NICE AND EASY: What is a “managed” switch?

These days, we’re all IT Directors. The amount of computing power used in the average home far exceeds even the most powerful supercomputers of a generation ago, with network setups that would have had the IT staffs of old shaking their heads. If it wasn’t true before March 2020, it certainly is now.

We all have complex IT needs. Yet most of us don’t rely on experts, other than “that friend of yours” who knows a little more than you do. That’s because most equipment just works. It’s not 100% self-configuring, but it requires little more than your help in providing passwords and pressing a few buttons to make it work properly.

When it works, it works. When it doesn’t…

Of course that’s assuming you don’t need to tweak anything. Some people want maximum performance from their home setups and relish the idea of going into the setups in every piece of equipment they own. It’s true that you don’t find too many people like that in homes, but when it comes to the real IT Directors, the people who run multi-million-dollar setups in offices, that sort of interactivity is critical.

Network switches help keep things working right.

That’s why even something as boring as a network switch can be specially configured. We don’t think much of our network switches at home because they’re very appliance-like; hook things into them and they just work. In offices, however, it can be important for some computers to have more speed than others, or for the connection between two specific points to have more priority. So, some network switches actually have web-server interfaces to let you configure them. That’s what’s meant by a “managed” switch. It’s a network switch that lets you configure every little bit of it.

Managed switches generally allow any user to log in with any device. They’re miniature web servers that provide web pages to let you control almost anything about the switch. If you need some users to be able to download faster, not a problem. If you want to split your network up into two groups who can’t see each other, that’s cool. You can even turn ports on and off at will, effectively cutting off access to users as you need to.

Yes, they’re big.

Most network switches are designed to fit in a standard size rack. That makes them a little bit larger than most home users will need. But, if you’re the kind of person who wants that kind of power, you probably won’t mind that a managed network switch is larger than the simple 4-port switch you get from ordering online.

Do you need a managed switch? If you’re a home user or small office user, the chances are slender unless you’re a total control freak. If you run a large enterprise… you probably do.

Luckily… and you know where I’m going with this… they’re available at Solid Signal. If you need help choosing a network switch or have any pre-sales questions, call us at 888-233-7563 or fill out the form below. A staffer from our 100% US-based call center will contact you back, usually in one day or less.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.