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Developing and implementing a physical security system is a top priority for a wide variety of business and property owners. As security technology becomes more advanced, and in many cases more affordable, stakeholders from all backgrounds find themselves better-positioned to design intuitive, proactive and adaptive security installations. 

With research suggesting that almost 30% of modern businesses have experienced increased physical security incidents in recent years, many organizations are looking to strengthen their existing solutions. However, several logistical considerations must be weighed when developing and implementing new security technologies.

For many organizations, PoE security cameras and systems can represent a reliable, effective and cost-efficient way to strengthen existing security systems. However, many security buyers may not fully understand the potential benefits of PoE technology. To help you find security solutions that are right for your business, below is a comprehensive guide to PoE for cameras and security installations.

What is a PoE camera system?

A PoE camera system is a type of video security installation that uses Power over Ethernet technology to receive power and send data over a single Ethernet cable. Older CCTV solutions and some Internet Protocol (IP) video security systems require two separate cables to function; one to send power to each camera and another to transmit recorded data.

Power over Ethernet cameras help organizations streamline installation and maintenance processes by reducing the number of components required to develop effective installations. Under a PoE system, teams simply need to install selected cameras and run a single cable between each unit and a centralized Network Video Recorder (NVR) to monitor CCTV feeds.

How do PoE cameras work?

In short, PoE security cameras work by recording and encoding live footage internally, then sending that data to an NVR via a single Ethernet cable to be stored and viewed on external devices. That same Ethernet cable is also used to send power to PoE cameras, with modern systems able to transmit data both over the internet and as part of a closed internal network.

To develop an effective PoE security camera installation, five key components will be required:

  • Power over Ethernet cameras - PoE cameras are a type of IP camera designed to use Ethernet cables for both data transmission and electrical power, while all PoE cameras are IP cameras, not all IP cameras are designed to work in a PoE system.

  • An NVR unit - Network Video Recorders are mass storage devices designed to receive recorded and processed video footage via Ethernet cables. NVRs differ from DVRs in that they cannot process raw video information or analog footage internally.

  • Ethernet cables - Ethernet cables are wired computer networking cables designed to send data between installed cameras and a linked NVR unit. Most PoE systems require the use of CAT5 or CAT6 Ethernet cables to send power and transmit data.

  • External PoE switches - External PoE switches may be required if leaders decide running Ethernet cables directly between NVRs and PoE cameras is not logistically possible; these switches enable teams to install systems using less physical cabling.

  • A monitoring solution — A TV or computer monitor can be connected to the NVR to allow on-site staff to view live video feeds. Additional remote monitoring solutions can also be developed so teams can view live footage 24/7 from any secure smart device.

Find the right PoE cameras for your business

  • Night vision, ultra HD and optical zoom features

  • AI video analytics for instant threat alerts

  • Easy to install, whether indoors or outdoors

  • 360-degree coverage from a single vantage point

Main differences between PoE and IP cameras

While there are several similarities between IP and PoE cameras, it’s important to note the key differences between these two technologies. The first thing to know is that all PoE cameras are IP cameras, but not all IP cameras work in PoE installations.

All IP camera types can send and receive data over the internet, record video footage in a digital format and process recorded footage internally before sending that data to an NVR for storage and viewing purposes. However, only PoE security cameras can send data and receive power over a single Ethernet cable within a functional installation.

WiFi cameras vs PoE cameras

Some IP cameras can send video footage over a secure WiFi connection to create wireless CCTV systems. These solutions can be effective when installing physical wires is deemed too costly or logistically difficult, though some issues are worth considering.

Primarily, WiFi communications can be susceptible to interference from wider technological devices and are generally considered to be more vulnerable to cyber-attacks. WiFi cameras differ from PoE cameras because they require an individual power supply to function. 

Analog cameras vs PoE systems 

Analog cameras are entirely distinct from any form of IP camera installation. These devices must be connected to individual power supplies and can only send data via separate coaxial cables. In addition, analog cameras cannot process video footage internally, so they must be connected to a Digital Video Recorder (DVR) rather than an NVR for footage to be encoded.

Common types of PoE camera hardware

PoE security cameras are a specific subdivision of IP cameras, but beyond that distinction, there are several different PoE camera models designed to suit various security and building management requirements. Below are a few examples of common PoE camera models that property owners might consider for use in different commercial and residential environments.

Bullet PoE security cameras

Bullet PoE cameras are designed to capture high-quality footage at range, though this can lead to some models having a narrow field of view. Bullet PoE cameras are commonly deployed to cover long-distance areas such as perimeters, hallways and parking lots. Many models come with weather-proof cases and native low-light features to support outdoor use.

Dome PoE surveillance cameras

Dome PoE cameras excel where bullet models may struggle by capturing footage with a wide field of view, though usually at the cost of some range. Dome PoE cameras are best utilized in large open areas like shop floors, offices and stock rooms, though additional maintenance may be required, as the dome-shaped casing will need to be cleaned regularly.

Pan Tilt Zoom (PTZ) PoE cameras

Both dome and bullet models are fixed PoE cameras, meaning footage will only be recorded from a single fixed angle. As the name suggests, PTZ PoE cameras come with pan, tilt and zoom controls that enable staff to adjust viewing angles remotely using specialized software. PTZ PoE cameras will be required if teams wish to adjust cameras remotely during operation. 

Multi-sensor PoE cameras 

Multi-sensor PoE security cameras contain two or more image sensors designed to capture footage from multiple angles simultaneously. Though these PoE cameras are fixed solutions, extra sensors can help reduce blind spots and, in some cases, even provide full panoramic views of target locations to ensure good coverage without the need for PTZ units.

Benefits of PoE security camera systems

While both analog and standard IP cameras can offer some of the same operational benefits as PoE cameras, generally speaking, PoE systems are much simpler to design, install and maintain. Fewer components are required, less technical knowledge is necessary, and more functionality can be achieved. Below are some core benefits associated with PoE cameras.

Design flexibility

As PoE cameras receive power and send data using only Ethernet cables, they don’t need to be installed near electrical outlets. This affords teams much more flexibility in terms of potential camera placements. Additionally, if businesses decide their PoE cameras need to be moved at any time, relocation will only require the repositioning of individual Ethernet cables.

While Ethernet cables have a maximum operational limit of 328 feet, PoE extenders and PoE switches can be freely deployed to help property owners overcome this restriction. In an analog system, this can only be achieved by coupling or running entirely new coaxial cables.

Digital image quality 

As a variation of an IP security camera system, PoE cameras capture footage digitally and encode images internally using built-in computer processors. This distinction enables PoE systems to record real-time footage at a much higher resolution than analog cameras, with no need for external video processing functions to be applied to recorded footage by an additional DVR solution.

Furthermore, digital video signals do not suffer the same signal loss or degradation problems as are common in analog systems. Analog signals will gradually lose quality as cable length increases; the same cannot be said for digital video signals. PoE camera units also benefit from digital zoom functionality, which doesn’t decrease image quality like optical zoom does. 

Simple maintenance

Power over Ethernet camera systems are typically much easier to maintain than comparable analog CCTV solutions, as there are far fewer cables and hardware components to consider. Maintenance processes can be further simplified if organizations choose to develop entirely cloud-based camera solutions, as such installations remove any need for physical recording devices.

In a cloud-based PoE system, captured footage is sent immediately to a cloud management platform for storage and viewing. This means only PoE cameras, cables and switches need to be physically maintained, with software managed through a Simple Network Management Protocol to centralize all network components in one interface for simple maintenance.

Power/​network reliability

In a traditional security camera system, multiple cameras will likely be powered by separate adapters attached to numerous wall outlets, increasing the number of individual mechanisms that could fail. Comparatively, PoE security cameras will all be powered from a single unified power source, leading to a far more reliable system that’s less vulnerable to power outages.

PoE cameras also communicate data over a hardwired internet connection, a configuration that’s considered to be far more reliable than any comparable WiFi-based systems. Ethernet cables are generally unaffected by factors like interference, crosstalk and signal degradation, making PoE security systems a great choice for consistent and reliable data communication. 

Installation costs

PoE security camera systems can be more cost-efficient to install than conventional CCTV solutions, mostly because they require fewer components and less cabling. Additionally, as no electrical cabling will be required to power individual cameras, businesses will not need to hire certified electricians to install dedicated power cables, further reducing installation costs.

Simple scalability

If business needs change and additional PoE security cameras must be installed, doing so will only require the addition of extra network connections. This process is far less labor and resource-intensive than installing new electrical cabling, helping organizations keep costs down and affording teams the flexibility to adjust security systems in line with growth.

What to look for in an effective PoE camera system

Choosing an effective PoE security camera system will require teams to assess the unique needs of their organization. Camera placements, features and potential functionality will all need to be examined in relation to business needs. Below are some key points to consider.

1. Image quality 

Image quality will greatly affect the efficacy of active PoE security camera systems; however, as image quality rises, so do related storage requirements. PoE IP cameras typically use Mega Pixel (MP) ratings to reflect expected video resolutions, the three most common being:

  • 2MP — 1080

  • 4MP — 2K

  • 8MP — 4K

It’s recommended that businesses use a variety of resolutions in their systems to keep costs and storage requirements within reasonable limits. For example, 8MP — 4K cameras may be used to cover entrances and exits where capturing detailed images of potential intruders will be required, while areas where detail is less important may be covered by lower resolutions.

2. PoE standards

There are multiple PoE standards that outline how much power can be safely sent through a PoE system. The original IEEE 802.3af-2003 PoE standard provides up to 15.4 W of power to each port, while the updated IEEE 802.3at-2009 PoE standard (AKA PoE+) provides up to 30 W of power. Most PoE cameras will require the updated PoE+ standard to work correctly.

3. Coverage

Security buyers need to consider the layout of areas they intend to monitor using PoE cameras. Use wide-angle dome or PTZ models to cover open spaces like shop floors and office areas, while long-range bullet PoE cameras should be used to cover larger areas like parking lots.

4. Remote viewing 

To ensure PoE security camera systems provide 24/7 property protection, installing systems with remote viewing functionality is recommended. Look for PoE cameras that feature user-friendly software designed to be viewed remotely via a secure mobile app or cloud management system, as well as those that include end-to-end encryption to ensure communications are cybersecure.

5. Integration capabilities

Finally, consider the potential for wider integrations with existing or newly proposed security technologies. PoE cameras that can be connected to wider cloud management systems may be able to be linked to broader security tools like access control readers, sensors and alarms, as well as smart video analytics software that can be used to program automated responses.


PoE security camera systems can provide business and property owners with a reliable, cost-effective and easily maintained physical security solution to protect key assets from common threats. Provided teams choose camera models well-suited to key locations, ensure related storage and viewing systems are appropriately configured and develop solutions with future integration possibilities in mind, PoE cameras can be used to improve commercial security system installations.

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