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What is Power over Ethernet (PoE) and is it Right for Your Network?

What is a Power over Ethernet (PoE) device, how does it work, and is it right for your network?
  • April 16, 2019

Before you can decide if Power over Ethernet (PoE) is the right decision for your network, it is essential to answer the question, "How does PoE work?" An easy way to explain the primary function of PoE is to use a security camera as an example. Under normal circumstances, a digital security camera needs both power and network connections using two different cables. In a PoE-enabled device, the camera receives both power and network connections via a single cable.

Benefits of Power over Ethernet

Once you learn the foundation of how Power over Ethernet works, imagine the number of PoE-enabled devices that can be used on your network and eliminate the need for additional power cords. A few other perks for choosing Power over Ethernet are:


Using PoE-enabled devices means you cut the time and expense of electrical cabling for your network as devices are powered by the network cables.

Flexible design

Since there is no need for devices to be connected to outlets, they can be positioned as needed without the requirement of an electrical outlet. PoE is especially applicable to wireless access points and digital security cameras.

Safety features

PoE power delivery is designed to protect equipment connected to the network from overload, power drain and installation fails. Since the power is centrally provided by a system compatible source, it can be easily backed up by an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) and controlled. It also grows with your network — since the power you need for any new PoE-enabled devices is already at the ready, your network becomes plug-and-play as you add devices.

Where is PoE Used Most?

You can find many PoE devices on networks, but one of the big applications is VoIP phone systems, which mean the phones on the network only need a single connection and can be powered down remotely if needed. IP cameras used for surveillance and security are often PoE-enabled, so they do not require tethering to a power cable and can be positioned anywhere. Wireless and Bluetooth IPs are also usually PoE-compatible and allow for the setup where you want them instead of where there is an AC outlet.

Myths About PoE

PoE is a recently-developed technology, and many people put off adopting it due to conflicting or out-of-date information. Here are the most common misconceptions:

PoE is Rife with Compatibility Issue

Because of the standard IEEE 802.3af has been adopted universally, the popularity of PoE devices has increased substantially as compatibility with modern devices is assured.

Electrical Knowledge is Required

In the early days of networking, ad-hoc user setups required careful design. Since IEEE 802.3af PoE is designed to work with the industry standard configuration and ensures operation, you can rely on it without worrying about electrical needs. The user can set up their network as they wish and PoE takes care of the power delivery.

Special Wiring is Needed

Another myth busted. PoE works over the same standard cabling: Cat 5e, Cat 6, etc., as well as "RJ45"-style connectors used in regular networks.

PoE Overloads Devices

An early misconception is PoE forced unlimited power into devices. It is important to remember the power scales quoted by device manufacturers are usually the upper limits and not finite. For example, if a 5-watt device is plugged into a 15-watt PoE injector, it does not mean that 10-watts of extra power is pushed through the device, nor that 10-watts is lost. The device merely pulls what it needs from the network. 

How does a PoE injector work?

A PoE injector is also called a midspan. Using a PoE injector allows you to upgrade all your existing LAN installations and make them PoE-capable. This solution works especially well when fewer PoE ports are required by devices on the network.

How does a PoE switch work?

In cases where your current network switch does not support PoE or is not providing enough power to your devices, an injector is how you solve that issue. A PoE switch is just a network switch that has PoE capability built-in for easy use to connect PoE capable devices.

As you can see, boosting your network with Power over Ethernet-enabled devices, PoE injectors and switches is a move in the right direction for overall network stability and productivity for users. Talk to one of our experts today to put together the correct configuration for your business or organization and make the switch to the power of PoE.

Find the right Power over Ethernet devices for your business.

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