Top 5 - differences between unmanaged and managed switches

In network technology, there is a wide range of managed and unmanaged switches. All switches fulfill the same basic functions - to build a home or business network. Depending on the type of switch, they have, in addition to the basic function, extended security functions and additional features. But what are the other differences? And which network switch is suitable for your company and your IT infrastructure?

Switches are known as “the brain” of a network. They are often used when the router is not sufficient and needs to be expanded. Switches can be connected to the router via an ethernet cable. This gives the user a number of advantages. On the one hand, the performance of a wired LAN connection is higher than using WLAN. On the other hand, it is difficult to forward received data from the router to a large number of end devices. A router often does not have enough connections, so the use of a switch is inevitable.

As a communication expert, switches receive datas from wired LAN connected devices and transfer them to the addressed end device. Therefore they use the MAC-address (Media-Access-Control). With the MAC-address the switch identifies the physical device and the end destination of the outgoing data packages. This basic function is available with every switch. Depending on the switch type, some of them also have extended features. That is why a distinction is made between unmanaged and managed switches. Below we summarized the main differences between the two types and the areas in which they are most likely to be used.








initial operation


complex configuration


simple - basic function

basic function and extended features possible


very low (accessories necessary)

very high

place of operation

small network/ home network

large network/ business network


1. Costs - cheap or expensive?

When looking for a suitable switch, the price difference between unmanaged and managed switches becomes very apparent.

The purchasing price of unmanaged switches depends on the number of ports. Unmanaged switches are significantly cheaper due to the limited features. The acquisition costs for managed switches, on the other hand, are influenced by the number of advanced features. The more security and features the switch has to offer, the more price-intensive the product will be.


2. Initial operation - easy to do or with the help of an expert?

After you have decided on a switch based on the cost difference, you will quickly realize that unmanaged and managed switches are just as distinctly different in design and structure. 

The installation of unmanaged switches is pretty easy. They simply work according to the plug-and-play principle. After the connection the device is ready for usage. The initial operation of managed switches is not quite that simple. For the installation an experienced administrator or a technician is needed. Due to the adaptability to the network and the additional features that a managed switch offers, a complex configuration is necessary.


3. Functions - simple or extended?

Apart from the basic function of setting up a home or company network, unmanaged switches do not perform any other intelligent functions. As a rule, the default settings of the device can hardly be changed. Also, the unmanaged switch does not include a remote access function.

On the contrary, managed switches have a larger service package. Extended features are:

  • the manual configuration to make adjustments more quickly in the event of changes in the company.

  • to prioritize canals to increase the performance of the necessary position.

  • monitoring and control through remote access to react more quickly in case of errors.

  • the support of SNMP (simple network management protocol) to receive the status of the switch and every port.

  • or the integrated redundant functionwhich ensures the replacement of datas in case of failures.


4. Security - protection or risk?

When it comes to security, the unmanaged switch is far behind the managed switch. The unmanaged switch does not have any special security features. Local monitoring and control is possible through LED indicators and DIP switches. For direct protection, you can buy lockable port covers. This restricts the access and protects the switch from unauthorized direct access.

Managed switches do not need any extra accessories, they already have enough security features. They have high security standards through access control lists, communication encryption and remote access. All network events can be monitored and controlled remotely to quickly defend threats and to protect the whole communication. 


5. Place of operation - small or large network?

Since unmanaged switches do not have any "special" functions, they are best suited for small or home networks. In these networks, data traffic tends to be low and few participants operate simultaneously. They are also often used in conference rooms or to connect temporare workstations in bigger business networks. But most of the time, unmanaged switches are useful and sufficient for expanding the router to create multiple ports.

Managed switches, on the other hand, are primarily used in large corporate networks, as a higher level of data exchange takes place in the business sector. In addition, several features allow companies to operate the switch remotely and manage it securely to resolve potential faults more quickly. Large networks usually include several switches with more than 30, 40 or 50 ports. These are housed in so-called racks to ensure proper cable sorting. 


There are a few things to consider when choosing the right switch. Managed switches are mainly used in the business context due to the high security precautions and the complex customisation options. For private usage unmanaged switches are sufficient, as it is easy to operate even for non-professionals and, above all, inexpensive. More information about network switches can be found here.


Have you made your decision or do you need any help?

Are you looking for the matching switch for your business network? In our online shop for network technology we have a large selection of unmanaged and managed switches from a wide range of manufacturers. Do you need support? Our sales team is at your side as a professional partner for problems, questions or requests.