Managed vs Unmanaged Switches

December 12, 2023

Both unmanaged and managed switches are available in a variety of different port configurations and different speed options. Depending on the switch, they may be designed for desktop placement, rack mounting, or wall mount. 

Unmanaged switches simply plug in and the switch will auto-negotiate the speed and duplex to match the settings of the devices connected to each port. They are typically used in smaller network deployments without configuration requirements. They’re a plug-and-play device and a basic way to connect multiple wired devices quickly and easily. Unmanaged switches have MAC address tables that remember the unique manufacturer-defined MAC address of each device and which port they are connected to. This helps with the switch performance to ensure data can be broadcast specifically where it is needed instead of to all of the ports. One of the biggest advantages of an unmanaged switch is the cost but with managed switches becoming much more affordable, it may be worthwhile to just invest in a managed switch.  

Managed switches provide more control over your network and ultimately more security. With managed switches you can monitor your network activity, configure individual ports, power cycle connected PoE devices, prioritize traffic, limit upload or download speeds, and create VLANs (Virtual LANs). VLANs keep network traffic segmented thus improving performance and security. VLANs can be grouped by departments such as engineering, human resources, accounting, etc, or grouped by device types, for example, you may want all of your IP Phones on one VLAN while all of the office computers are on another. 

The Alta Labs S8-POE, S16-POE, and S24-POE are all managed switches. They can be configured and monitored using the intuitive Alta Cloud-Based Management platform via a web browser on a computer or using the Alta Networks mobile app on your iPhone or Android device. The cloud-based functionality allows you to manage your network remotely worldwide. When combined with Alta Labs Access Points, even more powerful features such as a powerful Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) Engine are unlocked. This allows you to restrict access to websites, applications, or application types for wireless devices. 

Another feature that can be utilized with the Alta Labs Access Points is the unique patent-pending feature AltaPass™. AltaPass is a game-changing multi-password technology that allows users to connect to the same wireless network SSID but with different passwords. For example, a network administrator can provide all members of one department with the same password and it will assign them to a specific VLAN, members of a separate team can be provided another password and they can be assigned to a different VLAN. The VLAN traffic would be managed and directed by the Alta Labs switches. Of course, this multi-password technology can be useful in many different environments from MDUs to university campuses to offices. The settings associated with the password aren’t limited to VLANs either. You can set upload and/or download speeds, bypass any configured hotspots, ignore any defined schedules, or bypass any filters. When configuring each password, the admin also selects a predefined network type so that traffic is optimized for the appropriate environment.

For more on the Alta Labs switches, the datasheet can be found here or visit our website.