No matter where your organization is on the path of adopting industrial Ethernet, it is likely that unmanaged switches play a role in directing traffic on your network. Perhaps your team waited for the early adopters of Ethernet to iron the kinks out or you recently invested in your first system because of supplier or management demands.

On the other hand, you may have a robust industrial Ethernet infrastructure that has unmanaged switches on its fringes or in smaller networks.

In any of these scenarios, ease-of-use and low cost were likely the factors that led to the selection of unmanaged switches.

I am writing today to let you know about a new category of industrial Ethernet switches, lightly managed switches. These devices offer the same simplicity as unmanaged switches and are very reasonably priced – but with additional features that make sure your networks are running at peak performance.

Reasons to Consider Lightly Managed Industrial Ethernet Switches

Once you start using Ethernet in your designs and you add a few nodes to your network you may notice behavior that piques your concern or curiosity. You’d like to get more information, but you are limited because unmanaged switches do not make it available.

Similarly, you may feel constrained because:

  • You want to implement redundancy to reduce downtime, but can’t do it with unmanaged switches.
  • You are worried that the unused ports on some of your switches are a security risk.
  • You need to accommodate one of the myriad of industrial Ethernet protocols in your infrastructure.
  • Your network is growing in size and sophistication and you need better monitoring and diagnostics.

Moving up from an unmanaged to a lightly managed switch is like getting a better burger for a slightly higher price.

The Benefits of Lightly Managed Industrial Ethernet Switches

Unmanaged switches provide a very basic level of functionality – essentially, they let you connect various Ethernet devices together. That’s it. They work "out-of-the-box," with little or no configuration needed.

Lightly managed switches, on the other hand, offer similar simplicity with added capabilities:

  • They allow you to monitor some tasks remotely, such as checking the health of your network or troubleshooting issues.
  • They permit you to turn off unused ports so that someone can’t connect and accidentally (or intentionally) cause harm to your network.
  • They enable you to implement some industrial protocols, as well as redundancy schemes.

In particular, diagnostics and redundancy are key capabilities as they directly contribute to better network performance and uptime.

Lightly managed switchesprovide simple network management and easy configuration via a web interface. An example is our new Hirschmann lightly managed switch.


This new Hirschmann lightly managed switch is simple to use plus it provides diagnostics and redundancy capabilities.

Make Sure Your Lightly Managed Switch is Industrially Hardened

If you are considering migrating to lightly managed switches, this would be a good time to revisit the environmental requirements of your network hardware.

Many users of unmanaged switches procure commercial-grade hardware that is prevalent because these switches are widely used in homes. However, most industrial installations operate in stressful environments, such as extreme temperatures or high electrical noise, which can shorten the life of devices that are not hardened.

Thus, be sure to specify industrial-grade lightly managed switches as you migrate to avoid costly downtime in the future.

Lightly Managed Industrial Switches for Improved Uptime and Performance

Whether you're in the early stages of adopting industrial Ethernet or you now need to better manage devices on the edge of your network, migrating from unmanaged to lightly managed switches offers many benefits. It allows you to better monitor networks performance, achieve higher uptime and improve security with just a small investment.

Do you see a role for lightly managed switches in your industrial networking solution? I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Download the white paper "The Case for Specifying Industrial Ethernet Cable for Harsh Environments"

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