THE MAGIC AND POWER BEHIND ETHERNET SWITCHES
The world of networking is full of IoT devices, yet some get more spotlight than others. With the recent release of Teltonika Networks’ first-ever managed switches – the TSW202 and TSW212, there’s no better time to put the great spotlight on industrial Ethernet switches, focusing on their utilisation as well as the similarities and main differences between managed and unmanaged switches.
If you ever caught yourself wondering what is a network switch, you might’ve stumbled upon all kinds of switch variants and types, all essentially leading to one conclusion – it’s a networking device meant to distribute network connectivity in IoT solutions, with the most common interfaces being Ethernet ports.
Now, each Ethernet switch is beautiful, both in metaphorical terms and practical functionality, as every type holds unique values for specific networking solution needs. Typically, these switches are indispensable for wired network connectivity, as they’re trusted with transmitting mission-critical data across the endpoints of a local area network (LAN) infrastructure via Ethernet cables.
Industrial Ethernet switches possess quite extensive versatility, finding their place in diverse sectors like manufacturing, logistics, and automation. However, choosing the right kind of switch for your solution needs hinges on specific requirements. Amidst the myriad switch classifications, two stand out: managed and unmanaged.
At first glance, both managed and unmanaged switches are used to facilitate reliable network connectivity. But this is just a surface-level requirement.
Where does the unmanaged switch shine brightest?
Unmanaged switches are synonymous with simplicity in terms of device integration. They’re plug-and-play Ethernet switches that require no setup or configuration to fulfil their primary function: facilitating network connectivity and data transmission between endpoints.
With its simple application, an unmanaged switch doesn’t require you to have any particular expertise in networking, which makes it automatically accessible to a broader audience. They typically come at a lower price point and often consume less power than managed switches do, resulting in reduced installation expenses and operating costs over the lifetime of your solution.
It’s also worth highlighting that certain Ethernet switches, like the Teltonika Networks TSW100 unmanaged switch, offer power over Ethernet (PoE+) technology support, so you don’t need to think about additional power cabling hassles. So, unmanaged PoE+ switches can further bring down the costs of your solution’s implementation.
When describing the physical attributes of Ethernet switches, it’s important to take into account their resilience, especially in demanding industrial settings that often deal with extreme temperatures, vibrations, and humidity. Just like all Teltonika Networks unmanaged switches that are encased in aluminium housing, industrial switches are designed to combat environmental challenges head-on.
Ethernet switches, like a few of our unmanaged switches – TSW114, TSW200, and TSW304, come equipped with integrated DIN rail brackets. This feature not only offers greater convenience but also ensures that once positioned (even in space-limited environments), the device will remain steadfast, not shifting even by a centimetre.
Unmanaged switches in practice
All these benefits of unmanaged switches come in very handy for networking solutions that prioritise simplicity and ease of use, both during and after implementation. The perfect example illustrating this is the reliable connection of industrial systems use case.
Here, multiple Teltonika Networks TSW114 unmanaged switches are plugged into manufacturing lines via Ethernet ports, creating a consistent and uninterrupted network infrastructure for distributing data between each endpoint.
Every piece of equipment on the line, including PLCs, HMIs, and sensors, benefits from high-bandwidth data transmission that is empowered by a bandwidth of up to 10 Gbps just from one unmanaged switch.
However, for instances where you need greater customisation and control over your network management, unmanaged switches might not be the most suitable option. In fact, that’s precisely where managed switches come into play and the managed vs unmanaged switch rumble-tumble sparks.
The control that comes with managed switches
Managed switches offer more extensive control over every point of your network infrastructure while broadening its reach. These Ethernet switches often require some level of networking expertise, as they often need configuration right from the outset. However, if you have a more complex solution – managed switches will be one of your most valued assets.
These types of network switches can be used for more granular management and monitoring purposes, granting greater visibility of the entire network infrastructure, advanced network control capabilities, and guaranteed utmost connectivity support. With multiple functions supported, let’s cover the most fundamental ones.
Managed switches, like the Teltonika Networks TSW202 and TSW212, come equipped with an operating system (OS) that offers comprehensive switch configuration capabilities: TSWOS. More specifically, it provides you with port management features like speed control, port mirroring, and isolation. And this granularity allows you to tailor each port's behaviour to specific needs.
Imagine having sensors connected to a managed switch, which don't require high-speed transmission for efficient data transfer. You can configure the managed switch’s port to have the limited bandwidth it upholds. What if you fear data loss and want redundancy?
You can set up additional ports to mirror its data. And if you’re looking for ways to establish greater security over certain data, you isolate specific ports from the rest of the network infrastructure, ensuring no other devices can access them.
VLAN and QoS
Another great note about managed switches echoes when they provide their users with the option to establish VLANs and Quality of Service (QoS). Both of these features are crucial when we’re referring to segmentation, optimisation, and organisation of data flow within the networking solutions.
VLANs are frequently used by organisations seeking to enhance their network infrastructure security. They isolate users across each network, ensuring that devices from one VLAN cannot access those from another. Such isolation is vital when devices frequently handle confidential information.
While QoS can offer a wide range of functions, we believe one of the most essential ones is port priorities. This functionality enables you to set which ports have higher priority based on data importance travelling from certain ports. This determines the sequence of data transmission in cases like network congestion.
Managed switches that support PoE+
We previously discussed unmanaged PoE+ switches, yet some managed switches also support PoE+ technology. In fact, since we’re talking about managed switches, you can expect enhanced control over power distribution too.
Managed PoE+ switches, such as the TSW202, centralise power distribution to connected devices. This not only offers significant convenience but also provides an advantage when an end device malfunctions or turns off. With a managed PoE+ switch, you can easily reboot it via TSWOS.
Remote monitoring of managed switches
Get this! You can reboot them remotely from anywhere in the world, as managed switches are compatible with IoT management platforms, just like our Remote Management System (RMS).
Remote access to Ethernet switches is a next-level advantage – you can perform troubleshooting, make adjustments or configurations, and quickly take action in case of network disruptions. It’s also great for remote monitoring purposes when you need to ensure the top-notch efficiency of your networking solutions.
Managed switches in practice
While managed switches come in all shapes and sizes, the Teltonika Networks TSW202 and TSW212 really outshine many of them. You can check out their use cases to see how both excel in industrial settings, delivering pivotal advantages for each application.
The managed PoE+ switch for smart logistics warehouse use case presents how the TSW202 ties the entire logistics centre into one cohesive system while supplying power to each of the end devices. The managed switch for superior car manufacturing precision use case delves deeper into how the wide array of the TSW212’s supported industrial protocols enables utmost data transmission speeds, crucial for the highest level of efficiency of manufacturing lines with zero tolerance to downtime.
What's the verdict?
Now, with all that being said, it really boils down to your specific solution needs and preferences when deciding which Ethernet switch is a better fit for your solution. While comparing managed vs. unmanaged switches is beneficial, here’s a simple heuristic we can offer: if you have a simple, plug-n-play solution – unmanaged switches will be more than enough. If your networking solutions require greater control and monitoring capabilities – managed switches are the answer. So, suit your needs!