During my trip to MWC in Barcelona this year, I was made aware of Netgear’s new Insight switches. This is a new range of switches aimed at the SMB market that offers intelligent management of your network in a similar manner to the popular Ubiquiti products or the expensive but fantastic Meraki range of hardware which is owned by Cisco.
If you are not aware of those brands and what this class of networking hardware does then it aims to simplify networking hardware deployment by managing everything under one hood. If you have multiple Insight products, each device knows what is connected to it and you can use a mobile app to manage them all in one place.
This will have advantages for anyone with multiple devices, but the larger the network gets, the more time and money you can save. With one POE switch and 3 POE access points you can, in theory, deploy the network in a matter of minutes all within an app, compared to what could be hours if you were to set-up each device manually. A network admin can then manage the network completely remotely, so with a company that has multiple locations, or a 3-rd party network admin you can fix network issues on the fly without a site visit.
Unlike other brands, there is no need for a cloud controller or a paid subscription.
At the moment there is a small but growing range of Insight devices. On the switch side of things it starts off with the 8 port + 2 SFP GC110 switch which can be normal or POE, then GC510P which is the same but PoE+. The switch options top out at the GC728XP which is a 28-port PoE+ 4 10G SFP+ switch.
There is then an option of 2 wireless access points with the WAC505 and WAC510.
Thanks to a recent Amazon Business promotion I managed to pick up the Netgear GC110P for £111.99 but it costs £161.99 typically, the switch without POE costs £107.99.
This is about triple the price of the Netgear GS108Tv2, so it is a relatively large investment, but not really the same product comparison. A better comparison would be the UBIQUITI US-8-60W UniFi which costs £116.49 from Amazon, but if you want all the functionality, you need the cloud controller which costs £68.36. You can save money by installing the free Cloud Controller software on a device like the Raspberry Pi3, though this is another set-up step, its good for home users, it is something that business is wanting to avoid if they are thinking about devices like these.
The access points cost £86.99 and £98.22 for the WAC505-10000S and the WAC510. The switches appear to have the same WiFi spec but the WAC510 has 2 ethernet ports, once being POE compatible. They both offer Multi-User MIMO with aggregate speeds up to 1.2 Gbps. Sadly, these do not support a mesh networking option, but using WDS, you can get something similar.
Netgear has a range of NAS products that are also compatible which include the ReadyNAS 2000, 3000 and 4000 Rackmount Series and ReadyNAS 420, 520 and 620 Desktop Series that run ReadyNAS OS 6.0 or newer
Sadly, as I am poor, and I paid for this myself, I am only reviewing the GC110P with my existing hardware which is not Insight based. I hope Netgear may lend me some of the other hardware and which will allow me to review the Insight features thoroughly. Alternatively, I may end up investing in the access points myself.
Design and Build
Using the GC110P in a home environment I was happy that it uses a fanless design, it uses a pleasant all white metal casing. You can’t make a switch good looking, but Netgear has made it as nice as possible. Within the packaging, you get the usual wall mounting screws which will help make a neat installation.
The switch has the power port on the front on the device along with all the ports which can lead to things being a little messy depending on how you like it set up.
You can manage the switch in two modes, a traditional browser-based mode or via the Insight App. For some reason, you can only control things using one method, so if you have Insight enabled, you can only manage the switch via the App, and vice versa. The PC browser option means that you can only manage things locally, and when you log-in locally when Insight is enabled you can easily switch over management options. So if you are on-site, you may find it easier to handle things via a browser.
This is the option I went with initially so that I can check things were up and running as quick as possible. The web interface is very similar to the budget smart switch GS108Ev3 but just with a lot more options and features.
I will admit, a lot of the features go beyond what I need and understand. Apart from the POE and future Insight management possibilities the key features that I will/may implement are Link aggregation (LAG) and VLAN. I already have 2 Cisco SG 200 switches that support LAG and I will likely set up LAG on my main PC and Server – it probably won’t have a huge benefit in my small user environment as I believe LAG doesn’t double the speed for a single user, but it should at least help with speeds when more than 2 of us are accessing data on the server.
At the moment my CCTV cameras are on the same network as everything else, which is not ideal, so I plan to put these on there own VLAN. The switch also has an Auto-Video Configuration option which appears to help simplify video surveillance configurations.
Pretty much all managed/smart switches have some form of port diagnostics, and it is a feature I love, it makes diagnosing issues with the network much more straightforward. The GC110P has useful cable testing features allowing you to see if and where there is a fault on a cable.
Overall, the browser system is thorough, it should have more than enough features for most SMBs
Netgear Insight App
The Insight app uses a MyNETGEAR login, so if you already have Arlo or other products, the login is the same. If you don’t you will be required to sign up; they have very annoying password policies which always irks me with apps.
The insight app will detect all Netgear smart switches, which includes the cheaper GS108Ev3 that I use. You get limited support of the device but it helps build up a view of your network, and you can see the IP addresses of these so you can then quickly log in to manage them.
The Inside App is very slow to detect devices, and it found my two GS108Ev3 switches before the Insight switch. I ended up getting so impatient with the auto scan I had to manually add the GC110P. You can do this via QR code, barcode or serial number. The first 2 times it wouldn’t add via QR code or barcode, and it eventually decided to work on my last go with the QR.
Once added I find the app very slow to update the status of the switches. If you have the device in PC mode, it will appear offline in the list, and there is no way to switch it to app mode in the app itself. So, if you do some management via the browser don’t forget to change it back.
Even with the device in app mode, I found issues with communication. It would see that it is online, but when you go into the device, it will often say communication issues following the initial configuration. I had to hard reboot it via the power switch and wait for everything to reload before the app and switch started talking to each other properly.
You don’t get the extensive list of options you do with the web interface, though I imagine this would get confusing. You do have access to all the essential stuff though, especially when it comes to remote support. You can manage the VLANS, see all the connected devices, configure ports, diagnose port issues and run cable tests. If the switch goes down, or just losing cloud access, you get a push notification and an email.
The Android Insight app does have decent reviews but looking at the most recent there are a lot of 1-star reviews, quite a few of the comments appear to reflect my issues. I wouldn’t personally give it a 1-star but there are glitches with using Insight. While this is annoying for me, it is something that would not be acceptable in a business environment, the whole point of these devices is to reduce management, and glitchy apps can potentially increase the work required.
Looking at Amazon, some of these issues have been documented there as well.
The Netgear Insight range of devices has enormous potential, it is competitively priced with Ubiquiti, though not cheaper. The switch has a vast amount of functionality and managing things via the browser is simple, if you understand what all the options do.
The Insight app has the potential to be amazing; it allows you to manage everything remotely in a beautiful simple to use app. All the features in the app are simple enough for users with basic networking knowledge to understand. I also like the way that it works with existing Netgear products, so if you have already invested in the cheaper Netgear smart switches and want to upgrade, you can do so without replacing everything at once.
However, the App has some issues it can be slow detecting things and sometimes struggles to connect with the switch at all. These don’t ruin the device for me, but it is a serious cause for concern for any Network admin managing dozens of devices.
I think I will keep the device so that I can test it further, and if I can get my hands on an access point, it will allow me to test the management features further. For small networking environments, this is a decent switch, but I would say for the time being Ubiquiti may prove to be the better option as it has been established for a long time, though not a perfect system itself.
NETGEAR GC110P-100UKS Insight Switch Review
Product Name: NETGEAR GC110P-100UKS Insight