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What's the difference between these unmanaged switches? Which do I need?

I am administering a network of about 25 PCs, 3 servers and two Router/Switches connected by three hubs (1 8 port, 1 16 port and 1 24 port). We realize the hubs are killing our throughput and want to replace them with unmanaged switches. But Which ones?

(as a preface, I understand the difference between hub, switch and router and am certain of the use of those terms in my descriptions here, just so there's no confusion over that)

My main question is: What is the difference between a $70 "SOHO" style switch, a $100-$150 "Business Class" switch and a $200-$300 "Business Class" Switch such as:

(Looks like Linksys' "SOHO" section)
Linksys EtherFast® 16-Port 10/100 Workgroup Switch EZXS16W $70
Linksys 16-Port 10/100 Switch SD216 $70

(From Linksys' "Business" Section)
Aside from more ports than the SOHO switches, is there a difference?
Linksys EtherFast®  24-Port 10/100 Ethernet Switch EF4124 $115
Linksys 24-Port 10/100 Rackmount Switch SR224 $120

(Is the only difference here the module slot?)
HP ProCurve Switch  10/100 24-Port w/1 Module Slot model 2124 $220

(One of my current hubs:)
Linksys "ef2h24" 24 port 10/100 hub - I currently find this for sale online for around $200!! (They actually call it "Pro-grade"!)


Maybe more to the point, is there such a thing as a "low end" 24 port 10/100 switch and a "high end" 24 port 10/100 switch?

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Let me try to describe the layout of the network, if that makes some difference in selecting the right equipment:

Area 1) 1 Linux domain controller, 1 linux fax server, 1 Win2k Server(serves antivirus definitions) and DSL modem connected to a Netgear ProSafe 8 port Router/Switch. The Netgear is uplinked to an "Accton" 10Mbps 16 port hub which has 5 PCs connected to it.

Area 2)The "Accton" 16 port hub is uplinked to a Linksys "ef2h24" 24 port 10/100 hub . The Linksys 24 port hub has about 12 PCs connected to it.
 
Area 3) Also connected to the Linksys is another 8 port hub, "Baystack" model 52 10baseT hub with about 5 PCs connected to it.
============================================================================

Thanks for the help!
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DeptOneRick
Asked:
DeptOneRick
5 Solutions
 
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
For low end switches such as these, in my experience a switch is a switch.  The difference is only in chassis (rackmountable or not).  

For high end switches there can be tremendous differences in management capabilities and feature sets.  But managed switches are EXPENSIVE, typically $500 or more for a 12 port.  So if you're not going managed, I personally wouldn't care which you get.  (Although personally, I'm not a fan of linksys.  I know, cisco owns them, but that doesn't mean they switched to cisco parts and manufacturing techniques).
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MaxQCommented:
We have had a lot of bad luck with cheap Linksys switches.  Specifically, if they get hit by a brownout they will sometimes just stop forwarding traffic until someone does a hard reset on them.

If for some reason you run across a brand called GigaFast, run away!  They seem to like to wear out in about a year, and go into a failure mode where they loop packets back onto the LAN.  Not fun!  

For a cheap unmanaged switch I'd go with D-Link, or maybe Netgear.  We've had no problems with the many many D-Links we have deployed, and they auto-crossover so you don't have to worry about users trying to hook PCs up to the uplink ports, etc.
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DeptOneRickAuthor Commented:
Ahhh, I see. Good points, leew. Thank you for the quick response. If not Linksys, what is your personal favorite?

And, related to all of this is the question: Since I have essentially 4 switches linked together (and will have another SOHO Netgear router/switch NAT box hanging of one of the switches, making that 5 altogether) Will these "lower-end" unmanaged switches have any difficulty "seeing" and keeping track of all the device addresses that are coming through from uplink to uplink? From one end to the other, traffic from the majority of the network will come into one port on the Netgear Prosafe.  

Netgear Switch <-> Linksys SR216 <-> LinksysSR224 <-> Linksys SD208 <-> Netgear?SOHO firewall/router/switch

The first Netgear will have DSL and 3 servers, the SR216 would have 5 PCs, the SR224, about 12 PCs, the SD208, about 5 PCs plus the Netgear SOHOrouter/switch.
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Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
Lately I've been using SMC.  No problems.  I had an SMC 16 port hub that worked for years flawlessly.  Sold it on e-bay when I got a Gig Switch (Netgear).  PERSONALLY, for clients, I would recommend either Netgear or SMC for the low end.

Also, I wouldn't string together that many switches.  I know there was a depth limit with hubs and I'm fairly certain it still exists on switches.  I'd pick a switch and plug all switches into that - unless you were facing distance limitations.  But I'd only go one more deep for that.  If you still had distance limitations, I'd get some fiber Media converters and a fiber line.

By making a star formation of switches from one swith, you keep the maximum number of switches data has to pass through to 3.
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Dr-IPCommented:
Managed switches are real nice, but the cheapest ones typically start at about $500. I have found that used Cisco WS-C2924-XL-EN which can be bought on eBay frequently for a little over $200 to be a great bargain for someone looking for a managed switch. That’s about what you will pay for a new quality unmanaged switch, and you get all the bells and whistles of a top of the line managed switch. It also seems to be a rock solid switch as I use them in my racks to reduce wiring. I used to use unmanaged switches, but when I found I could get these instead for the same price I quick buying the unmanaged switches.
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MaxQCommented:
Even the cheapest unmanaged switch can easily handle the number of devices you're talking about, DeptOneRick; pretty much any switch you can buy today can cache thousands of MAC addresses.  You also don't really need to worry about cascading switches in this application...each switch port is a collision domain so the limitations on cascading hubs together don't apply.
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