QUESTION: What is the difference between a managed and unmanaged switch?
A managed switch lets you adjust each port on the switch to any setting you desire, allowing you to monitor and configure your network in many different ways. It also provides greater control over how data travels over the network and who has access to it. Managed switches generally offer SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol), which allows you to monitor the status of connections and gives you statistics like traffic throughput, network errors and port status.
Features available on managed switches may vary between manufacturers and models, but often include Spanning Tree Protocol (STP) support, ability to implement quality of service (QoS), support for virtual LANs (VLANs), bandwidth rate limiting and port mirroring. These switches usually have a remotely accessible console (command line or Web interface) to allow administrators to make changes or adjustments without being in the same physical location.
Managed switches are also quite a bit more expensive. Setting them up may take a little longer as compared to unmanaged switches, which are generally plug and play.
This was first published in September 2008