Choosing an Ethernet Switch for Your SMB, Part Two

Paul Mah

I recently wrote about choosing an Ethernet switch for your SMB where I highlighted some of the key features that small- and mid-sized businesses will probably want to consider when it comes to selecting a network switch. Today, I want to talk about some features that didn't make that list but are nevertheless important considerations that are likely to crop up as part of the decision-making process.


Stackable and Stacking Capacity


One factor that administrators of larger networks need to consider is whether a network switch is stackable, as well as its stacking capacity. A stackable switch can essentially be merged via (usually) proprietary connectors. Because additional stacked switches are managed using the same IP address, the ability to stack them opens the door to easy upgrades in the future with zero manageability issues. In addition, mid- to high-end stackable switches tend to feature greater stacking capacity in stacked configuration than what is achievable with a cascaded or trunked uplink.


Energy Savings


Newer network switches tend to incorporate energy saving capabilities such as the ability to disable LED lights or power down network ports that are unused. The latter can be especially pertinent in a PoE deployment using a PoE-enabled switch.


Mounting Options


Deployments at branch offices where desktop-sized switches are used only require some available desk (or shelf) space to wire things up. Locations furnished with existing server racks or cabinets, however, will certainly benefit from the availability of mounting kits for smaller switches. One related consideration is the presence of loud internal fans that generate excessive noise and are not suitable for placement next to computer workstations.


Simple Network Management Protocol


Simple Network Management Protocol or SNMP is a popular standard used to monitor network-attached devices. A detailed exploration of it would be beyond the remit of this blog; suffice it to say that SNMP can be useful for monitoring large or complex environments using network management software. Having said that, do note that only version 3 of SNMP offers adequate security with its incorporation of data encryption, authentication and integrity checking. This renders support for SNMPv3 important for organizations that require it, while companies that have no intention leveraging SNMP are advised to make sure it is disabled.


Business Warranty


Often neglected or forgotten altogether, the availability of good service response time in the event of a hardware failure can be a life-saver in high-availability deployments. Response times can range from 4-hour onsite to next business day. Indeed, some vendors offer options to upgrade warranty coverage for an additional price.

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