These products won a Top Rated award for having excellent customer satisfaction ratings. The list is based purely on reviews; there is no paid placement, and analyst opinions do not influence the rankings. Read more about the Top Rated criteria.
Cisco Catalyst 2960-L Series Switches are fixed and smart-managed Gigabit Ethernet switches that provide enterprise-class access switching for branch offices, out-of-the-wiring-closet applications, and critical Internet of Things (IoT) deployments, as well as small and medium-sized…
Cisco Catalyst 9600 Series switches are described by the vendor as purpose-built for resiliency at scale, providing comprehensive security and helping organizations grow at low total operational cost. Built on the foundation of Catalyst 9000, the Catalyst 9600 Series is designed…
Cisco Catalyst 1000 Series switches are designed to provide simplicity, flexibility, and security for smaller networks preparing for growth. With a wide range of Power over Ethernet (PoE) and port combinations, these switches are built to fit the needs of networks with up to 250…
What are LAN Switches?
LAN (Local Area Network) switches that are most commonly implemented as Ethernet switches connect multiple network devices (computers, servers, routers, printers) to send and receive data. They use MAC (Media Access Control) addresses that are unique identifiers to send data packets to destination ports. They efficiently manage high-volume network traffic.
These switches can be fully managed, unmanaged, or smart.
Managed switches require administration to take advantage of their features. These switches control the traffic accessing the network and provide the ability to configure each port and device on the network to maximize the efficiency of network traffic. Managed switches support device bandwidth limiting and port mirroring to optimize network capabilities. Administrators use management switches to create VLANs (Virtual Local Area Networks) and can access the switches remotely for maintenance and tuning.
Unmanaged switches function as plug-and-play devices that are easy to install. They have fixed default configurations. They automatically switch between full-duplex mode (bidirectional traffic) and half-duplex mode (unidirectional traffic) regulating network data rates.
Smart switches also referred to as intelligent switches, offer a reduced set of switch management features when compared with managed switches but offer more network controls than unmanaged switches. They can be limited to a few options such as setting up VLANs or duplex modes.
PoE devices are switches that provide network functionality along with power sources for connected devices.
Cloud-managed switches configure switch ports for devices over your entire network using the web.
Switches can be used to offload and examine traffic. A switch can be deployed between a WAN router and a LAN for this purpose. In larger networks this approach along with port mirroring is used to enhance security, aid in intrusion detection, firewalling, diagnostics, and performance analytics.
LAN Switches Features
Depending on the type of LAN switch, they will include the following features.
- Connect multiple devices
- Port configuration, traffic prioritization, set QoS (quality of service) levels for individual ports
- Network access controls, traffic controls, traffic filtering
- Bandwidth controls, limiting
- Network monitoring
- Device monitoring
- Port mirroring
- VLAN support
- Remote access and management
LAN Switches Comparison
Consider the following when purchasing LAN switches.
Managed vs Unmanaged vs Smart Switches: Managed switches offer customization options that enable networks to operate at peak efficiency. If network management, traffic prioritization, and enhanced security are required, a managed switch is the best solution. They come with a higher price tag than unmanaged or smart switches and are best suited for enterprise installations. If your switch only needs to perform the basic functions of networking without customization, which would be appropriate for a small business or the home, then unmanaged switches that have a lower price would be the most cost-effective. Smart switches occupy a middle ground offering some basic customization options while being more affordable than managed switches.
Specifications: Ensure that the device you select will support the speed configurations and the number of ports you require. Vendors offer switches with a wide range of speed and port options, supporting multi-Gbps speeds and dozens of ports. If you require that your devices need to be powered by your switch, select a PoE switch.
Stackable Switches: To readily support network growth, stackable switches offer a rapid setup. They can be configured as a single switch, avoiding having to monitor individual switches. Stackable switches automate workarounds for power failures and port problems. After deploying stackable switches you are committed to using the same product line for future expansion in order to take advantage of its features. In some situations adding additional switches, along with increasing speeds can lead to increased latency and some performance degradation.
New vs. Refurbished Equipment: Budget-conscious individuals and small to medium-sized businesses may wish to consider purchasing refurbished LAN switches that cost significantly less and usually offer warranties. Enterprise scale organizations would encounter issues related to limited warranties and lack of tech support that would take this option off the table when supporting mission critical applications and services. Additional complications will arise if your organization used an OEM to build your network.
Vendors offer a wide range of LAN switches. Depending on their type, features, speed, and the number of ports, prices can begin under $100 and range into the tens of thousands of dollars.
The following LAN Switches offer award-winning customer relationships, feature sets, and value for price. Learn more about our Best Of Awards methodology here.