Netgear ProSafe GS724TR review
When it comes to managed Ethernet switches virtually all vendors offer basic, low cost L2 products or high cost, highly featured models with full L3 routing. Netgear’s latest GS700 family of ProSafe switches targets the middle ground as it offers simpler routing features with support for 32 static routes. The aim here is to provide smaller businesses with inter-VLAN routing, traffic management, basic security features and QoS for apps such as VoIP and video conferencing.
The GS724TR offers 24 copper Gigabit ports and a pair of SFP ports for long range fibre uplinks. Unlike vendors such as HP which go down the dual personality route the SFP ports are separate so using them won’t lose the corresponding copper port. The switch doesn’t have a serial port for CLI access is it’s completely web browser managed and physical and virtual stacking aren’t supported.
Installation is a breeze as if the switch can’t find a DHCP server its management VLAN defaults to a predefined fixed IP address. Either way it’s easy to locate on the network as Netgear’s SmartWizard utility finds the switch for you and provides access for changing the IP address or going straight to the well designed web interface.
The static routing feature is aimed at small businesses that have a central router handing all LAN traffic as well as Internet access and security. Performance can be improved by adding a GS700 series switch configured with static routes allowing it to handle inter-VLAN traffic thus removing this task from the main router. VLANs are easy enough to create where you select member ports and decide individually whether traffic passing through each one should be tagged or untagged. VLAN routing is helped along nicely by a wizard which asks for a VLAN ID and name, an IP address for the routing interface and port members.
One VLAN can be designated as a separate voice VLAN which will handle traffic from IP phones. These are identified by their OUI (organisationally unique identifier) which is simply the first 24 bits of their MAC address. OUI lists for common vendors including 3Com, Cisco, Avaya and Siemens are already provided but it’s easy enough to add extra entries. When an OUI matching your list is spotted, the packets from this device will be transmitted over the voice VLAN where a class of service is applied
There’s plenty of security on offer which includes support for external RADIUS servers plus 802.1x port based authentication and users that are unable to authenticate can be placed in a guest VLAN as determined by the RADIUS server. Traffic controls allow MAC and IP address filters to be applied to specific ports whilst locks can be used to limit the number of addresses a port may learn. You can also designate protected ports where traffic will not be passed between those that have this assignation regardless of VLAN membership.
During testing we found the switch easy enough to use although considering the target market, the manual could provide more enlightenment on a number of key functions possibly with some example configurations. Even so, SMBs that want more than a basic L2 switch but don’t need full routing capabilities will find the GS724TR well worth considering as it offers plenty of useful functions at a price the big names won’t be able to match.