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Netgear Adds Features To Unmanaged Switches For SMBs

The company hopes to differentiate its new ProSafe Plus "unmanaged switches" with a few key network monitoring and configuration features, including support for Virtual LANs (VLANs), Quality of Service (QoS), and cable testing.Originally named Unmanaged Plus, the new ProSafe Plus line is designed to support small and midsized companies increasingly reliant on Internet-based applications and Voice over IP (VoIP).

According to Netgear director of SMB product marketing Peter Newton, unmanaged switches are the workhorses of many small-company networks, but they can be hard to debug, don't offer visibility into how traffic flows across the network, and thus don't lend themselves to certain network-intensive uses.

The ProSafe Plus line is intended to solve some of those issues at only a 10% price boost from standard unmanaged switches (or about $10 on a 16-port switch).

Using a graphically based software utility, The ProSafe Plus line uses cable testing features to see if there are faults in the cable infrastructure, and where those faults might be located, in the wall, in the ceiling, or in a nearby room, Newton said.

The traffic prioritization capability lets relatively non-technical administrators give priority to certain types of trafffic or to traffic from certain devices. That can make a big difference in providing consistent Quality of Service (QoS) to VoIP telephony applications.

Adding VLAN or virtual LAN network segmentation abilities lets admins keep specific users away from different assets, most typically so companies can create "guest" LANs that let visitors access the Internet but not proprietary networks and applications.

ProSafe Plus switches add features to unmanaged switches.

Netgear's Newton was careful to say that true managed or smart switches have far more capabilities than the ProSafe Plus line. "Anyone looking for a managed switch would be sorely disappointed" with these devices, he said, because they don't contain support port configurations, trunk groupings, or large numbers of virtual LANs.

But in addition to costing much less than managed switches, the ProSafe Plus line is designed to be plug and play. More to the point, most unmanaged switches don't have any of these features, Newton pointed out.

All the new switches are fan-less for quiet operation in office environments, and share Netgear's "green" power-saving features such as auto power-down and auto cable-length detection that uses lower power for shorter runs.

The ProSafe Plus family includes the Fast Ethernet 16-port FS116E desktop switch ($90 street price) and the 24-port JFS524E rack-mounted switch ($110), both available now. The 5-port Gigabit Ethernet GS105E desktop switch ($70)will ship later this month.

The 24-port JFS524E rack-mounted switch lets you choose between plug-and-lay or a built-in configuration utility.

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