What’s the difference between a ‘managed’ or an ‘unmanaged’ switch when it comes to installation?

65 pts.
Tags:
Network
Switches
I know there are definitely some advantages to having a manged switch over an unmanaged one, but my question has to do with installing the switch. Most of the 24-port unmanaged gigabit switches advertise 'plug-n-play' ease: turn it on and plug in the network. However, the managed ones are (I think) a little vague about it. Will they automatically configure (by DHCP) upon connection? I read one users manual and it said that DHCP was enabled by default and in the next sentence it said that the default IP is set to 192.168.1.10. That would immediately conflict on my network. I am about medium in the knowledge department but in 10 years of being a small-time administrator on a low-maintenance network, I have never had to change/upgrade a switch. Can anyone offer some insight? Please and thanks in advance.
ASKED: January 27, 2008  1:33 AM
UPDATED: January 30, 2008  2:22 PM

Answer Wiki

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Sorry about that. I tried posting a link to some different discussions about managed/unmanaged and I think it posted some erroneous content.

Anyway, an unmanged just does layer 2 switching. There’s absolutely nothing to setup, not even an IP address. It’s essentially “dumb”

If you need the switch to perform other services, like VLANS, QoS, STP, DHCP Server, Layer 3 routing, etc.. you’ll need a managed switch. These aren’t plug&play and require configuration before introducing them into your network.

BuddyFarr_____________________________________________________

the switch should come with a serial link cable. plug that into the back of the switch and the other end into a serial port on your computer. open hyperterminal, (this is if you are using windows), and create a connection to it. point the connection to the comm port that it is on. you will want to read the book for the switch to find the connection settings for the comm port. this will allow you to get into the config of the switch, set the IP address, password, etc. once the IP address and password are set you can install the switch. then from there you can open your browser on your computer and point it to the IP address and control it via web interface if the switch supports it. as far as the difference you can remote into the switch to check status of each port as far as excessive broadcasts, etc. also setting up VLANS to contain traffic, enable and disable single or multiple ports at a time, setup QoS, (quality of service), to give priority to specific protocols, (VoIP for example), setup logging of errors, check PoE status on ports, install SSL certificates on the switch for encrypted traffic, etc.

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  • Rayhorn13
    What kind of switch are you referring to? I have yet to see or ever hear of a switch that has any kind of serial connection or that comes with a serial connection cable. If I am totally off, please enlighten me.
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  • Tbitner
    With managed switches you can connect to them directly with a serial cable to configure them or view the configuration. Usually the serial or rj-45 port is labled "console"
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  • Kb3cgj
    Almost all managed switches offer a serial connection. HP Procurve, Cisco, Juniper, and Adtran all offer serial configuration as an option. Or if you prefer you can plug a computer directly into the switch and change your computers IP to the same subnet as the default ip on the switch..then you can telnet or connect to the web interface of most switches without dealing with serial connections. I like serial better but a lot of Net Admins prefer the GUI - often web based setup of the newer equipment.
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  • Rayhorn13
    Ok - I guess the serial connection thing is for higher-end switches or larger ones than the ones I'm looking at. I noticed the names of the ones you refer to (Cisco, Juniper, etc.) and the ones I am referring to (Linksys, D-Link, SMC, etc.) and they are definitely in different classes. I was wondering if I had completely lost my mind there for a minute. Out of the brands I have named, are there any that I should or shouldn't get? Is there a tutorial of some type for someone as inexperienced (with installation of a managed switch) as myself? I would like to be able to have the features available if needed, but I would hate to take a 10 minute switch-out (pun intended) and turn it into a few-hour fiasco.
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  • Tbitner
    I've only used Cisco, Procurve, SMC managed switches, and of those, Cisco is the least intuitive. In any case, you should look at the installation guides for each model and see which looks the most user friendly, and explains any questions/conerns. You should also consider other things such as tech-support, warranty, maintenance, website "ease of use", user reviews...etc.
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  • Rayhorn13
    Thanks - what we have now is SMC 10/100 unmanaged, so I think I'll look at the SMC Gigabit Managed, see what the install looks like, and go from there.
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