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Difference between Managed and Unmanaged Switch

Updated Jan 24, 2020

Network switches serve to be similar to the “brain” or main functioning area of an enterprise network or home network. Because of their importance, network managers have to choose the most appropriate network switches.

We begin with a comparative chart depicting the key difference between a managed switch and an unmanaged switch.

Managed Switch vs. Unmanaged Switch in Tabular form:

Basis of Difference Managed Switch Unmanaged Switch
Features VLAN, CLI, IP routing, Dynamic ARP Inspection, redundancy, IPv4 DHCP snooping, port mirroring, QoS, SNMP, etc. Features fixed configuration. Unmanaged switches fail to support any configuration interface or related options.
Performance The managed switches can be configured. They provide Control over Access. Responsible for Control over the LAN traffic— specifically Priority SNMP. They allow for remote troubleshooting of applied networks.  The unmanaged network switches are known for their plug and play features. They depict limited configuration capabilities, such as default QoS settings.
Levels of security The overall security metrics maintained by managed switches are of benchmarked quality. They are responsible for securing the data plane, management plane, and the control plane. The security metrics on offer by unmanaged switches are not so good. There are no visible security areas except those concerning accessories, like lockable port covers.
Cost Expensive Less expensive
Areas of Application Large-sized enterprises, data centers, networks of varied sizes, etc. uses managed switches. Unmanaged network switches find prominence at homes, laboratories, small and medium-sized business networks, conference halls, etc.

What is Managed Switch?

A managed switch refers to a device that’s capable of being configured and managed to provide better user experiences. Along with offering the tools and means of monitoring networks, they possess a robust control on the ensuing traffic. Typically, managed switches may be considered to be similar to Virtual Private Servers wherein users are equipped to set up everything on their own. They can manage the device along with taking full responsibility for the configurations, causing downtime.

  • It is possible to administer managed switches with the help of methods. These methods may either be in the form of command-line interfaces such as those accessible via a secure shell, web interfaces loaded on the clients’ web browsers, or a Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) that is used for remote access.
  • The remote access provided by SNMP to a managed switch can unlock options like virtual LANs, port speed, redundancy, Quality of Service (QoS) connected to traffic prioritization, port mirroring, etc.
  • Managed switches allow for the prioritization of traffic for specified ports.

Types of Managed Switches

There are two kinds of managed switches.

Smart Managed Switches: The smart-managed switches offer a limited number of network capabilities and configuration. They are less expensive than their fully managed counterparts and are used in homes and offices only.

Fully Managed Switches: The fully managed switches take care of enterprises and servers, are far more expensive, and are designed to achieve higher traffic, intense workloads, complex deployments, etc.

What is Unmanaged Switch?

An unmanaged switch is responsible for allowing devices to interconnect and work along with each other without any glitches. The configuration of an unmanaged switch is locked to serve OEM specifications. It offers greater peace of mind to consumers when it comes to connecting everything and getting the platform ready for operations.

Typically, unmanaged switches are best used in homes and small offices. They are like plug & play. Users merely have to plug in these switches and wait for them to perform.

As the unmanaged switches do not require any configuration, they are used in places like conference halls and homes where they function as simple desktop type switches for satisfying their demand.

Unlike a managed switch, an unmanaged switch fails to have the ability to configure the network switch and prioritizing LAN traffic for ensuring the smooth passing of relevant information.

Key Differences between Unmanaged and Managed Switch

  • A managed switch provides users with better and more stringent control over their networks. These switches are also responsible for managing/ controlling the traffic movement across the device. On the other hand, an unmanaged switch handles everything automatically and does not give any control to users.
  • While a managed switch is specially designed for advanced users, an unmanaged is custom-designed for the use of beginners. These network switches are helpful for simple user networks and are not reliant on complex technology.
  • Managed switches isolate data traffic based on various groups like guests, users, backups, servers, and management. Along with offering managers with better ways of controlling data traffic, they provide reliable protection to keep the entire network more secure. These capabilities are not depicted in entirety by the unmanaged switches. They allow the Ethernet devices to interact with each other effectively; these devices typically include PCs, network printers, and other “plug and play” devices.


We hope that the above paras have helped you recognize the features and functionality of the two different types of network switches - managed switches and unmanaged switches, which will help you choose the right type of network switch for your requirements. In case you have any further questions or confusion related to their difference, usage, characteristics, etc. then do write to us in the Comments section below. We shall try to address your concerns at the earliest.