From Apple's latest innovation to a range of new smartphones and onto a neat lightbox, here's the kit we tested in April.
Caption by: Kelvyn Taylor
In a challenging economic climate, products such as D-Link's sub-£100 DES-1100-24 are likely to catch the eye of the canny business buyer. Smart switches are a halfway house between a standard unmanaged switch and fully-managed models, offering some Layer 2 and 3 features but without more advanced capabilities such as SNMP support. Typically, configuration is via a web-based GUI, avoiding the need for complex command-line based tools and making setup easier for less technical users.
The DES-1100-24 is a 24-port 10/100Mbps switch with fairly basic features. It uses a 1U rackmount form factor (mounting brackets are included), but can also be used on a desktop by sticking on the four supplied rubber feet. At the rear is the 240V ‘kettle' cable power input and an earthing point. Ventilation slots along the sides help keep the fanless chassis cool, and it certainly rarely rose above room temperature while we were using it with half a dozen devices. Front ports are arranged in three double-deck groups of eight, with four rows of green status lights and the reset button at the left.
You can plug the DES-1100-24 in and use it as a normal unmanaged switch, but accessing the web configuration interface for the first time is a bit of a fiddle as DHCP is disabled and the IP address is set to 10.90.90.90. As we were cascading it off a router with a DHCP server, we setup a PC in this range, connected it directly to the switch and enabled DHCP to make things easier.
D-Link's SmartConsole utility is supplied on the CD, although this is mainly of use for monitoring fully-managed devices and offers limited configuration options for smart switches, such as manually assigning an IP address. It can also record trap events sent from the switch.
D-Link's SmartConsole utility
The web interface is clear and easy to use, which is always a bonus for this type of device. Unfortunately, there's very little contextual help, so you will need to refer to the decent PDF manual for guidance. The opening screen gives a quick overview of the status and main settings, with hyperlinks to let you quickly drill down to the relevant submenus. A navigation tree sits to the left of the screen.
The web interface for the DES-1100-24 is straightforward
The ability to easily add a degree of control over network quality of service (QoS) is one of the chief attractions of a smart switch, whether it's to limit bandwidth for certain users or to prioritise services such as VoIP. The DES-1100-24 makes it very simple to limit bandwidth (for upstream and/or downstream traffic) on any port, with a simple dropdown selection of the speed limit. A simple two-level 802.1p priority level can be set for each port, and there's a Storm Control setting to limit broadcast, multicast and/or unknown Unicast packets.
The DES-1100-24 makes it very simple to limit bandwidth on any port
VLANs can be created using either 802.1Q parameters or the simpler port-based model. This latter option will appeal to the smaller business as it just entails checking the boxes for the ports for each VLAN — up to 32 entries can be created.
Some useful Layer 2 features are also included, such as Port Trunking, which allows you to aggregate ports in two groups with up to four members each. IGMP Snooping is also supported for more advanced networks. A handy Loopback Detection feature helps prevent problems caused by patch cables being accidentally routed back into the switch, or into a port on another switch.
The Security menu allows control of MAC addresses for attached devices — static MACs can be assigned and MAC learning disabled on a per-port basis, which helps prevent unauthorised device connection. Values can be added manually or via the list of learned MACs from attached devices.
In summary, the DES-1100-24 is very simple to use and configure, which is exactly what you want from a product aimed at the less-technical user — although accessing the web interface for the first time might catch out the unwary. The manual, although well-written, could do with some practical examples for the more complex features such as 802.1Q VLANs. Although it lacks advanced features such as SNMP management, advanced QoS and PoE capabilities, at this price it represents a good budget choice for smaller companies.
Caption by: Kelvyn Taylor