Alright it’s time to start the age old debate between the two schools of network admins. The debate has been raging for some time now. Should you manually set both the speed and duplex settings on a switch port, or allow auto negotiation to make the settings for you. I certainly do favor one side of this argument, and I don’t want to pretend that I am none biased on this topic. I do want to take a quick look at both sides of this argument.
Manually setting the settings do have some benefits, for starters you know that all switch ports are set a specific way and have total control of the entire environment. Another benefit, there is no chance a port could negotiate to something other than what you set. One of the drawbacks here is that the entire environment needs to be managed by the administrator, every network interface from the workstations, to the server’s NICs need to be configured exactly the same way. A second drawback is that all the NIC cards and devices are set to auto negotiation rather than manual, this causes an administrator to touch every device. There is also the chance for typos missing this command in any location anywhere at all can cause issues. This solution is used often in edge network gear, so just be aware of the settings each device are using and make 100% sure that they match. One other item of note is when either side is manually configured the auto crossover settings are disabled, so in situations where a switch port auto detected and adjusted the pin out will not work in this instance.
Auto negotiation has some benefits also, for one all devices come this way out of the box, it requires no additional settings. As earlier mentioned Auto crossover settings on switch ports do work when ports are not manually configured. The chances of errors here are much lower, given that everything is automatically configured. Another point is when changing ports or devices from one speed to another and upgrades to gigabit go much smoother. There is a slight chance of the ports negotiating to the wrong setting. This is also the recommended by the book setting per cisco, in the newer text books. As for the Gigabit standard, it was designed from the ground up to work with auto negotiation.
In my experience manually setting the switch ports have caused more problems than fixed. A single miss configuration anywhere can cause issues, and tracking down that incorrect setting can take time, and the management of all the devices adds a lot of overhead to network management. I am sure that I missed a lot of important arguments on both sides, and I did say my stance was not bias free. I must also admit there are instances where both have valid uses. Truly my biggest argument against the manually setting the switch ports, is the amount of time you have to spend managing everything that could be auto managed.
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