When it comes to your network setup, do you know which is best: PoE switch or non-PoE switch?

Before answering this crucial question, let’s make sure we all understand what a PoE switch is. Short for Power over Ethernet, PoE is the newer technology that delivers power and data over one common line. Specifically, PoE can send as much as 1000 Mbps of data with up to 90W of power to connected devices using Cat5e and Cat6 Ethernet cables as far away as 100m.

You can find two kinds of PoE capable devices today: power sourcing equipment (PSE) and powered devices (PD). Sometimes a device functions as both a PSE and PD. The most common PDs used today include IP cameras, wireless access points, and VoIP phones.

As you might readily surmise, a non-PoE switch only provides data through an Ethernet cable, with a separate power cable required to operate the end device. So once again, let’s return to our opening query: which is best for your network, a PoE switch or non-PoE switch?

At first glance, it sure seems as if a PoE switch offers you lots of advantages over a non-PoE switch, but let’s look deeper at the PoE switch to make certain that is true.

A PoE Switch Overview

An initial glance shows us that reducing the number of cords and cables is clearly an advantage you gain when choosing a PoE switch. But surely there are more benefits than fewer cables over which you may trip. And you would be correct with that assumption, as fewer cables may be the most minor of all benefits when choosing a network setup using PoE switches.

PoE Benefits

In fact, we have uncovered five key benefits that network users realize when selecting a PoE switch setup…

  • Data Collection – PoE technology is ideally suited to gather data and work with the information collected; data identifying unoccupied work areas and shutting down HVAC and LED lighting services is just one cost-saving example of using data dynamically
  • Enhanced Productivity – a little-known but much appreciated extra is packed within the LED-lighting system; by programming the lights to mimic natural frequencies and spectrums occurring in nature, workers enjoy heightened awareness, experience creative surges, collaborate better, and generally work with a greater sense of well-being
  • Improved Responsiveness – as environments change and grow, PoE devices are more readily adaptable to new situations and arrangements; thanks to its plug-and-play capabilities, moving or adding equipment no longer means closing down the network
  • Safer Installations – setting up equipment doesn’t require onsite electricians; because PoE Type-3 voltages run under 60 watts and Type-4 voltages stay below 100 watts conduits and metal claddings aren’t needed, making the connecting and laying of cables safe and simple
  • Save Money – the fact that one twisted cable delivers data and power to devices is the first major savings in cable purchases (existing copper wiring from legacy phone systems work great!); existing legacy devices can also readily connect and integrate with newer PoE networking components through the use of PoE injectors and splitters

PoE Drawbacks

As you know, nothing is perfect in the world of technology, so let’s look at some potential disadvantages of choosing a PoE network…

  • Device Compatibility – not all devices are compatible with PoE switches but often a minor patch in the form of an injector or splitter can solve this issue:
    • Injector – this method connects your PoE-enabled network device to a non-PoE device and supplies the needed power
    • Splitter – supplies power, but splits the power from data and delivers it to the non-PoE device through a separate input device
  • Physical Distance – although power is not restrained by cable length, data transfer is limited to 100 meters, which can constrain operations in larger spaces; fortunately, this limitation can be easily overcome with the use of a PoE Ethernet Extender, where the limit extends to 400 meters, making it more palatable for larger enterprises, campuses, and even large retail shopping malls.
  • Power Rates – the power rates for any PoE device is dependent upon its IEEE 802.3 generation, with four specific power budgets, as follows:
    • 15.4W – accommodates thin clients, biometric access control, and 802.11n (for WLAN communications)
    • 30.8W – supports RFID readers, Video IP phones, and alarm systems
    • 60W – can power laptops, information kiosks, and point of sales systems
    • 90-95W – does the heavy lifting for video conferencing, televisions, high power wireless, and larger computer systems

A closer look at the three most glaring drawbacks also shows solutions to overcome these limitations. For instance, with power rates, it is simply a matter of ensuring you acquire the right power budget for your specific needs.

Finally, for the third and final time, let’s consider the question of which network setup will best serve your business and enterprise needs. Is it a PoE switch or non-PoE switch?

The answer to that broad question is obvious, as you will certainly want to keep pace with technology and its expanding benefits by selecting a network setup that uses a PoE switch.

The truly important question you should be asking yourself, though, is this: Which PoE switch will best serve my tech needs, taking power budgets, compatibility with existing equipment, and physical layout into consideration?

By becoming educated and informed, you are better qualified to answer that question and end up with a network that serves your business demands today and on into the future.

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