Managed vs. Unmanaged Switches: 5 Key Differences

Posted by The Team at CXtec on Jan 17, 2023 3:35:27 AM

Switches are the “building blocks” of any modern network. Switches are a critical part of network configuration and support...

Switches are the “building blocks” of any modern network. Switches are a critical part of network configuration and support connectivity and communication across local networks.

What switches do:

  • Improve network bandwidth
  • Reduce the load off personal computers
  • Enhance network efficiency
  • Foster real-time communication across network hardware and software

There are different types of network switches, such as KVM switches, ethernet switches managed vs unmanaged, smart and POE switches, each serving a unique purpose. A clear understanding of managed vs unmanaged switches can help administrators exercise better control and cost across the data center.

Let us examine two frequently-used types of switches. i.e., managed vs unmanaged switches. This will help us understand an important question: what is a better, a managed or unmanaged switch for your business? We will also deep dive into the benefits of managed switch vs unmanaged switch. 


Managed switches come with a certain level of complexity and need well-informed administrators to manage them effectively.

Managed switches allow users to map each port on the switch with different settings, allowing them to monitor, configure and manage the network flexibly. Managed switch ports are also configurable as trunks, allowing for transporting VLAN frames across one link. Admins can virtually assemble different ports and transmit information at 2x,4x, and even 8x the speed of a single link.

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Managed switches offer many advantages to network admins because of the flexibility and control they provide. They are usually deployed across large networks where data security is essential.

Another feature of managed switches is the support for Simple Network Management Protocol (SMNP) which allows admins to track status updates for troubleshooting and conduct network capacity assessments.


  • Reliability: Managed switches can be deployed across many topologies, including mesh, aggregation, and Spanning Tree, allowing for greater flexibility and higher security.
  • Improved security: Offers precise ways of monitoring data passage through the network and quickly resolving any data breaches.
  • Device optimization: Most managed switches come with Quality-of-Service (QoS) features that help admins determine device performance and troubleshoot any mishaps.
  • Smooth management of large networks: Managed switches allow for remote management, software-defined network management, and supply power to end-point devices, making them easier to work with.


Unmanaged switches are generally “invisible” network elements. They serve one purpose: to provide Ethernet devices with the connectivity to communicate with each other. Unmanaged switches do not offer data intelligence and visibility into the network and cannot control network traffic. These basic features make them easy to deploy.

Unmanaged switches are usually deployed across smaller networks to connect edge devices. These can also be used to combine device groups on a larger network.

Unmanaged switches determine parameters like data rates and switching between half and full duplex modes with auto-negotiated ports. Most unmanaged switches belong to the same broadcast domain and do not support VLANs.


  • Plug-and-play, easy to deploy
  • Supports simple network topologies like daisy and star chain
  • A better option than Ethernet hubs since they can store MAC addresses
  • Cost-effective when compared to managed switches


Choosing between managed vs unmanaged, depends on your objectives. But first, let’s take a look at:

What is the difference between a managed and unmanaged ethernet switch?

An Ethernet switch or network switch is a networking device that connects multiple devices on a Local Area Network (LAN) and enables them to communicate with each other. The main difference between a managed and an unmanaged Ethernet switch lies in the level of control and configurability they offer to network administrators. Ethernet managed switches provide advanced features like VLANs, QoS, link aggregation, and security mechanisms. They can be configured, monitored, and managed by network administrators using a web-based interface or CLI. On the other hand, ethernet unmanaged switches are plug-and-play devices with fixed settings and no configuration options. They are simpler, less expensive, and suitable for basic connectivity needs. Managed switches are ideal for larger networks requiring customization and control, while unmanaged switches are commonly used in smaller networks or home environments.

Ticking a few critical boxes makes the process of choosing between network switches (managed vs unmanaged) much easier.

  • Control and performance: Data control can help ensure network uptime and availability. Managed switches come with features to control network traffic and allow individual access to switch ports for users. Further, they also require well-trained administrators to configure the network as they come with a certain degree of complexity. Unmanaged switches, on the other hand, are simple to use.
  • Security and network stability: Does your network have sensitive data passing through it? Managed switches can protect your information and support authorized access with network segmentation methodologies, unlike unmanaged switches that cannot offer such capabilities.
  • Remote management and access: Managed switches offer remote access capabilities. This can help admins identify and resolve issues faster. Unmanaged switches cannot be accessed remotely, since they do not offer visibility into the network.
  • Cost: Unmanaged switches cost far less than managed switches because of the basic features they offer. A managed switch is more advanced and is for organizations looking for stable and high-performance networks.
  • Other features: Some of the features of managed switches include support for SNMP and other telemetry data. Unmanaged switches are simple, plug-and-play installments. Extra features for managed switches include support for STP, VLAN, port mirroring, etc.

Also, some people might wonder, ‘can I use a managed switch as unmanaged?’. The answer to this question is yes, you can use a managed switch as an unmanaged switch, but you won't be able to use its advanced features. To use a managed switch as unmanaged, connect your devices and let it configure itself. You can't configure advanced settings or monitor traffic, but devices can still connect and transfer data.

However, some default settings could cause issues, so consult the manual or documentation for your specific switch model.


Whether you’re looking to add managed or unmanaged switches to your network, refurbished switches are the way to go. High-quality refurbished switches can help streamline your network performance at a reduced cost and longer shelf life. What’s more - leverage high-reliability ratings and lifetime warranty on your purchases.

We at CXtec, believe in the power of refurbished network hardware. We help our clients maximize value with certified, high-quality switches from leading brands such as Cisco, HP, and many more. Our brand, equal2new®, offers hardware at 90% off the list price, advanced replacement, and holds a 99.51% reliability rating in the market, making us one of the top providers in North America.

Contact us to know more.

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