Wow what a switch! I am in love with the Cisco 300 series Small Business switches. Though I prefer configuring and utilizing the Enterprise Cisco Catalyst 3750 switches due to their extremely high performance, stackability, full Layer 3 capabilities, redundancy options, etc. etc. there is no switch out there, in my opinion, that can compare with the features of the 300 series switches at the price they demand. Besides, not everyone can afford the 3750’s or come up with a reason why they need one in their house.
The Gigabit versions of the 300 series come in a variety of port densities from 10 ports to 28 to 52. The reason for the odd number of ports is because they don’t include the uplink ports as regular switches do. They actually add additional ports for the uplinks, two on the 10 port switch and 4 on the 28 and 52 port ones. The uplinks also include miniGBIC’s for fiber connections alongside the regular Ethernet ports. They come with or without PoE except for the 52 port switch which is the only one that doesn’t offer it. All are also available with or without Gigabit although I personally never sell the 10/100 versions (Note that the 10/100 versions have slightly different port densities).
They have a very solid build and Cisco even includes a limited lifetime warranty that includes next day advanced replacement of the switch as long as it’s still held by the original owner. Most of them are fanless which allows them to be placed in situations where a quiet switch is appreciated. In a lot of the jobs we support, the 10 ports are unfortunately placed in lowboys or cabinets for A/V equipment that didn’t have a home run to the rack area. I say unfortunately because we prefer all of our cables to be wired directly to the rack so that we can limit the amount of switches in a home to improve overall performance and lower the price of the overall system. Being fanless means that the clients never have to hear the equipment while they’re watching TV, listening to music, or just hanging out in their rooms. The larger models with PoE DO have fans though as does the 52 port version.
One of my favorite aspects of this switch is the configuration options. For more novice IT specialists they may be happy to have a Cisco switch that includes a GUI. This one does as do all of the Cisco Small Business line. Prior to the 126.96.36.199 firmware there was also a console option (you could also access via telnet) that would allow one to navigate some of the menus via a menu tree. This was also the only way to change the switch from Layer 2 mode to Layer 3 mode. I’m not a fan of those menus and quite frankly I’m not really a fan of GUI’s either. They are extremely slow and seem to overcomplicate things. Luckily the latest firmware (188.8.131.52) gets rid of the console menu tree and replaces it with a version of Cisco’s IOS! Thank the heavens!!! Now configurations can be done quickly and easily. There is more reporting info, better features, and everything else you’d expect from the CLI versions in the higher cost, enterprise versions of Cisco switches. This has to be my favorite feature of the 300 series switches.
So far I have configured about 60 of these and have them in the field all over the world without a single issue yet. They were my replacement for the Cisco ESW 500 series switches that actually sell for quite a bit more. In fact, I asked Cisco during a meeting why I would sell the 500 series over the 300 series seeing as it seemed to have better specs but was much more cost friendly? Their answer was to give me a free MinoHD flip camera. I guess that says something right there. The only other reason I was given to sell the 500 series over the 300 series was that the former allows the use of the Cisco Configuration Assistant which is a moot point to me if I can use the CLI instead of the GUI (which the 500 series does NOT have). So now I’ve managed to lower the cost of my systems to clients that can’t spend the money on the higher end products (or don’t need to), while still delivering a great product that seems to exceed the capabilities of the previous switch I used in that category.
Here are some of the more advanced features that Cisco lists on their site about the 300 series:
• Strong security features include access control lists (ACLs), guest virtual LANs (VLANs), and other advanced security features to tightly control networks
• IPv6 support allows you to move up to the next generation of networking applications and operating systems without an extensive equipment upgrade
• Quality of service (QoS) on all models prioritizes network traffic to keep critical network applications running at top performance
• Static routing/Layer 3 IP routing between VLANs allows for communicating across VLANs without degrading application performance
Obviously it’s not an Enterprise grade switch but for the cost it is extremely impressive. As far as performance goes the 28 port versions have a switching capacity of 56Gbps and the 52 port versions are at 104Gbps. Did I mention you can configure it from the CLI? I can’t mention that enough as it has greatly reduced my configuration times as well as aided in tweaking systems remotely over very slow connections. All in all this is one of the best switches I have seen and used for the price. To give you an idea of price the 28 port Gigabit PoE model which we sell the most of comes in with a list price of $1,076. That is actually pretty cheap considering what you are getting in comparison to other switches out there. One can also find it online for cheaper and we actually sell them fully configured and integrated into the rest of our systems for about the same. Now if only I could find somebody to sell my last “open box” ESW 500 series switch to. Any takers?