Cisco Small Business SF300-24P review

Price when reviewed

Cisco’s SRW range of small business managed switches has been around since its acquisition of Linksys, but they’re now being replaced by the 300 Series. These have a new design and aim to offer a broader port choice with easier management, better value and support for static L3 routing.

The SF300-24P sits in the middle of a new Fast Ethernet switch family. The switch is 802.3af PoE compliant and increases the port count over competing products: along with 24 Fast Ethernet ports it has a separate pair of Gigabit uplinks plus two more dual personality ports for copper or fibre links.

Installation is more streamlined than previous SRW models as you can use the FindIT IE toolbar utility. This searches the network for all Cisco small business switches, routers, wireless APs, NAS appliances and cameras, and displays them all for easy access.

The main web console provides quick links, with options for changing the switch’s management address, creating VLANs and configuring port settings. A system summary page provides a graphic of the front panel, showing which ports are active.

The switch provides 180W of power for PoE operations, so can support up to 11 devices if they’re all pulling the top 15.4W. Not all devices are this power hungry, though, so you can probably get away with more.

Cisco Small Business SF300-24P

Usefully, you can also assign one of three power priorities to each PoE port, so the switch will shut down non-essential devices first when you do get close to the maximum load. Along with a fine range of QoS features, there are also plenty of security measures, including 802.1x port authentication and extensive IP- and MAC-based ACLs.

Ports designated as protected will only allow connected devices to communicate with those on unprotected ports. This could be useful if you have end users whose security status you’re unsure of.

Cisco’s Green Ethernet features are similar to those offered by the D-Link DGS-1248T and comprise energy detect and short reach modes. The former puts inactive ports to sleep to reduce consumption and fires them up the moment it detects activity. Short reach mode gauges the cable length and will reduce power usage if it’s less than 50 metres, but this feature is only supported on the 300 Series Gigabit models.

Static L3 routing is available on all the new switch models and is enabled via the CLI, where you simply turn it on or off. Once enabled, the switch can route traffic between different VLANs and subnets, avoiding the need to buy a separate router.

The SF300-24P offers a good mix of features that few other switch vendors can match at this price. It doesn’t offer both of Cisco’s Green Ethernet modes but support for PoE adds a lot of value as does static L3 routing and the tough access controls.

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