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Selecting the Right PoE Switches for Your IP Camera Network

Selecting the Right PoE Switches for Your IP Camera Network

Cameras are useful devices, and a lot of businesses need to deploy an array of them in order to keep a sharp eye on things. Usually for security reasons, a good ring of security cameras can prove invaluable.

But, connecting them and setting them up is not always simple. You have to figure out how to record what they see, how to power them, and how to manage them in general.

Thankfully, there’s an easy way to do all of this. You can utilize IP camera networks. It simplifies your equipment and your network design, but in order to take advantage of this technology, you need to pick the right PoE switches. We can help with that.

PoE Basics

Before you start shopping for switches, it might help to understand a little bit about PoE. It stands for “power over Ethernet,” and it does exactly what the name implies. It’s a technology that allows a device to draw power through Ethernet cables. This combines communication and power into a single line, saving money.

PoE has been around for a while now, and as a result, there are several different classifications and/or standards. Each standard has a different power output capacity per port that ranges from 15.4W to 99.9W. Typically, higher power per port costs more, so the goal is to get as much as you need and no more.

Selecting Switches

Thinking in those terms, there are a handful of additional metrics you’ll need to consider in order to select the right IP camera switches for your system. You’ll find an easy breakdown below.

Voltage

The very first metric you want to check is voltage. The operating voltage for your switch and cameras needs to match. If they don’t, it can very easily damage your cameras.

Typically, PoE switches operate at either 12 or 24 volts. The same is true for most PoE cameras. The only issue here is ensuring your switch runs on the same voltage as the cameras. If you check that box, you’re good to go, and you can focus on other parameters.

PoE Budget

The next metric on your list is the PoE budget. In this case, you’re checking the wattage. Each of your cameras will draw a specific amount of power, measured in watts. So, you need to add up the wattage for all of the cameras you will run from a single switch.

Your PoE switch needs a total PoE budget that is larger than the total you calculated. If not, you can’t run all of your cameras at the same time.

While you’re doing this calculation, there’s a second, equally important consideration. Each PoE port on the switch needs to supply enough wattage to feed an individual camera. No matter what the PoE budget is for the switch, if the individual ports don’t supply enough power, you’re in trouble.

Let’s recap this concept. Each PoE port needs to supply enough wattage to power each camera. At the same time, the total PoE budget for the switch needs to be large enough to power every camera at the same time (and you ensure that by adding the wattage of every camera you plan to connect).

Number of Ports

PoE budget is one of the more complicated ideas that come up in this conversation. A simpler thing you need to think about is port availability. Each PoE camera needs an available PoE port, and that brings up a few points.

For starters, not every port on a PoE switch is guaranteed to be a PoE port. Switches come in all varieties, and a 24-port switch might only have 2 PoE ports. Or, it might have 24 PoE ports. It all depends. So, pay attention to the specific number of PoE ports to make sure you have enough.

At the same time, you might not intend to connect every camera to the same switch. That depends on the layout, and sometimes it makes sense to use multiple switches and ultimately have subgroups of cameras. Other times, it’s easier to connect everything to a single, central switch.

Figuring out which design is best for your network isn’t always easy. You’re comparing the cost of cables to the maximum length you can run your lines to the cost of switches themselves. There are times when a three-switch configuration might cost less than a one-switch operation. You’ll have to weigh all of the costs involved to get the coverage you want.

Normal Switch Stuff

Even while you’re thinking about all of this, you also have to consider the switching features of the device. Is it managed or unmanaged? What security features does it support? What about data rates? Are there any other features that matter to you?

Answering these questions will help you narrow down the field. Once you find a switch that meets all of your requirements, you’re in a good spot.

Thinking About Applications

Then again, how do you know exactly what you need? The answers you seek usually emerge when you focus on the application for your cameras. If you know what you need the cameras to do, then you can think about which switches empower that and which inhibit it.

Security

A security IP camera network is far and away the most common application for PoE cameras. If you’re trying to run security cameras, you’re off to a good start. What you really need to consider is exactly what areas need to be covered by the cameras. You’ll also consider video quality, audio capabilities, and whether or not you need to be able to remotely adjust the cameras.

Simpler cameras often require less bandwidth and a lower power draw, which opens up your switch options. Meanwhile, more sophisticated cameras and larger numbers of cameras will require more powerful switch support.

Monitoring

If, by chance, you aren’t using these cameras for security, you still need to consider how you’re using the cameras. In some cases, cameras are used to monitor places or stations. This comes up a lot in science and engineering, where you may be monitoring a system, experiment, or even personnel.

Ultimately, the considerations are still the same. What do the cameras need to observe? How can you deploy them to make those observations, and how does that impact your switch selection?

When you answer these questions, you can select the right switch (or switches) regardless of the reason you’re using your cameras.

Additional Learning Center Resources