A Step-by-Step Guide to Integrating Non-PoE Devices on a PoE Network

Most LANs these days can offer connectivity to both Power over Ethernet (PoE) and non-PoE devices. Having both is easy because PoE network switches (also known as Power Sourcing Equipment or PSEs) can accommodate existing technologies and make device management simple. Powered devices (PD) have different requirements, making it essential to consider factors like if power can be delivered through that switch and, if so, what power level the device needs.

If you’re new to IT networking and are wondering whether you can add PoE devices to a legacy switch or add a new PoE switch to a network that has existing non-PoE compatible devices, this post is for you. The next logical question is how to combine PoE and non-PoE devices on the same network. 

Step 1. Assess Power Requirements

First, you need to determine the power requirements of each device connected to the network. 

PoE technology transmits power and data to network devices through a single cable. This eliminates the need for electrical outlet installations or separate power supplies for each device while reducing the network’s failure points. On the other hand, non-PoE devices are line powered and require a dedicated power source to operate. In these situations, a PoE injector can make legacy switches work with PoE devices. The injector will allow the ethernet cables to power devices.

Another solution would be to use a PoE switch. A PoE switch is specifically designed to support both PoE and non-PoE network devices and transmits data and power simultaneously. The switch can determine whether a device requires power by sending signals to the network devices to see if they are PoE compatible and supply power. Based on the response, if the device is incompatible, the switch will not transmit power to it to prevent any potential hazards.

While PoE injectors can be helpful in scenarios where a non-PoE switch is already in place, PoE switches offer a more streamlined and convenient solution for powering PoE devices. They simplify installation, reduce the number of required cables, and provide centralized power management capabilities.

Step 2. Install a PoE Switch

A PoE network switch connects all the devices on a local area network. PoE functionality enables devices on a network to communicate with each other while also providing power through the same ethernet cable. PoE switches have various standards to meet different power specifications.

Here are the three main standards:

  • Standard POE (IEEE 802.3af): An original POE standard that delivers up to 15.4W of power to a device. This switch can power devices like wireless access points and IP cameras.
  • POE+ (IEEE 802.3at): A modified version of Standard POE that delivers 30W of power. These switches can power more devices, including PTZ cameras, video IP phones, and alarm systems.
  • POE++ (IEEE 802.3 bt). Also known as Type 3 or Type 4 PoE, this standard delivers  60W and 100W of power, respectively. Among an increasing array of PDs, this product can power compact switches, thin clients, and video conferencing equipment.

In addition to the power requirements, it is also essential to consider the switch’s features, application requirements, and limitations. Here are some features to look for in a PoE switch:

  • Port speed: Selecting a PoE switch with a high port speed is crucial if you need to support a number of different  devices at once. Also, select a switch with enough ports to accommodate all the devices on the network.
  • Port type: Choose a switch with the appropriate port type for the network devices. Standard switch ports include SFP, SFP+, and RJ45.
  • PoE budget: This is the maximum amount of power that can be delivered to the connected devices. Select a switch with a PoE budget that can support all devices.
  • Power savings: PoE switches should be able to turn off idle and unused ports automatically, which will help to lower energy costs.
  • Port security: A managed switch protects the devices on the network from unauthorized access. 

Step 3. Connect the Poe Devices

PoE switches require no special cabling, and regular CAT5e, CAT6, or CAT6A cables can connect the PoE devices to the switch. Transmission speeds depend on the switch’s capabilities, port speeds, and network cables. CAT5e cables max out at 1Gbps. CAT6 and Cat6A cables transfer up to 10Gbps. The difference between 6 and 6A is in the maximum frequency range; Cat6 can deliver data at up to 250 MHz while Cat6A can deliver up to 500 MHz.

The power consumption of all the connected devices on the PoE network must be lower than the switch’s maximum power budget to ensure that every PoE device receives enough power even after the power dissipation effects of the ethernet cable. 

Step 4. Connect the Non-PoE Devices

The non-PoE devices on the network will require an extra power cable, and each device’s power cord is plugged into the nearby electrical outlet to power it. Ethernet cables connected to these non-PoE devices will transmit data only.

Step 5. Configure Network Settings

After physically connecting the PoE switch to the network and the PoE devices, you need to configure the switch by setting up the management and network settings. This can be done through the management interface, which provides administrative access to the switch. Connect a serial cable between the switch’s console port and a PC to access the Command Line Interface (CLI) and run switch configuration commands. 

With the management interface, you can set up the management IP address, allowing SSH access to the PoE switch and network configuration capabilities. This will also allow you to set IP addresses for the different devices on the network and create a VLAN to partition the devices into groups serving a similar purpose, allowing for easier management. When connected to the switch, the PoE devices power on, and the CLI interface monitors port status and inline power statistics to show power distribution among the devices.

Step 6. Test Connectivity

After setting up basic settings and interfaces, you’ll need to  verify network connectivity. The easiest way to do this is to use the CLI to display information on the network interfaces and the packet flow count on the devices. You’ll be able to observe the connections and data flow from the switch to the destination device and single out any devices not connected to the network.

Step 7. Organize and Label

Some of the devices on the network will have recognizable names, but others will be listed as unknown or as a random string of numbers and letters. Network topology allows you to describe the network’s logical and physical structure and show the network’s different nodes, like switches, PoE, and non-PoE devices. Labeling the network devices helps you optimize traffic flow, improve data transfer, and ease future troubleshooting and maintenance.

Final Thoughts

To successfully deploy a PoE network, it is critical to understand both the potential and limitations of the devices in your network. When it’s deployed properly across a network deployed correctly, PoE technology can provide a safe, cost-effective solution for delivering consistent power to networking devices. PoE switches can easily integrate into both new and upgrade-needed networks, as they support both PoE and non-PoE devices.

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