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Network Retrofit for SMBs: Integrate PoE into Your Network

A robust and reliable network is the backbone of a thriving business. As your business grows, your network structure also needs to be upgraded. If you’re a small and mid-sized business owner, such upgrades are essential to help your business thrive and prosper. You may not be aware that your network is working slower than it ought to be but you should have noticed that your outdated network infrastructure opens up a world of opportunities for data breaches or phishing, cyberattacks, reduced productivity and a host of other issues. Additionally, an increased storage capacity is required to accommodate additional network users and devices. Moreover, with the rapid advancement of the Internet of Things (IoTs), many newer devices and applications may not be compatible with your older network systems.

Why Do You Need to Upgrade Your Network?

Are you getting complaints from your employees about network congestion and operational delays? Missing sales and business opportunities due to a lack of network updates? An out-of-date network system can make you temporarily save now but spend more later. As your business expands, you will need a larger workspace to house more employees, so it’s crucial to update your network infrastructure regularly to ensure that you can accommodate new users, new technologies and new devices. Most businesses today are using video conference tools to connect with their clients, business partners and team members to boost their sales and business, so a network upgrade is a necessary step to meet your business needs.

Normally, network software and hardware have a certified shelf life. The life span of network software is typically shorter than hardware: you have to renew the software at least once a year (the newer versions will be typically available every 12 months) to protect your devices against the evolving cyberattacks. And as you update your software, you want your WiFi network to keep in pace as well. Equipment like routers and switches usually can work no problem for 3 to 5 years, but its performance will begin to degrade over time with reduced speeds, shorter range, and perhaps even the signs of heat damage. Cables normally can last longer (for nearly 10 years) but the compatibility issue between the old cable types and new technologies would also hinder your new devices from operating at their full throughput.

No matter the reason for your need to update, it is obvious that network expansion or upgrade is essential for businesses of all industries to thrive and prosper. But rebuilding your network structure is not only labor-intensive but also time-consuming. Additionally, installing new network infrastructures in a building that is already built generally costs more than in new construction. The most feasible solution for network updates is to deploy PoE to retrofit your older network systems in a more budget-friendly manner.

Power over Ethernet: Future of Powered Business

If you put together a list of the most heated technologies today, Power over Ethernet (PoE) is definitely the most affordable choice for small and mid-sized businesses. PoE is a revolutionary technology that transmits both power and data to the powered devices, such as IP cameras, WiFi 6 access points, IP video intercoms and POS machines, through the same Ethernet cable to provide a more reliable power supply from a centralized point rather than a collection of distributed power outlets. PoE is widely used in out-of-/hard-to-reach places, such as parking lots and ceilings, where it’s hard to install new cables or network facilities. You won’t notice any difference in the operation or reliability of the powered device, since the difference is mainly revealed in the convenience of power options.

Due to its inherent advantage, less cabling is needed for network deployment and therefore eliminates additional electrical wiring and cuts down installation costs (you can reuse the existing network cable for network expansion). It allows more freedom for the location of each network device throughout the building without the constraint of a power socket while reducing installation labor. Even though you don’t have an encyclopedic knowledge about PoE, you can manage it within days. It’s basically a plug-and-play technology that requires no complicated software configuration. Installers only need to plug network cabling into the proper equipment. Another added bonus of PoE technology is that it offers a redundant power supply option to protect the critical applications from power outages: having two power sources connected gives you peace of mind when one fails.

What You Should Know About PoE Standards

The first-generation PoE (IEEE802.3af) can support a maximum power supply of 15.4W at the PSE and 12.95W at the PDs, while PoE+ devices can deliver up to 30W on a per-port basis and the PDs can be powered with up to 25.5 Watts. Moreover, the latest IEEE 802.3bt standard introduces 2 new types of PoE standards: PoE++ and Hi-PoE. With PoE+, PSE can provide up to 60W at each port to power each PD with 51W max., while the high-power PoE or Hi-PoE can supply maximum power output of 100W at PSE and the power available at the PDs is 71.3W. So it’s important to choose the suitable PoE standards for your network. If you’re gonna install high-power devices like LED lighting, WiFi 6 access points, All-in-One touch screen computer, digital signage, etc., in your new offices, we highly recommend you to opt for Hi-PoE for your new network architectures.

Is PoE Safe to Your Existing Network Structure?

PoE devices that are compliant with the IEEE802.3 standards are inherently safe since before the PSE sends any power to a connected PD, it will first verify if the PD is PoE-compatible and then decide how much power the connected device requires. But the power handshake is only available in standard PoE. In passive/non-standard PoE, the devices would only operate at a pre-defined voltage, so it’s very important that you know the voltage of the connected device, or permanent damages are possible when the devices are connected to a wrong voltage. The handshake is normally composed of three stages: detection, classification and operation.

Detection: During this stage, the PSE sends a low voltage pulse at 2V-10V (harmless even to non-PoE devices) to the PD to make sure only the PoE-enabled devices will be powered up. It will periodically repeat this procedure until the connection is made to avoid power outages and network crashes. If the detection fails or a non-PoE device is connected, the PSE will never send any power away.

Classification: After the detection, the PSE will decide how much power the PD requires to allocate the appropriate amount of power to that load. In the classification, the PSE will categorize the PDs into different classes depending on their power requirements on the rankings of 0-8. Each PD will only draw as much power as the PSE promises to prevent over-voltage. PoE classes ensure an efficient power distribution by measuring how much power a PD requires and reallocating surplus power to high-power devices like LED lighting.

Operation: After measuring the amount of power each terminal device needs, the PSE will provide a relatively low voltage to the PDs at first and then gradually increase to 48V. During this procedure, the PSE will simultaneously convert the AC power to DC power to reduce the interference caused by alternating currents. And if the PD is disconnected midway, the PSE will immediately withdraw the power to avoid any mismatched connections. What’s more, if an overcurrent occurs, the PSE will cut off all power supplies and enter into detection again.

How to Integrate PoE into Your Business Network?

Before upgrading your existing network to PoE-enabled one, you’d better first make clear what’s involved in the PoE system. A typical PoE system normally consists of power sourcing equipment (PSE) and at least a powered device (PD). PSE refers to devices that can deliver power to the PoE-compatible devices, and the most common PSEs are PoE switches (endspans) and PoE injectors (midspans), PDs are devices that receive power from the PSE, such as IP cameras, wireless APs and VoIP phones. Here, we’ll introduce the most commonly used PoE devices in all industries, namely the PoE switch, PoE injector and PoE splitter.

PoE Switch

PoE switch is a network switch that has Power over Ethernet functionality built into it. The most obvious advantage of using a PoE switch is that it offers great flexibility for installation and relocation in places where no power is present, which greatly improves the scalability of network architecture and reduces the costs of the initial investment. The PoE switch is hot-swappable, which makes it ultra user-friendly for average families and small and medium-sized businesses. It is widely used in different scenarios, from home to office, indoors and outdoors, etc. The PoE switch offers better power management and allocation with real-time power monitoring. What’s more, an active PoE switch is also equipped with auto-sensing PoE ports to detect the compatibility of the PDs to lower the chances of power outages, operation failures, etc., and prevent irreversible electrical damages caused to the PDs.

Why Is It Better than a Network Switch?

The primary difference between a PoE switch and a network switch is that the latter only supports data transmission, so an additional power source is demanded to power the edge devices, while the PoE switch can send power and data together down the same Ethernet cable to the PDs. By using a PoE switch, you can mix PoE and non-PoE devices in the same network, while the regular switch fails to do so on its own. However, the regular switch can become PoE-enabled when connected to a PoE injector to add electrical power to the PDs.

Managed or Unmanaged PoE Switches?

Although PoE is a rather plug-and-play technology, for SMB owners who need more control over their networks, a managed PoE switch is clearly a better fit. PoE switches can be roughly divided into managed or unmanaged switches according to their management and configurability. The unmanaged PoE switch is a relatively simple plug-and-play device that can’t be modified. The unmanaged switches are normally manufactured with a fixed configuration and with merely no security features. It’s a rather affordable option normally used in local networks where only several devices are deployed. The managed PoE switch offers full management capabilities and high-level security features that allow you to prioritize and monitor the traffic coming out of each PoE port and facilitate troubleshooting. It allows you to create VLANs and guest networks on the same switch to deliver a higher level of security. It’s widely deployed in applications like remote control, round-the-clock monitoring and smart building automation.

“Choose Managed PoE Switches to Create a Functional Work Environment.”

• Managed PoE switch delivers better network management.

The managed PoE switch helps prioritize the traffic flow of each PoE port. Since different network devices have different bandwidth requirements, when these devices are connected on the same switch, the managed switch can help you control the amount of traffic each port is forwarding to ensure the optimal performance of each connected device. For example, the power consumption of a fixed IP camera is 5W, while a PTZ camera will require at least 30W to function properly. By using a managed PoE switch, you can allocate just enough power to the PDs and you can also configure the inactive/unused PoE ports to low priority.

• Managed PoE switch helps mitigate network failures.

Managed PoE switches can provide services like network monitoring and problem diagnosis to allow you to have better control over your network. It provides full reports of status on each port and speeds up troubleshooting if necessary to shorten the time wasted on data recovery. Network failures pose a great safety and economic risk to enterprise networks, and occasional IT downtime may cost you thousands of dollars per year. To avoid such a problem, deploying a managed switch that supports ring redundancy will be of great help. In this configuration, the switches can be connected in a ring topology where each network switch is connected to another two switches on either side. The backup ring remains inactive, but if one fails, it will automatically activate until the connection is repaired.

Can You Take Advantage of PoE in Completely ‘Dead’ Zones?

You may have come across the situation that there is no power or network on the desired installation site. Since the PoE switch itself needs to be powered up in the first place, network expansion with a normal PoE switch won’t be feasible in places where there is no power source nearby. Traditional solutions to this problem may include running extension cables, installing new outlets, etc., but these approaches can be quite expensive if multiple devices are to be installed at the edge. Therefore, you’ll need a PoE passthrough switch to help you install PoE devices in hard-to-reach areas. The PoE passthrough switch can work as both a PD and a PSE, which means that the switch itself can be powered by another PoE switch while delivering power to the connected PDs. The PoE passthrough switch can be applied in hard-to-access spaces, such as attics, closets, ceilings, basements, or some places where the existing power outlets are already occupied for other uses.

Compatibility between Old Network Structures and New PoE Devices

Along with the development of PoE technology comes the flourishing of various kinds of PoE devices, such as POS terminals and digital signage. However, the older network devices are not necessarily built with PoE capabilities and they can support data connectivity only. Since most network devices in the market are non-PoE devices, it’s necessary that you know how to mix PoE and non-PoE devices in the same network. If you want to make a non-PoE PSE compatible with a PoE-enabled PD, you’ll need a PoE injector; but if you want to connect a PoE switch with a non-PoE device, you’ll need a PoE splitter.

PoE Injector

A PoE injector is a device that injects the PoE capability to the regular switch and makes the non-PoE network switch work with the PoE devices. Like any other PSE, it transfers power and data to the PD on the twisted-pair cabling. It’s of great help when installing a PoE device like the wireless access point in a hard-to-reach area like the ceiling since it features a smaller footprint. Additionally, it can provide power to more power-hungry devices at a higher output when fewer PoE ports are required so as to prevent power loss in long-distance transmission. The point-to-point connection between the PSE and PD dramatically reduces the chances of power failure with a minimal impact on other connected devices. If the PoE injector breaks down, only one device will be affected, but if the PoE switch fails, all the connected PDs will go down at the same time.

Best Choice for High-Power Applications

The 10G 95W PoE injector supports 1G/2.5G/5G/10 Gigabit Ethernet network speed, ideal for environments where the highest possible data transfer speed is essential. This PoE injector can handle a diverse range of applications including high-speed security cameras, 802.11ac WAPs, 5G networks, etc. Compliant with the IEEE 802.3bt standard, the 10 Gigabit 95W BT PoE Injector ensures that high-power and data-intensive applications can be handled properly with a seamlessly faster network speed. It can be used in fast-speed surveillance systems like PTZ cameras, remote access controls, etc.

PoE Splitter

Since most legacy devices don’t come with an RJ45 interface, to connect a PoE-enabled PSE with a not PoE-compatible PD, say a computer, you’ll need a PoE splitter. The PoE splitter is a cost-effective solution to power a non-PoE device by splitting PoE from a unified network cable and delivering power and data through separate connections. It often works with a PoE switch or a PoE injector to power non-PoE devices in hard-to-reach areas where is hard to find a power outlet, eliminating the need for additional AC wiring. The PoE splitter can also be used to bring a 48V DC down to a low voltage electrical current (regulated 5, 12 or 24V), enabling the safe connection to devices with a low input voltage range.

How Do I Power Low Voltage Network Devices?

Fastcabling has launched a new series of PoE splitters, specially designed for low-power applications like Foscam and tablets. The 5V PoE splitter can supply a maximum power of 20W to the non-PoE device based on IEEE802.3af/at. It can split the 44-57V DC power over the Ethernet cable into a 5V DC power output. It supports Gigabit Ethernet network speed, perfect for use with a Raspberry Pi model B, B+, Pi 2 or Pi 3. On the other hand, the 12V PoE+ splitter can deliver a maximum power of 30W with a default 12V DC output to power non-PoE IP cameras, WAPs and routers. Both 5V PoE splitter and 12V PoE+ splitter support 1500V high voltage isolation to prevent the transfer of high or hazardous voltages between circuits and secure a safe connection between devices.

Final Words: Know the Potential and Limitation

To integrate PoE into your network, it’s important to know its potential and limitation.

Small Business Reaps Great Benefits from PoE

Network retrofits with PoE are a low-cost investment for businesses of all sizes. Compared to the traditional electrical wiring, PoE cabling allows for more efficiency in power distribution and management to realize a huge reduction in operating costs by 14% while helping SMB owners meet their business objectives. Since PoE can support the transmission of up to 100 meters, so you won’t bother to hire a professional electrician to install additional electrical outlets in remote locations, saving money on both installation and maintenance. PoE also helps create a better workspace and deliver a better user experience. It allows small and mid-sized businesses to integrate lighting, security systems and other smart building applications into one single network, making them easier to control, measure and maintain.

Any Concerns or Problems?

Although PoE is a powerful technology, it’s not without its limitations. Above all, since PoE can only a maximum distance of 100 meters, and beyond that its performance will gradually drop to none. Moreover, to deploy PoE, you may have to replace the older network cables, which will be a massive expense. For example, the older Cat3 Ethernet cable only supports a maximum transmission rate of 10Mbps, while most high-bandwidth devices will at least require 100Mbps, so you’ll need to upgrade your cables to a higher category, like Cat5/6.

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