Power over Ethernet, otherwise known as PoE, is a technology that is becoming more common in offices. PoE does exactly as advertised; electrical power is transferred over a network cable, which is commonly referred to as an ethernet cable. This technology was founded in 2003 with the 802.3af standard, which you can read more about here. Power over Ethernet is widespread because of the benefits it can provide, the biggest of which being eliminating the need for power cables, which means less cluttered outlets and power strips. In addition to a cleaner workspace, many organizations already use Ethernet cables for networking needs. In other words, if you have Category 5e or higher cables for your networking needs, you do not have much further to go to have the complete infrastructure!
Drawbacks of Power Over Ethernet
Of course, no new technology is perfect. The drawbacks of PoE need to be weighed by every firm considering this form of technology. Aside from the cables, installed switches need to be capable of handling data as well as power, which can get expensive. Otherwise, you may need to use a PoE Injector. This is not recommended, as an injector increases the number of devices to maintain. Lastly, either of the previously mentioned drawbacks introduces a new point of failure. For example, if your PoE capable switch fails, then all powered devices connected to it will not receive power. Thus, you want to be sure that your devices are maintained regularly, have a backup or work around, and will not render the business incapable of any work.
Uses for PoE
PoE does not supply enough power for workstations or servers. Those power cables are grounded and rated for higher voltages. Instead, think smaller devices. Often, phones are connected via PoE to reduce the number of cables at desks. Wired cameras can make great use of this as well, as that is one less cable that can get unplugged. Other devices include radios, smart devices such as lighting fixtures, and point of sale kiosks. Whatever the use, PoE follows a basic principle: less cables, same functionality.
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