24-port PoE Ethernet switches

Rather than one of its own branded switches, Cisco opted to send us a newly launched PoE product from subsidiary Linksys. Aimed at the smaller enterprise this proved to be a well built and capable switch with good power support, plus added traffic management and security features.

Given the Cisco pedigree there were no surprises in terms of quality and no shock either to find the SRW224P following the normal 1U rack-mount model (brackets supplied) with 24 auto-sensing 10/100Mb/sec UTP connectors ranged across the front plus a couple of Gigabit Ethernet uplinks. These uplinks can either be UTP cabled, using the ports supplied, or configured to use optical fibre via a couple of adaptor slots alongside. Those adaptors, however, can cost almost as much again as the switch.

A serial console port allows for local configuration and there's SNMP support also. However, we used the built-in Web-based interface to both configure the switch and monitor its activity via a browser.

The interface here is a little sluggish, but you don't need to use it that much so it's not a major concern. And it's pretty user friendly with a graphical view of the switch at the top and more detailed menus in a window underneath. Unfortunately, the graphical view doesn't show the power status of the ports, only their data connectivity, which means searching around in the menus to see what's what.

On the plus side it doesn't take long to find your way around the various options. This is because the Linksys switch is essentially a Layer 2 device with a only few extras thrown in, such as the ability to define up to 128 VLANs. You can also fiddle with a range of Quality of Service (QoS) settings so that, for example, Voice over IP (VoIP) gets priority over ordinary data. Plus, of course, there's support for Power over Ethernet.

Unfortunately there are no backup power connectors on this Linksys switch - all you get is the one built-in AC adapter. Moreover, in common with most other PoE switches in this price bracket, the power available is limited. In this case just 180W is on offer, which could call for tweaking of the setup if you've lots of devices.

That said this is not difficult to do with facilities available to prioritise power delivery and limit the amount of power that can be drawn on a port by port basis. A degree of experimentation is required but we found the best approach was to connect a device using the default, full power settings and then check using the Web interface to see how much power it actually required. We were then able to alter the power ceiling and priority to more exactly match those requirements.

If you only want to power a few devices then this shouldn't be necessary, however, and in our tests we didn't find anything drawing more than 6-8W so the chances are you'll get away with a full compliment of PoE ports. And, given the relatively low price, we think it represents a very good deal especially as you can upgrade to a more capable Cisco-branded switch with a cash-back offer during the first three years of ownership.


Top of the pile for value with good PoE support and more besides

Type: Layer 2 Ethernet switch 10/100Mb/sec UTP ports: 24 Gigabit ports: 2 - shared adapter slots for fibre connectivity Switching capacity: 8.8Gb/sec MAC addresses: 8000 VLANs: 128 PoE budget: 170W Redundant power: No