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Finding the SG300 range of switches was a real stroke of luck. I’d been wanting to find an affordable layer-3 switch to mess about with VLANs in my home lab for ages. There are plenty of enterprise class Cisco switches available on ebay quite cheaply. Unfortunately the affordable ones tend to be 100MBit and usually are enormous things with a massive number of ports, very loud fans, and probably an enormous electricty bill to go with them.

I couldn’t believe it when I discovered the Cisco SG300 switches. They provide full layer-3 VLAN capability, a modicum of IOS compatibility, silent operation and low power comsumption (the lower port number switches are silent anyway. The ones with a lot of ports do come with fans).

The switch is available in a range of configurations up to 48 ports with or without POE (power over ethernet). You can see details at Cisco's SG 300 web page.

I have an SG300-10 and an SG300-20 model without PoE capability.

The SG300-10 model provides 10 full 1GBit ethernet ports plus two SFP ports which are shared with ports 9 and 10. If you use the SFP ports you cannot use ethernet ports 9 & 10. The two SFP ports can be used with LC fibre when fitted with MGBSX1 Compatible 1000base-SX SFP transceivers (I use Linksys transceivers that I found on Ebay).

The SG300-20 model provides 20 full 1GBit ethernet ports plus two SFP ports which are shared with ethernet ports 19 & 20 in the same way as the SFP ports on the SG300-10. They are compatible with the same MGBSX1 transceivers as the SG300-10.

The SG300-10 is a small unit about half the width of a rack. The SG300-20 is rack width and comes supplied with rack mounting brackets.

Round the back of the sturdy metal cases you will find a DB9 RS-232 serial console port which can be used with a terminal emulator to get you out of trouble if you fubar the configuration (which is easily done if you’re messing with VLANs and the layer-3 functionality). The console commands will be familiar to anyone who has come across Cisco switches before. They’re exactly the same, although only a subset of the IOS commands available on the expensive enterprise gear. The serial console port will work perfectly through a USB to DB9 adapter cable if your PC or laptop doesn’t have a serial port. I use a USB serial adapter from “Plugable”  (reviewed elsewhere on this site). The switches come supplied with an RS-232 extension cable.

It is worth noting that the switches are delivered in “layer-2” mode. You have to configure it for “layer-3”. If you do this, however, it is like performing a factory reset so you must switch to layer-3 as the very first thing you do before configuring anything else or you will lose all your other settings.

The web interface is excellent, giving easy access to all the configuration settings. You don’t have to use the web interface as all the configuration functions are available from the command line interface from the serial console or via ssh.

Review of Cisco SG300-10 & SG300-20 Gigabit Managed Layer 3 Switches Professional grade switches for a very reasonable price. (Rating: 10/10)

Larger versions of this switch are also available from 20 port to 52 port.. There are also Power Over Ethernet (PoE) versions of all of the models in this range.

The larger switches in this range do have fans and are not particularly quiet as they’re intended for rack mounting in a server room.

The switches come supplied in Layer 2 mode and must be set up for Layer 3 operation.

Easily managed via command line or built-in web management interface.

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