NETGEAR SmartSwitch Final Thoughts
Two questions lie at the heart of this review, and I haven’t addressed them yet, so let’s get them out in the open. One, who needs a wired switch these days, when almost every device seems to be running off either Wi-Fi or 3G/4G cellular? Two, why do I need a Smart Switch when a dumb one will do. (OK, for the record, they’re called Unmanaged Switches…)
First of all, if you’ve got a house full of users, you could be taxing the wireless capability of your router, especially since the latest and most expensive devices only give you 450 Mbps. I used to think that this was all the bandwidth anyone needed, but that was before “The Internet of Things” crept up on me. Internet Radio, HD video streaming to multiple screens from various storage locations, Hi-Res Audio (24/192) streaming to the hi-fi, YouTube and Hulu everywhere you turn, half a dozen IP-based security cameras, daily backups to the NAS, regular backups to the cloud – you get the idea. Throw a few teenagers and a couple of high tech parents all together in one house, and that’s what you get. About the only thing that’s not connected to the network so far are my kitchen appliances. Notice that not everything is coming in through the Internet, so your ISP’s data rate makes no difference, and there’s an opportunity to pass some of the traffic through a wired connection at GbE speeds. My wife’s home office is an example where I deployed a switch to simplify the wiring, because nothing in that room runs off Wi-Fi, and the router is on another floor. A switch can also help you fight Wi-Fi dead spots. If you can run an Ethernet cable from one floor to another, then just plug in a wireless access point that can reach your dead zones. Wires are good – wires are bad; it all depends on the application.
Let’s face it, network configuration used to be a black art, only practiced by people who belonged to a secret society. Wi-Fi changed that, Starbucks changed that, and Android changed that. Now, when your mother comes to visit, she wants to log in to your home network with her Wi-Fi only iPad, and woe be unto you if you can’t remember your SSID and password, letter perfect. If she’s locked out because you turned on MAC address filtering, and only allow specific devices to have access to your network, that’s another thing. Her maternal pride will overcome her annoyance at not being able to do whatever it is that moms do on their iPads.
The same goes for friends and relatives visiting with their notebooks, etc. The thing is, not everyone is as careful as they should be about computer security. All it takes is one kid, back from college with their notebook chocked full of viruses and worms. Guess what, the college network is full of firewalls and other security appliances, and yours isn’t. The kid’s excited, because he can finally access all the streaming media that was locked down on the school’s network. Hmmmm, guess what’s included on all those sites that they’re now able to visit, from your network. If it sounds like a good time to set up a Guest VLAN, that isolates everything you value from all the threats that are sure to come knocking, yes it is! That’s why you need a smart switch, because an unmanaged switch really only behaves like an aggregator, while a managed switch can also act as a splitter. You can set up four separate VLANs on the GS110T, and no traffic crosses those lines unless you want it to. That unruly laptop will only see the connection to your ISP, nothing else. Feel safer? You should.
Now that I’ve got you thinking about possible applications for a Smart Switch, let’s review what we’ve learned about the NETGEAR ProSafe GGS110T SmartSwitch, and see how it rates.