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Switches - Someone please explain difference Managed / Smart / Unmanaged

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Last Modified: 2012-05-07
Here's what I have in my network:

7 pc's plus one server plus router/modem.  The server has an application, a database and processes reports.

The server application is run by a shortcut on the client users' desktop which is through a mapped drive.  I understand that the processing takes place on the server, then.  The client systems are thin clients then?

My question is...
I need a new switch because some PCs are needlessly hogging all the resources.  I would prefer if 2 clients plus the server have more bandwidth.  It would be even better if I could view these connections like a router and set priority when I want to.  Better yet would be if it could sense which connections are important and reduce bandwidth for others.

What I really hate is that a vital process is shared 50/50 with something low bandwidth.

What switch is ideal for me?  What does each type do?  My budget is 80 - 200 british pounds.

Let me know if you need any further information.  I'm fairly knowledgeable in IT generally and don't mind researching things myself to get the right system.

Some links I've found which might help you?
Watch Question

What you describe does not look like a thin client setup to me.  If the apps are started from a shortcut mapped to a network  share  then are running locally on the client. You would need to use Remote Dektop or Citrix sessions to run the app on the server.

As for switches you cannot usually manage the bandwith on a per port basis.  A switch is designed to provide full bandwidth to a connection as opposed to a hub which shared the bandwidth between all connections.  This provides best use of the available bandwidth as each client gets a full bandwidth link to the server.
A managed switch provides other facilities such as VLANS and Diagnostics.  

Please let us know what your current hardware is.  Make and Model of your switch for instance.
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I thought I'd take a moment to run though your answer :)

DCMBS:             To be quite honest, with that switch and just 7 users I don't thnk your network infrastructure is the problem.  This should be quite capable of providing a good level of performance.  It seems that either your server is being overworked or your clients are overworked.  
Each client is accessing the database all the time.  However sometimes one client will be very slow while the others are faster than normal.
Conversely I find that after heavy periods with all users, followed by activity of only one user the system is still slow.  Lagging if you will.

If you are downloading the app from the server to be run locally you could try creating a local copy of the app on each client and running it from there.  
Traditionally when processing anything on the server it is very fast.

This will complicate maintenance as you will have to update each machine when the app is updated but if the app is only used on a couple of machines it shouldn't be too much of a problem, and not having to download the app from the server will ease the load on the server and network.
The app is used on all machines, though some people e.g. managers 'require' a better services.

Databases are usually heavy workloads and producing reports is one of the heaviest tasks they do, so I would have a look at your server.  
So if a client connects through a mapped drive to the server AND they dont have anything in their program files Your opinion is that it is still the client that runs the program and Not the server?
Maybe additional memory could be added if you aren't at the capaciity for your machine ?
Like I said, server is Very fast.  I completely understand your reasoning though.
Heres the server FYI:
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Another switch for you to consider


This is a managed switch with two Gigabit Ports.  You can therefore connect your server to one of the gigabit ports which will provide a gigbit backbone and ensure that your server is able to service all the clients with a good level of service.  It also has a data throughput rate of 9.6 Gbps

Just going through your sever specs I see it has Dual gigabits NICs so potentially you could team them and connect to the two gigabit ports on the 1724 switch which would be good for your scenario

Apologies the link in my previuos post seem to have got broken.


Also I am not recommending any particualr vendor.  I have linked to the model just to get product data.

Just managed to work my way through your list and I see the 1724 is included in your list so from your list this is the one I would recommend.


will reply in a moment DCMBS ;-)
Just a bit more information for you chris, im suprised no one mentioned this what your after is called QOS (Quality Of Service).

QOS allows you to specifiy which network protocols should get more bandwidth than others and vica verca. im not sure if you can get a switch for under £200 but i had the same issue at home and bought the below switch as it does something simular to QOS.

I would also google QOS and learn what it does.

Powerconnec 2708 is an 8 port gigabit switch that
does traffic queuing for £59+vat

Kind Regards

I'm not sure QOS is relevant here.  QOS can prioritize traffic according to type and is usually used to improve Voice over IP traffic  on a LAN.  I am not sure you can prioritze general TCP traffic from workstation over another or by application.
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thanks for your post CoreyMac and to the others.

Guess what, I've just learnt that of the 7 machines one of these also has a database to which 2 other machines connect.  So now I have the server hosting a db and one of the clients hosting a separate db.  
This is too much for one switch so will review your posts and stick a 4 port mini switch for the second db machine so it's not interfering with the rest of the switch.

will award points soon.

While I agree that keeping the traffic separate sounds helpful, it is hard to see how that could be a root cause of your problems.

Putting everyone on the same 16-port GigE switch should work just as well as splitting them between two switches.  Potentially better since the only bottleneck would be each server/workstation individual port and no user can really affect another...

Modern switch designs are such that most of the time, switch bandwidth and/or congestion should not be an issue with a small number of users (<16-25).

Just my opinion though...  In generally, one 16-port GigE switch is better than two 8-ports connected together and GigE is much better than 100Mbps in almost any configuration (assuming the workstations and/or servers can connect at GigE rates)...  Latency is simply better even if the applications do not regularly use more than the 12.5MB/sec that 100Mbps Ethernet offers...

Really though I am not trying to rain on your parade here...  I am just suspicious that you are not going to be much better off as I agree with DCMBS that you are not likely switch constrained at this point...


At the moment I presume the workstations are only running 100Mbps.  Each workstation is about 4 years old.  The switch is 100Mbps.
The server is configured to be 100Mbps but can be 1gig.  The cabling linking everything up is cat5e.

What will I need to do to get the network up to 1gig standard.  Perhaps the relative newness of some of these machine means I wont have to buy new PCI network cards?  Also will cat5e support 1gig?  

Cat5e is good enough for GigE.

The workstations are a ?.  You will just have to check each one.  Some might have it and others might not, as it just depends.  Updating the drivers for the workstations and server are a good idea as well.

Intel and Broadcom are among the best Ethernet Chipsets for NICs if you have to buy new.  Intel is easier to find in most markets, but not all...

PCI Express is better for GigE than PCI.

Otherwise, it should be pretty straightforward, and for the Broadcom/Intel NICs, newer is generally better.


I've installed a gigbit switch the other day and I personally see a difference although I haven't run any benchmarking software as yet.
Annoyingly the chief user I wanted to improve the QoS actually says it has got worse for her though. :-(     And I made a point of not telling anyone that I had made the change.

Will look at updating drivers on one workstation and see if I can make that gigabit compatible by the end of the day, run a performance test on it compared to 'normal' and hopefully try and isolate where the problem is.

It's looking like either the server or the enormity of the database on the server which is the issue.


I believe now that it is a case of the Server not being sufficient for the job.  Perhaps it is the way the database is read - or the type of database.

Either way, a gigabit switch proved much faster initially though with all users accessing the Server DB this quickly slowed

If you really are disk bound on the server and SATA is your connection link for drives, then  there is a simple fix if you are still interested.

First thing to do is to look at the Performance Monitor stats on the server when the users are making it slow down.  If the disk where the database resides is getting swamped and really is a single SATA drive, then the queue depth should start to climb way up once the users start hitting it.

Just add an Intel 80GB G2 SATA SSD to the machine, move the database files to it and your problem will likely imrove massivley if not disappear completely.  The Perfomance Monitor numbers should show exactly how hard the disk is getting hit in I/Os per second and MB/sec.  Watching these and the disk time per transaction would be key to moving the bottlenecks somewhere else.

If you want to discusss this more, let me know.
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