I am upgrading an 8 port, unmanaged network switch (3com 3CGSU08) for a lab because I need more ports and 10 Gbe connections. I am not a networking engineer by profession and this is the first time I have purchased a switch; consequently, I am unsure about whether its worth the extra money to purchase a managed switch vs and unmanaged one. From reading reviews online some people complain about the managed features of switches not really delivering what is advertised. The switch is being used to network together a bunch of linux servers and I have a fair amount of linux experience, but not so much on the networking side of things. What am I really getting into by going with an unmanaged switch vs a managed one?

Update 1 in response to comment The reason the switch is being upgraded is because I am integrating a new NAS into the network that has 10 Gbe ethernet for fast data transfer between the NAS and the servers it supports. All ports on the current 8-port switch are full (7 servers + gateway) which is why I need more ports to accommodate introducing the NAS. The current switch also doesn't suppor 10 Gbe connections even though the servers do. So I am looking to upgrade the switch to meet the following requirements:

  1. Get more ports (might also need to expand number of servers in the future)
  2. Support fast data transfer between the NAS and the servers. This means I need at least ten 10 Gbe capable ports (RJ45 or SFP+ is ok).
  3. and minimize the need for IT support in maintaining the switch.

My question is about the last requirement. I have near zero experience maintaining a network such as this one. So how difficult is it going to be for me to deal with network maintenance if I go with a managed vs unmanaged switch? How much manual configuring am I going to have to do if any with the unmanaged option? Since there is quite a price difference between managed and unmanaged (see below), what am I really getting for the extra money if I go with a managed switch? I hope that makes it more clear what I am asking.

Here are two examples of switches I have looked at:

  1. QNAP QSW-1208-8C-US 12-Port Unmanaged Switch – Cost $590

  2. NETGEAR 12-port 10Gig Gigabit Ethernet Smart Managed Switch – Cost $980

Update 2, I answered my own question

Turns out I had a fundamental misunderstanding about the differences between managed and unmanaged switches. I was incorrectly under the impression that an unmanaged switch would need more configuration by IT than a managed switch would. Turns out unmanaged switches are ususally plug-n-play thus needing no configuration. This is because they don't offer as many features their managed switch counterparts. Managed switches have lots of features and thus usually need more configuration by IT. I found this information from reading a couple of blog posts. The first is focused on home networks, the other for industrial automation networks.

Unfortunately this leads me to yet another question for my specific scenario, that is, "do I need any of the managed switch features such as VLANS, QoS, and Layer 3 switching?" However, seems like I just need to dig deeper into each of these on my own. If anyone knows of some good resources to answer this new question please do share.

  • What are your specific requirements for the lab? Is it primarily speed and more ports? Its a bit unclear what you are looking for. If you are just looking for an explanation, this isn't the right place for that kind of question. – user1691 Jan 15 '19 at 17:48
  • @SiXandSeven8ths I updated the body of my post to try and clarify ambiguous points in response to your comment. – jmc1337 Jan 16 '19 at 16:11