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This paper presents a thorough study of the different sources of noise affecting Brillouin optical time-domain analyzers (BOTDA), providing a deep insight into the understanding of the fundamental limitations of this kind of sensors. Analytical and experimental results indicate that the noise source ultimately fixing the sensor performance depends basically on the fiber length and the input pump-probe powers. Thus, while the phase-to-intensity noise conversion induced by stimulated Brillouin scattering can have a dominating effect at short distances, a combination of sources determines the noise in long range sensing, basically dominated by probe double Rayleigh scattering.