Getting your Switch right first time

Getting your Switch right first time

While Power over Ethernet is now a well-established standard, it is still important to make sure you select the right PoE switch for your needs.

Power over Ethernet (PoE) is now an established and mature technology. That’s great from one perspective, because we know that we can rely on it. For end-users – and for resellers too – it is pretty much trouble-free. It just works. While there are new standards in development, they are not going to arrive in the very near future so, for the time being, it’s ‘business as usual’ with PoE.

That said, not everyone is using PoE switches as yet.

While the technology is familiar and trusted, it is important to get the basics right when you are selecting or recommending a PoE switch. If you don’t pay proper attention to the details at the outset, that can cause you problems later. You could also end up using switches that are not as power-efficient as you need them or would like them to be.

Of course, before you even start considering the specific PoE capabilities, you’ll need to know whether you need a managed, web-managed, or unmanaged switch – and what sort of performance and how many ports you’ll require. Once those points are established, if PoE is what you need, there are some key things you need to consider.

The first is what kind of devices you want to connect to the switch and how much power they will require. Some devices, such as outdoor IP cameras with pan, zoom and tilt (PZT) capability and built-in heaters that prevent them from seizing-up in cold temperatures will require quite a lot of power when they are operational. They might draw something close to 25w.

Every connected device will need a different amount of power; we add together the amount required by each device to calculate the total ‘power budget’ that the switch will need to support. This is an easy enough calculation to make but of course, not all the PoE devices will be active all of the time, and this brings us to the next point you need to consider when buying a PoE switch – the management of power consumption.

The level of power supported by a switch will depend on the PoE it uses. The older 802.3af standard will deliver a maximum of 18.4w per port; the latter 802.3at specification will deliver up to 30w. While a port may be capable of delivering these wattages to a connected device, it won’t always – or often – require anything near that level of power. If this is the case, you may also want to consider the specific energy management capabilities of the PoE switch.

Zyxel PoE switches have power scheduling and Smart Power Allocation (SPA) capabilities that will help to reduce power usage and enhance security. It may also be worth considering these capabilities if you want to make sure you minimise your energy consumption and maximise efficiency and the safety of your network.