• Posted on Feb 23, 2022

A proper network switch is essential for nearly every business in today’s world, as network switches are key to interoffice communication. At a glance, managed and unmanaged switches seem similar enough that you might believe they’re interchangeable. While they may serve the same general purpose, you’ll realize they’re quite different upon closer examination.

Here’s a look from the team at eNetwork Supply at everything you need to know when comparing managed to unmanaged switches.

What Are Unmanaged Switches?

Unmanaged switches are simple pieces of hardware that serve as connectors for ethernet devices. They’re ideal for companies with small networks or for adding temporary system groups to more extensive networks. Once set up, unmanaged switches enable communication between any connected device.

Unmanaged switches are basic plug-and-play devices with built-in Quality of Service (or QoS) assistance to manage the flow and capacity of network traffic. Depending on your needs, they don’t require manual configuration or much setup, which can be either an advantage or disadvantage. A fixed configuration means less work on your end, but you can’t modify the switch’s structure.

Some features most unmanaged switches offer include:

  • Maintaining a MAC address table
  • Basic security

What Are Managed Switches?

Managed switches also allow connected devices to communicate with each other. However, they have added features that make them more complex. Larger companies tend to opt for a managed switch, giving them greater control of their network.

With a managed switch, you’re able to prioritize switch ports, oversee network traffic, restrict data access, run analytic reports, create separate virtual networks when needed, and much more.

Most managed switches come with remote accessibility, so you can oversee the network when you’re out of the office. This feature allows system administrators or wireless solutions providers to implement fixes from practically anywhere in the world.

Other features of most managed switches include:

  • Separate IP addresses for each switch port
  • Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP)
  • Ability to configure switch ports as trunks
  • Control over bandwidth rate
  • Port mirroring

Managed vs. Unmanaged Switches

While managed switches clearly offer more features, you have more factors to consider before deciding on the type of switch you need. Compare managed to unmanaged security features, performance, accessibility, application, and cost.


Unmanaged switches have basic security features, such as a tamper-proof case that can usually lock. Aside from that, they don’t offer much in terms of security. However, since unmanaged switches cannot create virtual networks or VLANs, they present less of a need for advanced security features.

Managed switches, on the other hand, are equipped with numerous security features, including:

  • Threat detection
  • Option to duplicate and recover lost data
  • Encrypted network communication
  • Prevent unauthorized access
  • Private VLANs for limited or temporary access


When two or more devices on the same network simultaneously attempt to perform an action that sends data through an unmanaged switch, a collision can occur. When it does, the actions will fail, and each will need to be performed again, slowing down the network and your overall daily performance.

Unmanaged switches utilize a media access control address table to prevent collisions, providing each port with a separate collision domain. What this means is that devices connected to different ports can’t collide, which limits interruptions.

Managed switches eliminate this issue by automatically providing the data with an alternative path to ensure that collisions don’t occur. Since administrators control network traffic, they can customize settings so that priority goes to the more critical piece of data in transit.

Individual network users can also be assigned switch ports to ensure that data collisions don’t occur. Having this kind of control over traffic helps you maintain a high-speed network and high-performance rates.


Unmanaged switches are easy to set up and figure out how to use, making them accessible in that sense. You don’t need IT experience to use one for your small business or home office. However, it doesn’t offer remote features and is restricted to use within the boundaries of the hardware placement.

Managed switches, on the other hand, are the complete opposite. Set up and configuration require a team of experienced broadband solutions providers and IT professionals familiar with switch configurations. Using a managed switch also requires administrators on staff who can address issues, make changes to the configuration, and ensure that the daily operation runs smoothly.

Despite offering more features, attempting to operate a managed switch without training and knowledge in the area isn’t recommended. It’s best to hire those who know what they’re doing and ensure that it gets done right the first time.

While they don’t offer much accessibility in terms of use, managed switches provide remote capabilities that are especially useful these days. This feature allows your staff to enter your company network from anywhere, reducing productivity delays caused by inaccessible documents or reports.


When comparing managed to unmanaged switches, be sure to consider your needs over everything else. Both types come with up to 48 ports, so the number of devices you plan to connect shouldn’t be a deciding factor.

The most common applications for unmanaged switches are:

  • Small businesses
  • Home offices
  • Startup companies
  • Smart homes
  • Security cameras
  • Gaming

The most common applications for managed switches are:

  • Large businesses and enterprises
  • Medium-sized companies with growing networks
  • Companies where staff travel often
  • Businesses with remote employees
  • Businesses handling sensitive data


When comparing the prices of managed vs. unmanaged switches, it should come as no surprise that unmanaged switches are much cheaper. Depending on how many ports you want, they typically cost between $50 and $100.

Unmanaged switches are significantly more expensive and cost between $1500 and $2800 per port. You should also expect to pay on the higher end to include specific security and accessibility features. If this price is out of your budget, look into refurbished network hardware, as you can likely get a good deal.

Get Your Wireless Network Equipment From eNetwork Supply

Considered one of the top wireless equipment providers in the industry, we offer discounts on top-of-the-line telecom and network equipment at eNetwork Supply. Find what you’re looking for online, or call us now at 312-283-5983 today to learn more about managed and unmanaged switches.