Posted on Leave a comment

How to Choose Proper PoE Switches to Build an SMB Network System?

Small to medium-sized businesses(SMBs) tend to apply network switches to build LAN(Local Area Network) for efficient data share and transfer. To achieve advanced network installation and security, PoE switches have become more and more prevalent to function. Among a plethoara of PoE switches available in the market, selecting the proper one to fit your business greatly is difficult, here we are going to explain what is PoE switches and give some useful information that aims to help you choose the right PoE switches for specific businesses.

What is a PoE Switch?

A Brief Review of Power over Ethernet(PoE)

To figure out PoE switches, it’s better to learn the basics of PoE technology. PoE, aka Power over Ethernet, as its name implies, it enables power to be transmitted over an Ethernet cable. That being said, thanks to PoE technology, Ethernet cable can carry both power and networking data over a single cable simultaneously. As a result, the installation of network devices can be simplified dramatically along with high flexibility and increased security. PoE technology now is widely applied to meet various applications, including IP cameras, VoIP phones, wireless access points, etc.

Normal Network Switch VS. PoE Network Switch

A PoE switch is the advanced version of a normal network switch that comes with PoE capability integrated. PoE switches allow effective communications among connected devices(network clients), and do the work of supplying power to the edge devices via the same Ethernet cable. While the traditional type, normal network switches, or non-PoE switches can only satisfy data transmission among devices. To sum up, the difference between these two versions of network switches is their PoE accessibility, simply put, it is their way to be powered, and how they influence the way of the connected edge devices are powered.

The Importance of PoE Switches in SMB Network Setup

The reasons why small to medium-sized businesses utilize PoE switches come in a variety. PoE switches do show their importance in simplifying networking setup and enhancing network system security to some extent.

PoE technology, as above mentioned, it uses a single Ethernet cable to deliver power and data for the edge devices at the same time. That means there is no need to deploy or find additional standard power outlets granting power sources for the edge devices. This is truly a great implement to save cost on the electric cabling like wires materials and electrician employment. Besides, Power can be centralized for easy management and effective monitoring.

Moreover, it eliminates the rigid requirement to get an electrical outlet present around the edge devices, it help reduce installation difficulty for devices mounting on places were hard to touch, such as ceilings. More importantly, PoE features low voltage installation, it ensures safety in the process of installation and future maintenance and replacement.

Do you Know the Types of PoE Switches?

Before diving into the detailed purchase guide, it is essential to know the types of PoE switches, and which type to choose from. Based on the level of management and control on the network, it can be categorized into three types, namely, unmanaged PoE switches, smart managed PoE switches as well as managed PoE switches.

Unmanaged PoE Switches

Unmanaged PoE switches are the basic type with the simplest installation requirement of SMB networking. These switches also called plug-and-play PoE switches, offer fixed configuration on network management, which is an ideal choice for small businesses that only desire a basic PoE network in action.

Smart Managed PoE Switches

Smart managed PoE switches, also named hybrid PoE switches, are mediate types by providing simple configuration on the web browser management interface. You are able to have fundamental management and control of the network. It can meet the needs of small businesses with a certain spare budget.

Managed PoE Switches

Managed PoE switches are the top-notch type, they are generally meant to give you full management of the network to get great performance and higher security. Managed PoE switches come with more features for building a network with customization.

You have control over the bandwidth of each port of the connected devices to keep the prioritization for crucial applications. With the help of managed switches, you are capable of drawing a network with optimal performance by means of functions like VLAN and Port Aggregation.

And it is a reality to help IT managers monitor networks and fix issues like network failures without the need for a physical presence on-site, but only get these problems resolved remotely. Furthermore, using managed PoE switches, with proper configurations, it is able to build a network with powerful redundancy to obtain fast automatic recovery when the network stops.

Key Factors to Consider in PoE Switches Purchasing 

Let’s go back to the core to provide some information to help select the proper PoE switches for small to medium-sized businesses. In purchasing, there are a number of key factors that suggest being taken into account.

Network Speed

The data rate or network speed of a PoE switch can largely determine how fast the edge device networking data is transmitted. A matched network speed definitely can help solve frustrating experiences of severe latency on data transmission, especially referring to work productivity and efficiency.

PoE switches serve fast Ethernet(10/100Mbps) networks and Gigabit(1 Gigabit) networks in the commonplace. Generally, 10/100Mbps PoE switches can meet most applications for small businesses, but with the ever-increasing development, applications tend to consume more bandwidth due to their enhanced performance, such as IP HD cameras, WiFi 6 access points, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, for businesses with higher demands on bandwidth, it’s wise to opt for PoE switches support gigabit network, or even the ultra 10 Gigabit model can also be employed.

Port Density

Since PoE switches are designed with a different number of ports. Another critical thing to consider is to have a clear mind on how many ports are needed to fit specific SMB networks.

This mainly depends on the size of your businesses, therefore you should know how many wired devices used Ethernet connectivity, that said, a calculation for all the wired devices is a necessity. Devices include computers, printers, access points, and other devices that need to plug into the PoE switches. In general, the supported port of PoE switches varies from 5 to up to 48 ports. It is highly recommended to reserve several ports as spare ports for growing needs.

Power Consumption

Figure out connected powered network devices and making a sophisticated calculation of the required total power budget are of great importance to guarantee uninterrupted data transmission without concerns of power or signal loss.

Standard PoE switches comply with different IEEE802.3 standards and supply varied output power, and so do the powered devices in practice. IEEE802.3at supplies power out limited to 15.4W, IEEE802.3af gives a maximum output power of 30W, and the IEEE802.3bt allows up to 100W power output. It can easily find the power consumption of applications through specifications, and which standard to choose from basically can tell from the devices require the maximum power to function.

PoE switches also come with different total power budgets. Starting a careful calculation on all the connected devices is the most direct and effective way to determine how much power budget is needed.

PoE Compatibility 

Typically, PoE switches work with PoE switches and connect PoE-capable devices, but it depends on specific situations. For those who might use PoE switches to work for some non-PoE devices or someone who desires to keep their existing network switches(non-PoE switches) and integrate PoE switches, it is imperative to focus on the PoE compatibility of PoE switches.

In fact, it is just about two related questions, namely, Can PoE switch be used to connect non-PoE devices? Can PoE switches work with the non-PoE switches? The answer is positive.

Standard PoE switches feature PoE detection or power handshaking, it is a protection mechanism by sending a small amount of power to the connected devices, once the PoE switches detected that a non-PoE device is connected, the switch only releases networking data without electric power.

As to the latter question, it can be explained in this way, PoE switches are generally equipped with uplink ports to connect with non-PoE switches, the so-called LAN switches. Thus, it is not a problem to mix PoE switches and non-PoE switches within the same network.

Deployment Location

Where to place or the way to mount the PoE switches is related to the proper purchase. Paying no attention to the deployment location, PoE switches have a high potential to serve shorter usage life or encounter problems constantly.

Where to place, indicate the deployment environment, which can be indoor or outdoor, well-conditioned places or tough places. To better suit the realistic applications, PoE switches can be classified into commercial-grade, industrial grade, hardened grade, and outdoor type. They are practically made from different housing or component with different levels of resistance to extreme temperatures, bad weather, or other physical elements that may cause damage.

The way to mount, literally, PoE switches with different mounting options offered, such as desktop mounting, rack mounting, wall mounting, pole mounting, din-rail mounting, etc. It is advisable to make clear which point to place the switches and how to mount them. For instance, if you think it is more rational to mount on ceilings or walls, then you need to focus on those support wall mountings. For industrial uses, din-rail mounting is a common requirement.

Technical Help

PoE switches as backbone hardware for SMB networking, certainly, you should verify the capability of technical support supplied by the company of the PoE switches that are ready to buy. There is no denying that the more support can be gained from the sellers, the less hassle for the installers. Let alone technical help is a reflection of the strength of the sellers to some extent.

Future Expansion

Considering that the PoE switches are used for SMB networking, owing to the growth of businesses in size or the change of company orientations as time goes on, the need for more ports, high bandwidth, or greater management and security, might be increased. In the current purchase of PoE switches, it’s a considerable solution to think about the provision of future expansion. Additionally, standard PoE switches can work with most network switches available in the market is also important to reduce hassles of incompatibility in future integration.

Pure Copper Cable

In the purchase of PoE switches, the consideration of the Ethernet cable that use to connect switches and edge devices is a worth-including factor to bear in mind.

Choosing pure copper cable is an effective way to reduce power loss in line, as Ethernet cable is a copper-based cable, part of the power will be transferred to heat and loss. To maintain sufficient power or a higher utilization rate of power in the transmission, picking up the pure copper Ethernet cable, like Cat5e, Cat6 is the right decision although it costs more.

Surge Protection

Surge Protection can be easily ignored but it is useful in practical uses of PoE switch networking, especially for businesses located in places that experience a higher frequency of lightning weather. A large amount of surge occurs through the link when there is lightning. Putting surge protectors on your checklist in the purchase can save lots of hassle and unnecessary investment.

How to Choose PoE Switches to Meet Different Applications?

From what was mentioned previously, we know that PoE switches are commonly used for various applications, in fact, picking up PoE switches to meet different applications, although should purchase based on the above-discussed principles similarly, but still except slight differences. Below are listed a few applications that are widely used in small to medium-sized businesses.

PoE Cameras

PoE cameras have become an optimal choice for businesses to build IP surveillance to obtain peace of mind and ensure normal operation.

Buying PoE switches to connect PoE cameras or the whole IP surveillance system, it is important to calculate all the devices ready to connect, never forget the computers and NVRs, and consider whether there is the possibility to add more cameras or systems in the near future around the same range. Take PoE switches equipped with 8 ports instead of 4-port, or choose 24-port instead 16-port, and so on.

Generally, the fast Ethernet(10/100Mbps) PoE switches can well suit IP surveillance video data transmission. HD cameras consume around 25Mbps, and even the ultra type 4K cameras only need around 10Mbps network speed.

Small scale IP surveillance system basically won’t demand for the managed type. There are not so many cameras that need to be monitored and managed.

If you have interest to know more about how to build IP surveillance system efficiently, you can refer to another article written before.

PoE Wireless Access Points

PoE Wireless Access Points(WAPs) are useful devices that help SMBs to build a wireless network through a stable Ethernet connection.

WiFi networks practically are prone to be interfered with and call for greater bandwidth to guarantee smooth WiFi accessing. Especially now, the more powerful WiFi 6 WAPs enter the market by providing superior performance. WiFi 6 allows business owners to reach 1G/2.5G ultra high-speed WiFi. To ensure this feature comes into reality, choosing PoE switches that can provide 1G/10G or faster network speed is fundamental.

Since a WAP can serve a certain range, thus, there won’t be too many WAPs required for most small to medium-sized businesses. There is no need to buy a PoE switch support 48 ports to build WiFi coverage in most cases.

Related Article: Network Retrofit for SMBs Integrate PoE into Your Network

Voice/Video Conferencing

Nowadays, businesses rely more on the Internet to hold their conferences locally or within worldwide. VoIP phone is a universal and economic method to help make phone over Internet Protocol(IP), and zoom or other online platforms supporting face-to-face video calls.

VoIP conferencing tends to have higher requirements on network bandwidth, management, and security. A sufficient network might result in issues like choppy voice or video, speaking with missing words, or other issues alike. These issues have a strong impact on call quality and even work cooperation. It’s better to choose PoE switches providing gigabit and faster network speed, and managed PoE switches that permit QoS(Quality of Service) configuration to ensure the optimal network traffic transfer is a perfect choice.

Particular Needs Use Special PoE Switches

In realistic scenarios, it might employ special PoE switches to best fit particular needs partially due to the limitation of regular PoE switches and the restrictions of deployment conditions.

Limitations of PoE Switches

In the beginning, we learned the benefits of PoE switches, as a matter of fact, PoE switches accompany by inherent limitations.

PoE switches can only supply limited power based on the PoE standard and output power illustrated earlier. When encountering applications that ask for higher power, the setup can simply be solved by selecting the regular PoE switches that serve max. output power at 15.4W or 30W. Or worse, PoE switches are bound to fail to generate a PoE connection for these applications.

PoE switches utilize twisted pair Ethernet cable to accomplish connectivity and transmission, but Ethernet cable typically can only reach a maximum transmission distance of 100 meters(328ft.) because of power loss and signal degradation. In other words, beyond this range, power and signal can hardly afford a sound PoE connectivity between PoE switches and the edge devices.

Now that you have a deeper understanding of PoE switches, what particular needs the majority of businesses may encounter, and what PoE switches can best suit these needs? No worry, here we got you covered.

High Power PDs (Powered Devices)

Perhaps some businesses may demand higher power to meet power-hungry applications(high power powered devices) like, PTZ cameras with heaters, outdoor WiFi 6 access points, POS systems, thin clients, smart LED lighting, or other IoT devices consuming high power. In this case, it is more effective to select those support the IEEE802.3bt standard at a maximum of 60W or 95W output power.

Long Range Transmission

Thinking about the distance limitation of PoE switches, some SMBs may require long-range transmission between PoE switches and the edge devices due to a larger range or some special situations that occur. To overcome this problem, common PoE switches that support 100 meters won’t make sense.

Fortunately, some adopt unique technology that provides long-distance transmission are available, these switches are generally named long-range PoE switches. Certainly, there are still other ways to extend the distance by using PoE extension tools like PoE extenders, but using this method can only reach a maximum of 500 meters(1640ft.)PoE connection in total.

Fiber Optic Connectivity

Copper Ethernet cabling is not the only approach for networking, on the contrary, using fiber optic cabling to build a backbone network is a feasible and effective solution. Fiber optic connectivity can reach long-distance transmission over kilometers easily, along with features of low latency, high bandwidth, and excellent security as well.

For businesses that desire to utilize fiber optic connectivity, PoE switches equipped with SFP slots are the right option. Fiber optic PoE switches are not the same, some may only support two uplink SFP slots, while some may have multiple SFP slots, which are the preferred choice for the data center.

Reuse Network Port

Undoubtedly, PoE switches need to be powered to function. And we know PoE technology is to help eliminate the power outlets around the edge devices connected to PoE switches. Then some may wonder can PoE switches be powered by PoE technology? When there with an Ethernet network port existing, but there isn’t a power outlet present, such need is necessary. PoE passthrough switches, also called PoE powered switches, are created to make the answer remain positive.

These special PoE switches can receive PoE from the back end PoE switch or other power sourcing equipment like PoE injectors, and pass through to the edge devices. There is no need for extra wiring to a dedicated power outlet, giving great flexibility. However, one thing you should keep in mind is that due to the limited power of PoE, the power can only support a number of low voltage devices. And the back end should have at least 60W high power put into the PoE passthrough switches.

Final Thoughts

PoE switches come in different types, and it is significant to figure out some factors that help choose the suitable one for your business. To meet different practical needs, you might need different PoE switches, the selection of a PoE switch is not simple work without thinking, otherwise, it may cause waste and costly downtime probably. FASTCABLING provide a variety of PoE switches for business with different requirements, they even support some advanced features like PoE scheduling, watchdog, or LCD monitoring. For tough applications, outdoor and industrial are included. If you still have doubts or concerns about purchasing PoE switches, our dedicated support team is happy to help as long as you contact us.

Leave a Reply