Today, there are enterprise-grade routers and network access points for every size business, large and small. Ten years ago, business networking products were solely aimed at large enterprises, but now there's an impressive range of low-cost options that are perfect for organizations looking to build their first unified communications network.
Gigabit Ethernet switches with twelve ports, or fewer, are specifically intended as low-priced "entry level" platforms, at an affordable price. Today, we wanted to give you a breakdown of the Gigabit switches that pack a punch to help you find the best Ethernet switch for your business.
But first, there's one question to answer:
Do You Want Power-over-Ethernet?
PoE is a newer standard in Ethernet switching that allows electric power to be transmitted alongside the data. The upshot is this allows your access points to function using only one cable, rather than having separate wires for power and data.
The entry-level Gigabit Ethernet switches we'll cover here come in both PoE and non-PoE variations that are otherwise identical, besides PoE adding around $200 to the price tag. In the grand scheme, that's usually $200 well-invested. However, of course, budget constraints may influence this decision.
Comparing Brands Offering Entry-Level Gigabit Ethernet Switches
You actually have a surprising number of choices at the entry level. Largely, the choice boils down to what the brand offers, since switches are generally quite similar in terms of functionality.
1 - Cisco
Cisco actually has one of the most affordable entry-level switches. Their SG300-10 offers 10 ports and gigabit throughput, at an asking price of $319. Unfortunately, it's also only a Layer 2 switch, which requires a router to determine the packet destinations.
On the other hand, Cisco has a spin off brand known as Meraki, which offers combined hardware and Cloud software solutions. The Meraki MS220-8 is the most expensive entry-level switch on the market - starting at $1040 for 8 ports - but that also comes with a year-long subscription to Cisco's cloud services.
The Meraki switch line has a lot to offer a business that wants to shoot for success, but you will be paying for the privilege, especially if you continue to use their cloud services.
2 - ADTRAN
ADTRAN has specialized in affordable hardware that offers performance comparable to Cisco's, but at much lower prices and with easier-to-use software. Their customer support is also genuinely excellent: you rarely find poor reviews of ADTRAN's service.
Priced at $359 MSRP, we find the ADTRAN NetVanta 1531 to be the best entry-level value in the industry. It's a 12-port Layer 3 Lite gigabit switch, meaning it can handle basic IP-based packet routing without the need for a router or dedicated server. This is normally a requirement for VLAN's and VoIP phone system deployment. It also comes with ADTRAN's own excellent AOS software accessed by GUI or CLI. The switch is ready to go, with minimal or no programming needed out of the box. Lifetime Warranty, with no subscription requirements. Buy it once and it's yours for life. Notice that the other switches on this list are 8 and 10 ports. This is the only 12 port switch, and what we find to be the best option for the feature set and money per switch port.
3 - Avaya
Starting at $795 for their 3510GT 8-port gigabit switch, Avaya isn't the cheapest brand on the entry-level market.
Avaya switches offer instant plug-and-play recognition and configuration for their VoIP phone systems, making them a good choice for businesses with a lot of telephones to roll out.
4 - Netgear
While generally known for its consumer products (getting more traction in the Enterprise space), the Netgear 4100 LL3 switch is the most inexpensive pathway into PoE on this list. With a starting list price of $280, it's literally half the cost of most other low-end PoE switches.
Since there are a lot of customers looking to save money, Netgear 4100 creates a compelling low-cost method of getting into PoE. Just compare those specs with the brands that you are used to buying or ask for a demo.
There are a lot of options out there in small business networking, and we're here to help. If you've got too many choices, we'll make your decision easy!
Is there a switch that's not listed that should be? Let us know below!