Configuring the SG108E requires installing TP-Link's Easy Smart Configuration Utility, shown below, which supports only Windows. I was able to install the utility on both Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 PCs.
As you can see, there are five main configuration menus (System, Switching, Monitoring, VLAN, and QoS). Each of the configuration menus have multiple submenus listed along the left side of the screen, for a total of 21 different configuration screens. The SG108E has a 42 page manual covering its configuration options.
SG108E Config Utility
Configuring the SG2008 is via a web utility, shown below, which is more flexible than having to install an application. (You can also configure the SG2008 via the command line (CLI) using telnet and/or SSH.)
The SG2008 has nine main menus (System, Switching, VLAN, Spanning Tree, Multicast, QoS, ACL, SNMP, and Maintenance). Each menu on the left expands to provide one or more sub menus, which presents one or more configuration tabs across the top of the screen for a total of 87 different configuration screens. The SG2008 has a 153 page manual covering its configuration options.
SG2008 Web GUI
Both switches have a save config option. On the SG108E, it's a little icon in the top right. On the SG2008, there is a Save Config option in the bottom left. You'll want to click save on both switches once in a while so your configs aren't lost in a reboot.
From an overall configuration standpoint, clearly the SG2008 has significantly more configurable features than the SG108E. Let's take a look at some of the common features, as well as the differences.
Both switches support port-based and tagged (802.1q) VLANs. The SG2008 supports up to 512 VLANs, where the SG108E supports 32. Although it sounds cool to be able to carry traffic for up to 512 different VLANs, I'm not sure why you'd need to carry more than 32 VLANs to or through an 8-port switch.
I set up a VLAN trunk from a Cisco SG200-26 switch to the SG108E. The trunk was configured to carry VLAN1 (untagged) and VLAN3 (tagged). Connected to VLAN3 on the Cisco switch was a secondary DHCP server, which provided IP addresses different than the DHCP server on VLAN1. I then set up another port on the SG108E to be a member of VLAN3.
A PC connected to the SG108E port assigned to VLAN3 successfully got an IP address from the secondary DHCP server, validating the SG108E's VLAN tagging capability. A screenshot of my SG108E configs is below.
I used the same scenario to test the SG2008's VLAN tagging capability with similar successful results. As you can see in the screenshot below, port 6 is my trunk port and is a tagged member of VLAN3, while port 7 is a simple access port and untagged member of VLAN3. A PC connected to port 7 on the SG2008, which is assigned to VLAN3, successfully got an IP address from the secondary DHCP server, validating the SG2008's VLAN tagging capability.
The SG2008 also supports a Voice VLAN for automatically placing VoIP devices into a separate VLAN. This feature works by adding the first half of the MAC address of your VoIP device, also known as the Organizationally Unique Identifier (OUI), to the SG2008 OUI Config table. This will enable the SG2008 to discover a VoIP device and add it to the defined VoIP VLAN. (Note to TP-Link, it would be nice to see a configuration example for this feature in the manual or support site.)
One of the things you lose with an unmanaged switch is loop prevention. If someone accidentally creates a switching loop in a network without STP by plugging cables into the wrong port, the whole network can crash until the loop is removed. Spanning Tree Protocol (STP) will detect a loop, automatically shut down one leg of the loop and keep the network running.
Loop detection and prevention is easy to test. I connect a PC to the switch I'm testing and start a continuous ping to the switch. Then, I take an Ethernet cable and plug both ends into ports on the switch. This creates a loop. Without loop detection and prevention, my ping will likely stop due to the loop I introduced. With loop detection and prevention, there should be minimal interruption to the ping.
The SG108E has a loop prevention feature, but it doesn't appear to be STP. I ran my loop test above with the SG108E's loop prevention feature disabled, inserted a loop and the pings started failing as expected. I could see all the port LEDs on the switch flickering rapidly, which can be an indicator of a switch having a problem.
I repeated the loop test with the loop prevention feature enabled (shown below), and the pings continued to work. The port LED for one of the looped ports was slowly blinking, which I'd guess means the port was blocked due to loop detection. Test passed.
SG108E Loop Prevention
The SG2008 supports multiple versions of STP, including Rapid Spanning Tree Protocol (RSTP) and Multiple Spanning Tree Protocol (MST). Below is a screenshot of the SG2008 STP configuration page.
SG2008 Loop Prevention
Enabling STP on the SG2008 is done with two steps. First, enable STP globally on the switch, then enable STP on the switch ports. I missed this second step in my initial testing, which had me believing STP didn't work on the SG2008. TP-Link clued me into the correct steps. (A configuration example in the manual or on line would have been useful.)
I ran my loop test with the SG2008's STP configs disabled, inserted a loop and the pings started failing as expected. With the correct STP configs enabled, I tried the same loop test. The SG2008 correctly blocked one leg of the loop, effectively preventing a loop and maintaining the network. Test passed.