Jun 06 2021

Feedback on Cisco Small Business vs Cisco

Published by at 3:33 pm under Cisco

Cisco vs Cisco Small Business

I asked my reseller a quote for some Cisco Catalyst switches as usual, and he tells me most of his clients buy Cisco Small Business switches. He argues they are much cheaper, have similar performance and features. Checking on some forums, I get no real answers but vague statements like it is not a real IOS or they are entry level switches. I decided to get a few and install them on remote sites with less traffic for a long term test.

Cisco Small Business Look Great …

Prices are around 4 times cheaper than Cisco Catalysts’ and they are under a lifetime warranty (until the last date of support). That means 3 spares for the same price…

I won’t talk about performance, they’re all pretty much the same.

Before I validate the order, I also made sure of a few essentials:
I need a CLI, it’s handy to connect over slow unstable links, or copy and paste some configuration lines. As mentioned earlier, it is not IOS since it is a different product.
It also provides HTTP(s), telnet and SSH access. Note that unlike Cisco Catalyst, Cisco Small business switches accept only one public SSH key.

Common features like VLANs (up to 256, check the datasheet), port mirroring, SNMP protocol are also available.

… Even though They Don’t Offer as much as Cisco Catalyst

SSH key authentication was not available then but it is now. It seems you can configure only one though.

When switching a port from access to trunk mode, you cannot set the trunk settings before changing to trunk mode. This is particularly annoying if you are configuring a remote switch over that link.

I noticed there is a lot less debug commands and levels but that was expected.

I ran into a bug and only one over 2 years. Interfaces were reporting a lot of packets in error.
This was fixed through a firmware upgrade. I noticed there was very few firmware releases on the download page.
Should I be worried about it? Not necessarily.
Cisco Small Business have a smaller amount of features, meaning no bug on features they don’t implement.
It could also mean less reactivity to fix existing bugs, but you get what you’re paying for, don’t you?

Then What?

Cisco Small Business are a really good, cheap alternative to Cisco Catalyst for access network, and proved to be reliable over time and better than a lot of other switches out there on the market. All depends on the features you need, like advanced QoS functionalities, or if you want to stack them for example. I ended up with a mix keeping Catalyst on the main sites and Cisco Small Business for smaller remote sites equipped with PoE wifi access points. The price is really attractive especially when you need Power over Ethernet (PoE) functionality.

A solution in between is also possible: Cisco Catalyst with the LAN Lite image. They cost halt the price of Cisco Catalyst LAN Base but have restrictions on QoS, ACL, or the number of VLANs among others. It is the same hardware with IOS but note you cannot upgrade from LAN Lite to LAN Base. Such a pity

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