I'm colocating a 1U server next week, and I'm looking for a 5 port or less switch that is reliable. My mobo has two interfaces: one for IPMI and one for the OS, so I need at least a two port switch. I was looking at a netgear desktop switch, but there were reports of it giving out after 6 months, so I'd like to find something more suited for server usage. Any recommendations?
If you are only doing one computer, then a 10/100 is probably all you need since I'd suspect it highly unlikely you will get faster than that to your uplink.
If you are planning to maybe have more physical computers, then your port requirements will probably grow: inside/outside interfaces, management interfaces, maybe a firewall... you can exhaust 8 ports pretty quickly in these situations. Even then, I suspect for most applications you will do OK with a 10/100.
A reasonable 8-port Gb switch which I recommend and use in several locations is the Linksys SRW2008 8-port manageable switch. Does VLANs and snmp counters and has a reasonably good web interface for managing it. The only drawback for rack installation is that it has a separate power brick (like a desktop switch does) that can be tricky to install in the rack neatly. However a little determination and judicious use of zip-ties can solve a lot of problems like these.
I've also used, and liked, the 24-port Linksys SRW224 (and 224P) switches. These are 24x10/100 and 2xGb. I believe they have been replaced by SRW 224-G4 (and 224-G4P) which have 4xGb instead of just two.
When it comes to larger managable Gb switches, we usually spring for Dell PowerConnect 5424 (or are they 5524 now?) or 5x48 switches, as they have been reliable, if pricey, fully managed switches.
However, all that said in my experience the #1 killer of desktop switches is heat, usually because the switch is on some other heat source (ie a computer, monitor, printer... whatever) and isn't adequately ventilated. If you can position a desktop switch that you can package neatly such that it isn't being cooked, you would probably get a fair bit of mileage out of it.
Your idea to get something more robust than a desktop switch is a solid one. You're already spending the money on the colo; it won't cost much to get a decent rackmounted switch.
The big thing you want is a managed switch. Managed switches are smarter than regular desktop switches, and give you more flexibility. You can log in to a managed switch via ssh or a web interface to do things like turn ports on and off or see which ports are in use. Typically you can also gather statistics from a managed switch via SNMP, which can be important when you want to look at your network utilization.
And of course a rackmount switch is tidier than just dropping a desktop switch in your cabinet. It's always good to keep your calbes organized.
I think the smallest managed switches are generally 8 ports. I would say any basic 8-port gigabit managed switch from one of the major vendors would be fine. I've used Cisco and HP switches extensively and have had good luck with them. At this level you probably won't use many of the more advanced switch features so I wouldn't worry too much about which particular model you buy. You should definitely look on ebay for a used switch too.
I'd suggest a Juniper SRX100 for that. It's not just a 10/100 switch, but it's also a router, stateless firewall, and it has VPN capabilities. This will (at a minimum) allow you to limit who can access your IPMI.
One nice thing about the Juniper line is they all run the same OS, from this SRX100 all the way up to the chassis based switches.