What if we told you it was possible to send electricity through an Ethernet cable to power another device or devices? Would you believe us? You should, because that’s exactly what Power over Ethernet (PoE) does. There’s a lot to learn about PoE, including what exactly it is, how it works, and much more. Our experts discuss in detail what you need to know about Power over Ethernet. If you’re searching for more information, we’ve got you covered. Read the guide below to learn everything you’ll need to know about PoE.
What Is PoE and How Does It Work?
PoE is a system in which electricity passes through a twisted pair Ethernet cable. That Ethernet cable then supplies power to powered devices (PD). Powered devices can vary greatly, but common devices include IP cameras, VoIP phones, network routers, industrial control systems, point of sale (POS) systems, and IPTVs. Without the aid of PoE, many of these powered devices would require more cabling, which costs more money and takes more time to install.
There are two primary ways to install a PoE system: a PoE switch or a PoE injector (also called a midspan). Most people would probably opt for the PoE switch merely because it suits almost everyone’s needs with today’s technology. The way a PoE switch works is very simple. In general, you can think of a PoE switch as a standard network switch that has PoE injection. All you’ll need to do is plug devices into the switch and the switch will read if the device is PoE-compatible and provide power as applicable. PoE switches are especially simple to incorporate into large IT setups at companies because they can easily fit into server racks.
On the other hand, we have a PoE injector (or midspan). A PoE injector provides PoE capabilities to non-PoE networks. In other words, if someone has older technology but would like to incorporate PoE into their operations, they could use a PoE injector. Much like the PoE switch, the injectors are completely automated. In other words, you merely need to plug your device into the midspan and the injector will control the electrical supply.
The Different PoE Standards
Although the standard PoE is sufficient most anyone, PoE+ and Ultra PoE are becoming relatively common as well. Unsurprisingly, each level of PoE follows strict guidelines and standards indicated by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (better known as the IEEE). PoE follows the IEEE 802.3af standard which provides up to 15.4W of power. You should note, however, that there’s only 12.95W power available for a powered device because some power diminishes through the cable. PoE+ follows IEEE 802.3at standards where there’s a maximum power output of 30W; similar to PoE, however, there’s only 25.5W power available for a PD. Ultra PoE follows the IEEE 802.3bt standard, but there are two types: type 3 and type 4. Type 3 supplies up to 60W of power but only assures 51W for a PD. Type 4 can supply up to 100W but only assures 71W for a PD. Each PoE standard and type operates the same way, and they vary in operation for the sake of some applications.
The Advantages of PoE
With all this information you may be asking yourself, “so what?” There are several advantages of PoE. First and foremost, it’s extremely easy to install. As we mentioned before, most of the PoE process is automated; all you need to do is plug a switch (or midspan) in and connect the devices. Because installation is so easy, the installation costs are also low. While you could hire a professional IT installer, you can probably install the PoE system yourself. Costs also remain low because PoE hardware is affordable and lasts for many years.
Another benefit of PoE is its safety factor. Not everybody wants to spend the money to install several power outlets throughout their building. To save money, many people may attempt to install outlets themselves, which can get dangerous quickly. Instead, you could simply install PoE systems that have fewer volts than a typical power outlet; you’ll also mitigate a possible hospital bill.
The Disadvantages of PoE
While there are undeniable benefits of PoE, there are a few disadvantages to take into consideration. First, PoE only transmits data over 100m. That said, if you need to send and receive data over longer distances, you’ll need to utilize PoE extenders to maintain optimal performance. You should also consider your current devices that you want to connect with PoE. If you’re primarily using older technology, your devices may not be compatible with PoE switches. If your devices aren’t compatible, you’ll need to look into workarounds such as PoE splitters and PoE injectors. Finally, you need to consider the power necessary to operate your devices. As you saw, each PoE standard provides different power outputs, but you also need to consider the power rate on the PoE hardware. For instance, you may have a 150W switch, but that doesn’t mean each port supplies 150W—the 150W is divided into each port. In other words, if you have 8 ports, then each port is actually supplying up to 18.75W.
Although we’ve covered everything you need to know about Power over Ethernet, you still might be wondering if it’s suitable for you. There’s no clear-cut answer, but if you have several devices that connect via Ethernet, PoE is probably worth looking into. The good news is that PoE is very affordable and easy to install, so it’s always worth a shot. Before you begin investing in PoE hardware, however, you must ensure you’re getting quality equipment. There are a lot of companies out there that claim to have the best PoE products but don’t, so be sure to shop with someone credible.
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