Networking

This mini switch packs in the features

Think small with GigaFast's EZ500-S 5-Port Mini Switch. Tiny enough to fit in the palm of your hand, it packs in all the features you've come to expect from switch technology with the addition of five uplink ports.


Space is a rare commodity these days. Your server rooms—or server closets, as the case may be—are probably littered with keyboards, patch panels, monitors, servers, and other technologies. It seems there is never enough room for all the necessary networking equipment.

That said, often the need to logically link groups of devices together throughout the network poses a challenge. Switches and hubs are favored equipment because they allow many devices to hang off one drop.

So, when a switch comes out that combines all the features of a normal switch with a much smaller footprint, IT pros are bound to take notice. Take note of GigaFast's amazing and tiny EZ500-S 5-Port Mini Switch.

Good things do come in small packages
The EZ500-S Mini Switch is a recent release from GigaFast geared to the SOHO market. With its compact design, a scant .5 inches high by 4 inches wide by 2.5 inches deep, it’s about the size of a tin of Altoids that has been converted to accept network transmissions. With five ports available, there is just enough room for the power outlet in the back. To give you some perspective on just how small this device is, I have included a photo with it stacked on top of a 4-port hub from 3Com (see Figure A).

Figure A
You could easily fit two EZ500-S Mini Switches on top of one 3Com hub.


More than just a small footprint
Switches have to be jacks-of-all-trades when it comes to the changing demands of high-speed networks. Plug and Play capability, uplink ports, and buffer memory are some of the more common features of today's switches. Also, with the many different network configurations out there, switches must accept a wide variety of signal speeds. Given its tiny dimensions, I wondered if the EZ500-S would be lacking in features I have grown accustomed to with switch technology. Table A is a reproduction of the list of features and specifications from the GigaFast Web site and should give you a better idea of the EZ500-S’s capabilities.

FEATURE SPECIFICATION
Standards IEEE802.3 and IEEE802.3u
Network interface Five 100BASE-TX/10BASE-T N-Way ports
Cabling 10BASE-T: Cat. 3, 4, or 5 UTP Cable � 100BASE-TX: Cat. 3, 4, or 5 UTP Cable
Installation Plug and Play
Buffer memory 1 Megabyte
Filter/Forward 14,880 pps/10BASE-T port � 148,800 pps/100BASE-TX port
MAC address table Up to 1 K
LED indicators Link/ACT (Link/Activity), 100 Mbps, FDX (Full Duplex), Power
Certifications FCC Class B/CE Mark
Power supply External power adapter
Operating temperature����� 0 C ~ 40 C
Humidity 5 percent ~ 90 percent
Housing Iron
Dimensions 110 mm x 70 mm x 19 mm
Warranty Three-year limited and free technical support (United States only)

What else does it do?
Much to my surprise, the EZ500-S Mini Switch came loaded with all the standard features plus the bonus of having all ports equipped with autodetect uplink capability. Each uplink port was able to support any switch or hub configuration I could come up with. With this many uplink ports, you can add networking equipment till your budget runs dry without having to invest in other (more expensive) switching equipment.

Noteworthy among its features is its ability to determine whether the client is using a 10- or 100-Mbps connection without having the administrator performing configuration procedures on the switch. Just plug it in, and the switch does the rest. Like most switches today, the EZ500-S comes with "store-and-forward" design built in to improve data transfer by checking packet integrity before sending the packet on. Also, each port is N-Way configured for correct data speed detection.

An important feature of any good switch is stability. A server can go down every once in a while, but a switch is one of those devices you’re not likely to spend a great deal of time troubleshooting. Typically, if a switch goes bad, you just get another one. While I have only had my test version for a couple of weeks, I used it extensively during that time without any degradation in transmission speed. However, if something breaks, the switch is backed by a three-year limited warranty. While it would have been nice to see more display features on the front of the EZ500-S (i.e., collision alert LEDs), I suspect there is just not enough room on the box to support them.

Other offerings
GigaFast offers several SOHO networking solutions with switches ranging from its EZ500-S 5-port Mini Switch to a 24-port VLAN Trunk Switch. I feel the EZ500-S switch could easily integrate into any small-office networking environment. Set up time is negligible, and there is not much to do from a management standpoint. With the same capabilities as its larger brethren, coupled with its small footprint and additional uplink ports, I would strongly recommend this type of switch if you’re on a tight budget and don’t have a lot of office space to spare for networking equipment.

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