Managed switches

jmac44 used Ask the Experts™
What's the best reason for using managed switches? I maintain a small network of 29 desktops, 13 printers, wireless access points spanning 2 20,000ft warehouses and of course servers to run the system. We acquired 4 cisco catalyst express 500 managed switches (probably because they where the cheapest managed switch at the time, I wasn't the sys admin then) and they have been a pain in the you know what to maintain. I since have had to replace one and I got a cisco sg102 unmanaged plugged it in and bam it works no fuss I get 48 Mbps and I didn't have to spend anytime setting it up.

So what am I missing? I have to say that I've been doing this for 9 years and I have no cert training of any kind. I graduated with an A.S. in computer science and went straight to work. I don't spend anytime at home reading about this stuff, only read at work when I can - not a lot obviously. So I know I am not completely caught up on everything. Hence the question. Thanks for any responses!
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It sounds like unmanaged switches are all you need, and I'd certainly stick with that since they're cheap, nothing to configure, and easy to replace.

Managed switches will give you the flexibility to do things like run multiple VLANs, set up QoS for prioritizing certain traffic, and provide nice suite of diagnostic tools.
My own transition to managed switches came about because I needed to use SNMP monitoring to look at traffic levels mostly;  this for debugging slow network situtuations.

Port mirroring is useful if you have a cable to the switch coming to a workstation - either permanent or transient.  This way you can monitor traffic at the switch ports and use something like Wireshark to determine what's going on.  Most of the time that helps and sometimes it doesn't unless you spend some time figuring out how to figure things out!  :-)

Some switches are "managed" and don't provide SNMP.  That was a rude awakening!!  Cisco small business "200" switches are like this in comparison to their "300" product line.

There is much to be said for simple unmanaged switches.  But then, you can set up a managed switch as if it's unmanaged.  Just reset it to factory defaults and that should do it.  Then you can just forget about SNMP and port mirroring and ... the control-related things like VLANs and QoS.

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