The drive for productivity and high-availability manufacturing means you likely don't have the time you would like to learn new things – even if doing so would ultimately save you time. If you're relatively new to industrial Ethernet networking and the equipment that comes with it, you might be surprised to learn of the time-saving capabilities available in managed switches today. With the right background and knowledge, you can get your network switches up and running fast and easy.

Below I will take you through how to use built-in switch features that will help you speed up the commissioning and deployment process. By the time you've finished this article, you'll be able to make your switches operational in a much faster timeframe.

Configuring Switches Without a Serial Cable

The traditional method for configuring a switch is to start by connecting to it via its serial port and a serial cable. But many times, the correct serial cable and RS232 terminal program for connecting your laptop to the switch are not handy.

However, you can proceed without these items if you have a software program to use for the configuration. Some of these online configuration tools are offered for free. The example I'll use, since I'm most familiar with it, is our free HiDiscovery program from Hirschmann . Here are the steps you would take:

  1. Simply daisy chain your new switches together, connect your laptop to one of them using an Ethernet cable and start up HiDiscovery. The program generates a list of the switches, even if they do not have an IP address.
  2. Then, identify and label the switches by assigning them an IP address and set the other parameters, such as the subnet mask and default gateway.

An added benefit of some online configuration tools, HiDiscovery included, is the detection of devices with duplicate IP addresses. Keep an eye out for this feature, as it is helpful to alerting you to network issues before they become operational problems.

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Online configuration tools make it easy to communicate with switches and assign an IP address, subnet mask and default gateway.

Accessing Your Ethernet Switch's Documentation

Often, when you are configuring a switch you want to refer to its documentation. You might want to check what configuration settings to use or find out the impact of a particular setting. But, Murphy's Law means that the printed documentation is never nearby.

Rather than hunt for it, configuration tools, such as HiDiscovery, include a web interface for switches that will provide you with context-sensitive information that helps you to get your task done quickly and efficiently.

Selecting the Right Switch: Six Must-Have Features

In order to quickly install your industrial Ethernet switches, ensure they have the following six features:

  1. The ability to communicate with them over Ethernet rather than RS232
  2. The use of a simple software tool to configure IP addresses and other attributes
  3. A button in the software tool that makes it easy to identify the switch and label the device
  4. Auto detection of duplicate IP addresses
  5. Integrated documentation and context-sensitive help
  6. A built-in generator of configuration files for industrial protocols

If saving time and doing it right the first time are important to you, be sure to look for managed switches with these capabilities. After all, it could free up some time for you to learn even more about industrial Ethernet networking!

How do you configure your Ethernet switches now? Would the above capabilities help you?

If you'd like to learn more about Network Security in Industrial Ethernet Networks, view our on-demand webinar: " Network Security in Industrial Ethernet Networks."

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