SMC TigerSwitch SMC8024L2 review
Gigabit Ethernet’s prices have been dropping steadily over the past few years. It’s now cost-effective for small businesses to extend this technology to the edge of their network and directly to the desktop. At a mere £362 for a full complement of 24 ports, SMC’s latest TigerSwitch brings the cost down to £15 per switched Gigabit port – a price that was unthinkable a year ago.
At this level, you’d expect there to be sacrifices, but in terms of features the SMC8024L2 appears to deliver the goods, as it’s fully manageable via a web browser. Furthermore, along with the two-dozen copper ports, there’s a quartet of SFP transceiver ports for long-distance Gigabit uplinks over fibre-optic cabling. SMC offers 1000BaseSX, LX and LH SFP modules supporting connections up to 70km. A backplane capacity of 48Gb/sec should also be enough to handle the demands of the target market.
For initial installation, you can access the switch’s CLI via its serial port, but there’s no need to as it comes with a predefined IP address on the default VLAN. The web interface is well designed and intuitive, and has a small graphic at the top to show which ports have an active connection. A status screen provides details of the port connection speeds and link status, although the statistics page just offers a tabular overview of general traffic throughput.
At this price, we wouldn’t expect to see much in the way of security, but SMC surprises, as it provides some useful features. You can set up source IP filters to allow only specific devices or address ranges to access a particular port, and you can either deny or allow DHCP servers on a per-port basis as well. The forwarding table can be stopped from learning MAC addresses after a time, so any new systems will be blocked from access. This only blocks dynamically learned MAC addresses, and the switch also has an option for entering up to 24 static MAC addresses, which will override port security. Although SMC calls it an ACL (access control list), this feature is just a means of restricting management access, as you can create a list of up to eight IP addresses or ranges that can configure the switch. There’s more security, as the switch also supports 802.1x port-based authentication. This requires access to a RADIUS server, which manages user credentials. If a user fails this process then the switch will deny access.
A relatively new feature for switches is cable diagnostics. We saw this in Cisco’s entry-level Catalyst 500 and we were pleasantly surprised to find this in the TigerSwitch. Enable diagnostics on your chosen port and the switch will run a quick test to check for link quality and any shorts. It will also attempt to work out the length of the cable. We found it was pretty accurate at this, getting a number of different lengths correct.
The TigerSwitch SMC8024L2 is a real bargain, making it ideal for small business wanting a low-cost but high-speed LAN. The level of features is also extremely good, and the switch offers a decent range of access controls and security measures as well.