or network fails.

Managed switches provide Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP), which allows users to monitor the status of the switch, and provides statistics such as data throughput, network errors and port status. Network administrators can track this data over time and use it for troubleshooting.

●  Performance

Unmanaged network switches are the plug and play type switches. they have built-in QoS services, which ensure their easy setup and use.

With managed switches, you can determine the priority of the channels at will, ensuring you get get the best performance where you need it. In addition, features like SNMP, which allows remote troubleshooting of the network, make it easier to check for any issues affecting that performance, allowing you to implement repairs if necessary.

●  Security

Unmanaged switches have very basic security like lockable port covers to avoid any types of direct tampering on the device.

Managed switches have more powerful security features such as:

◆  Network monitoring can control

◆  802.1X authentication

◆  Port security

◆  Private VLANs

●  Cost

Unmanaged network switches are available in an affordable price range depending on how many ports you need .

Managed switches are available in higher price ranges due to their advanced features.

●  Application

Both unmanaged and managed switches support 5 ports, 8 ports, 16 ports and other ports, depending on your application.

When you run a small business with dozens of connected devices, then unmanaged switches are more likely to be used, as they can easily handle the level of traffic generated by a small network.

Managed switches are most often deployed as part of the Industrial network backbone, and are more suitable for enterprise-sized businesses with a larger network range, or for those data centers that require better control of the traffic within their network.

How to Choose Managed and Unmanaged Switches

If you are still not sure a managed or unmanaged switch is right for your application? These frequently asked questions may help you out:

  • 1. How much downtime can you accept?

    1. How much downtime can you accept?

    If downtime matters you, then managed switches are the right choice. Built-in redundancy safeguards against downtime by providing an alternate data path. Managed switches also control traffic to ensure that the most important information passes through, prevent the traffic causing failure and allow individual control of switch port access for each network user.

  • 2. Are managed switches faster than unmanaged switches?

    2. Are managed switches faster than unmanaged switches?

    The simply answer is no. There is no fundamental difference in speed between managed and unmanaged switches. However, a managed switch provides significantly better overall network performance, which tends to increase speed.

  • 3. How important is security?

    3. How important is security?

    If there is a large amount of highly sensitive data transmitted through the network, then managed switches are the most suitable choice. They allow network segmentation and can limit network access to only trusted devices and authorized users.

  • 4. What can a managed switch do that an unmanaged switch cant ?

    4. What can a managed switch do that an unmanaged switch cant ?

    Unmanaged switches only enable devices in a network to communicate. but managed switches allows you to change settings. You can disable unused ports, limit access to your network, limit speed, prioritize traffic, adjust parameters etc.

  • 5. Do you want to be able to remotely access and monitor your network?

    5. Do you want to be able to remotely access and monitor your network?

    Managed switches can provide network status updates, notify you of potential defects and allow you troubleshoot and correct problem.

  • 6. Do you need VLANs or run 802.1x or need SNMP poll you switches?

    6. Do you need VLANs or run 802.1x or need SNMP poll you switches?

    If so, you should choose Managed Switches because unmanaged switches do not support this feature.

  • 7. How many Ethernet and fiber ports do you need?

    7. How many Ethernet and fiber ports do you need?

    Both Unmanaged switches and managed switches support 5-port, 8-port, 16-port or 24-port ,48-port, you can use some additional ports for future expansion.

  • 8. What data speeds are required?

    8. What data speeds are required?

    Both Unmanaged and managed switches are support 10/100Mbps, Gigabit or 10G, or a mix between 10/100Mbps and Gigabit.

  • 9. Does the application require Power of Ethernet (PoE) function?

    9. Does the application require Power of Ethernet (PoE) function?

    If the network Switch is connected to device like IP phones, RFID/infrared, wireless access points, Network cameras, PoE feature is a good choice.

  • 10. What types of unmanaged switches and managed switches are there?

    10. What types of unmanaged switches and managed switches are there?

    Both unmanaged switches and managed switches include layer 2 and layer 3 type.

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