Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Finding a Server KVM Switch - What to Pick?

IF you are looking for a server KVM switch, whether it be for your Data Center or your home office or whatever it may be, it is important to know the details of the server kvm switch you choose. There are a lot of options out there and in this economy sometimes people make choices that may save them some money but in reality they are just creating hassle for themselves.

A server KVM switch could have to handle multiple platforms of KVMs, such as Sun boxes, Linux boxes, Windows boxes etc. Not properly planning and just picking any server kvm switch can leave you with A sun with no pipe key or a unix with a resolution that wont display. Also when speaking of emulating keyboard and mouse signals back to the host PC it is important to keep platforms in mind.

Also when choosing a server KVM switch you should make sure you leave yourself room for expansion. Daisy chaining (Cascading) server kvm switches can be a pain and you should think down the line about expanding your data center and having a server KVM switch ready to handle the load.

One last thing when dealing with server kvm switches is make sure you can find someone who will sell you something AND support it. Don't get stuck buying some cheapo switch and realize that there is no tech support and its failure rate isn't something out of this world. That will save you some serious down time and hassle and you will be satisfied with your KVM switch purpose.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Looking for an iogear kvm switch? Try the GCS632U 2 port

This KVM switch did the trick for me. For an iogear kvm switch, I was happy and think they have decently made hardware. In this writeup I will give you some comparisons on some of the differences between this iogear kvm switch and its older brother, the GCS632U.

1) There are no hotkeys with this iogear KVM switch. This is a remote that is hard wired to the KVM, and you have to toggle this hardwired button everytime you want to switch computers. This isn't the best option for me, as I would prefer hotkeys, and just pressing keyboard strokes is so much more smooth than getting up and switching it manually. The button would end up being a point of failure at some point also.

2) The newer iogear KVM switch GCS632 uses just one USB cable to go back to the server, which is convenient because it cuts down on cabling and clutter. The older GCS22U had 2 cables, each one with a dedicated USB cable for mouse and keyboard. This is one good feature of the GCS632U iogear KVM switch.

3) The GCS632U also has 1/8" plugs for audio to allow you to share line level bi directional stereo audio between to the two servers. If you only have one set of speakers this can be convenient because now you have a KVM + audio switch.

If you are in the hunt for an iogear kvm switch, the GCS632U would be a nice purchase for a 2 port kvm. It gets the job done and I have read compatibility reports of it supporting some off the wall keyboard hardware, which is rare in an iogear kvm switch. I hope this review helped and good luck! Here is a link if you choose to purchase this switch:

Here are some links of troubleshooting for the GCS632U:

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Connect KVM switch - A popular KVM email troubleshooting subject line

A lot of times I will get emails at work with subject lines like connect KVM switch, and install KVM switch, and the first thing that pops in my head is READ THE MANUAL. If you are a tech I am sure you know the acronym RTFM, and sometimes you just want to say that to people. I suppose it is job security for technical support for people to continue to not read their manuals so maybe I shouldn't complain so much.

If you are looking to connect your KVM switch the most important thing to do is make sure you have the appropriate cabling. Lately more and more KVM switches are coming with proprietary cabling, which is probably to make more money.

Here is a really good video on taking a KVM switch out of the box and hooking it up:

Other times on smaller KVM switches you will just have the native PS/2 connections or USB connections, and other times the KVM switch will have something a DB25 or an HD15 connector on it and 3-1 breakout cables are used. These connections confuse alot of people and upon receiving their equipment they think they got a serial piece of hardware or something that is video only with the HD15s.

Another thing to keep in mind is if you are doing PS/2 and USB make sure you get the proper cabling on a per port basis and make sure your hardware is capable of both. Also if you have an enterprise type of KVM switch you will also need to attach some type of Server Access Module and Remote Units for functionality. If you are unsure of these I would consult your manual or call Tech Support of your KVM manufacturer. These tips will help you save time on connect KVM switch.

KVM Switch Help - Where can you get answers?

If you are looking for KVM Switch help I have posted numerous tips in my blog on a ton of different topics. Here are the two links that I felt were most appropriate to be the top 2 KVM switch help links (from my blog):

KVM Over IP: What is it exactly?
KVM Switches - an overview.

There are many different things that you could be looking for if you need KVM switch help, a lot of which can be found in the manual for your particular switch. Truthfully Google Search can bring up helpful information about your problem if you need it a lot of the time.

I have seen a few KVM switch help screens that are built into the On Screen Display in certain KVM switches, and truthfully I think they should have that on every switch. Imagine interactive help on each section of a KVM switches menu. I am a visual learner and I would definitely benefit from this.

Lastly if you need KVM switch help, try contacting the vendor.

Here are some common KVM switch vendors whose contact information you should find on their site.

Avocents Homepage
Black Box Network Services
IO Gears Homepage

Between Manuals, tech support, and internet searches you should get all the KVM switch help that you need.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Kvm switch windows vista - can it be done?

The answer is yes. Some ancient KVM switches may have trouble communicating with kvm switch windows vista and will give up. The new KVM switch windows type boxes have fully transparent usb connections back to the host computer, leaving many options in terms of connectivity from the kvm switch windows down to your servers.

If you think about it USB runs on all operating systems, and if your kvm switch windows vista box is just passing transparent USB to the server, it doesnt matter what operating system is running, as it is just communicating USB data. This as I mentioned before leaves alot of options also for attaching peripherals, such as DVD RW's, CD RW's, touchscreens, and other things.

So to answer the question yes it can be done. Chances are if it is a newer kvm then it will be able kvm switch windows vista. If you are unsure always double check with the person you are purchasing it from to make sure that it is capable of what you need it to do.

KVM Switch Resolution - Is It Important?

KVM switch resolution is often overlooked when researching KVM switches. Some video applications run at very high resolutions, sometimes with digital video, and other times people are running very low resolutions such as 800 x 600. KVM switch resolution is an important spec of whatever KVM switch you choose, so that you are able to push the high bandwidth video through the switch if you need to.

If you get an out of range signal on your monitor, whether through KVM switch hardware or whether directly attached, it is usually a resolution issue. If it is out of range usually the frequency is too high caused by a resolution that the monitor is incapable of. The higher the resolution, the higher the bandwidth, and if you are pushing too much information to the monitor, it will not be able to handle the video.

So KVM Switch resolution is definitely an important spec to take note of while searching for a KVM switch, and if you get stuck with a switch that can't handle your video you will be upset. The KVM switch resolution is usually detailed in the manual, so proper research will save you trouble down the road with hardware that doesn't suit your needs.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Figuring out your KVM switch password

KVM switch Password - I lost It, Now What?

If you have a KVM switch password that you have lost, it usually is not that big of a deal. If it is one of the users KVM switch password that was lost, the administrator should be able to log into the switch and set a new kvm switch password. A factory default (usually found in the manual) would also delete the user information and give you a default kvm switch password.

If you lost the administrator password, and a factory default won't help you, then your next best bet is to call the manufacturer of your KVM switches Technical Support. They have different procedures which I have seen range from different button sequences to actually physically jumpering hardware inside of the kvm to get a default kvm switch password. Again consult the companies Technical Support or the KVM switches manual for accessing this information.

The last thing you may be curious of is the default kvm switch password. These are usually pretty predictable with settings such as "Admin" and "Password", but these will also be documented in your KVM switches manual.

My KVM Blog - A KVM switch guide

A KVM switch guide can be very useful when you are interested in KVM switches, whether it be to purchase one or just to find more information out about kvm switches. This blogs purpose is to be a KVM switch guide for you to give you definitions of key terms and help you to understand all of the different features and buying tips you should know when looking at KVM switches.

People dont know that KVM switches can range from the simplest of electronics such as a Y cable of sorts, while other KVM switches can span thousands of servers and multiple datacenters around the country. The limits truely are endless in terms of designing a KVM solution, so proper education and planning can make you confident that you are getting the correct thing.

You can use the search function of this site to research any topics, and hopefully find out the specific question you have. You can always leave comments also, and I will do my best to answer them. I hope you bookmark this page and use it as your KVM switch guide in the future.

Monday, July 27, 2009

KVM Over IP: What is it exactly?

If you are curious on what KVM over IP is, you are probably looking to expand your setup to something that you can control remotely. This can be extremely convienent if you have a far drive to your on site location and you have to pay labor and travel costs. KVM over IP gives you the ability to use the Internet to make a connection to all of your attached devices, and basically gives you control from anywhere in the world.

This saves people a lot of time and money everyday. I see it first hand at my job. You can get a KVM over IP switch that would range from anywhere from 1 standalone computer (So no switch, just a device that will connect your server to the Web), to a whole system across the country of datacenters and devices. There are some high end enterprise options that will give you a server to handle all of your different devices and you can centralize administration down to one connection to one box.

KVM over IP switches allow you to connect through a VNC session. If VNC is not available a java applet usually can be used in Internet Explorer, making it compatible with most machines. The connection is a secure encrypted connection and you can have varying amounts of users connected simultaneously. If you are going to purchase a switch and you need a multi user KVM over IP switch, make sure you get one that can handle concurrent user connections.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Multi Platform KVM Switches for use with SUN, LINUX, and other platforms

The KVM switch that you choose has to be capable of multi platform support if you want to host machines such as MAC O/S, and anything other than a PC. This is because the KVM switch emulates the keyboard and mouse signal to the operating system so it has to know how to communicate. With USB this is alot easier because you do not have to worry about the computer recognizing anything but a USB Device.

Most of the time standard installations are going to just have PC's using standard hardware, but in some more sophisticated setups you will find a mixture of many different platforms all hoping to be accessed by the same KVM switch.

Make sure before you buy if you need support for MAC or SUN systems, that your switch has that.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Purchasing a kvm switch for dvi

If you are in the market for a new kvm switch for dvi, you should know that you have to get a KVM switch that supports the USB harware.Having a PS/2 only KVM switch and then using adapters to convert from USB will cause trouble for you and be a pain down the road. The proper kvm switch for dvi will have the proper engineering to allow them to function with USB keyboard and mice and they will be more reliable for you.

It is possible to mix PS/2 and USB, as long as the kvm switch for dvi will handle the conversion. On a select few of kvm switch for dvies, you will have both the USB and PS/2 connectors on the same cable to save confusion.

A kvm switch for dvi may also have a USB hub built into it. This would allow you to attach hard drives, printers, scanners, and many other peripherals to the kvm switch for dvi and be able to share them between the two computers. This can be very convienent in offices, and places where multiple people may need to be using the same type of equipment.

Proper planning and knowledge can get you hardware like kvm switch for dvies that will work like they should. Proper planning when buying something like a kvm switch for dvi is essential, because you don't want to get the hardware and then have it not work and have to troubleshoot it. That is why you should know what your KVM switch can handle.

Friday, June 5, 2009

KVM switches and switching with hotkeys

KVM switches can have a lot of options for you to work with in terms of how you actually make the box switch. Usually there are buttons right on the front of the KVM switch, but other switches give you options of switching by means of hotkeys on the keyboard, mouse clicks, and serial signals to switch.
The hotkeys allow you to enter keystrokes followed by certain commands that will make the switch do various things, such as switch ports. This can make alot of situations alot easier if your keyboard and mouse are fairly far away from your switch, or if pressing buttons on the switch is not convienent for you.
Mouse switching also can help you achieve the same results by clicking the third button on the mouse (usually the middle button.) This can give people the same ease of use as hotkey switching, allowing you to be remote from your KVM switch and still access the server you need to access.
Another convienent but sometimes rare option on a switch is to switch it with RS232 serial commands. This would allow you to use a crestron machine or any type of machine that can output serial signals and use those signals to make your KVM switch change ports. This allows customization of applications and can be very versatile if you are looking for unorthodox methods of switching.
Knowing your KVM switches functionality and asking the right questions can make sure that you have these features and they are working for your benefit.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

How to choose a USB KVM switch

When purchasing a USB KVM switch it is important to make sure you get hardware that is capable of USB keyboard and mice. If you get a KVM switch that can only handle the PS/2 interface and you start converting from USB you are bound to run into problems. The proper USB KVM switch will have the proper engineering to allow them to function with USB keyboard and mice and they will be more reliable for you.

It is possible to mix PS/2 and USB, as long as the USB KVM switch will handle the conversion. Some switches will have settings that will allow you to specify, while other USB KVM switches will just be plug and play.Usually the USB KVM Switch will have seperate cables for USB and seperate cables for PS/2. On a few USB KVM switches you will have both USB and PS/2 connectors on the cable and you just use the one that you need.

A USB KVM switch may also have a USB hub built into it. This would allow you to attach hard drives, printers, scanners, and many other peripherals to the USB KVM switch and be able to share them between the two computers. This can be very convienent in offices, and places where multiple people may need to be using the same type of equipment.

These are just things to keep in mind because nothing is worse than getting hardware and having it not make things easier like it is supposed to. Proper planning and knowledge can get you hardware like USB KVM switches that will work like they should. Proper planning when buying something like a USB KVM switch is essential, because you don't want to get the hardware and then have it not work and have to troubleshoot it. That is why you should know what your KVM switch can handle.

For more information on USB KVM switches, and just general KVM knowledge, visit my KVM Knowledge Blog

Thursday, February 12, 2009

PS/2 to USB adapters and KVM switches

A common call while troubleshooting KVMs is the fact that the keyboard and mouse are not working with their switch, and they can't figure out why. More often than not there are adapters the customers are trying to use and they are converting PS/2 to USB because their computer no longer has USB ports. While it seems simple enough, doing this can throw off the KVM switch and the PC. When your computer boots, if it does not see a keyboard and mouse attached it will notify you of this. A KVM switch achieves the ability to use 1 keyboard, monitor, and mouse by emulating these signals to the computer, thus allowing it to boot without any hitches. When these adapters are thrown in they are not providing that emulation, and it will appear no keyboard or mouse is attached. Other common problems in situations with no keyboard or mouse are related to PS/2 connectivity and needing a reboot, or possibly just disconnected or bad cables or even KVM hardware. As a conclusion to the thought about the emulation, there are converters that have the electronics built into them to accomplish this. If you're still having keyboard and mice trouble, check that you're not using wireless equipment unless the switch supports it. Make sure you have the correct drivers installed on all PCs. Of course there are other problems that can arise but its all hypothetical at this point.

Also a shoutout to Garrett and his site dedicated to teach people how to make MMORPG games. He put alot of time into it and it looks nice and he definitely has experience with it. Guide to Making an MMORPG

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Reverse KVM switching

The above diagram is a scenario of needing more than 1 keyboard video and mouse on your PC. Sometimes people have a need to perform a reverse KVM switch, and split their keyboard, video, and mouse connections into more than one set of keyboard video and mice, and that is where a reverse KVM switch comes in handy. These also come in USB style reverse KVM switches and also PS/2 style. Any amount of distance can really be achieved with the most basic of reverse KVM switches, by attaching some type of Cat5 KVM extender to it and extending your KVM port that way. Alot of people wonder how 2 people can have control at the same time, but on most reverse KVM switches there are dip switches for you to set timeouts, so that User 1 would have to be idle for x amount of time before User 2 can take over. These can be very convienent if you need 2 command centers far away from the original PC. I personally think it would be advantageous to have a reverse KVM switch that ran everything over catX cable it would be alot cleaner of an install.

Friday, February 6, 2009

DDC and KVM switches and KVM extenders

When you plug in your monitor to your KVM switch or your extender, usually you expect it to work without problems and without any hangups. I have seen a growing problem while troubleshooting KVM switches, and this is very few people have an understanding of what DDC is, and many people do not know that exchanging of DDC information is usually a key factor in if your video will transmit or not with your KVM switch or extender.

Taking a step back though, DDC stands for Display Data Channel. There are VESA standards that define exactly what DDC is, but basically it is how your monitor communicates with the video card it is attached to, to notify the video card of what type of resolutions it is capable of and some other data. They store the working resolutions and the monitor and graphics card now have a common ground to display on.

The problem arises when you have a piece of hardware in the middle of the monitor and your graphics card, and this hardware does not send the DDC information to the graphics card. This will cause no video to display, or in some cases it will cause the computer to revert back to its lowest resolution. Often hard wiring the monitor and rebooting your computer takes care of this problem by letting the EDID information be exchanged, and thus having a resolution they agree on.

There are also products like a DDC ghost, which emulates DDC information, and software programs which will let you manipulate video card driver EDID information and force resolutions other than the ones in the monitors EDID information.

Friday, January 30, 2009

KVM over IP overview

In the world of KVM switching, there is an emerging technology called KVM over IP. This allows you to have the basics of a KVM switch, whether it is a USB switch or a DVI KVM switch, and access those servers from anywhere in the world that you have internet access. KVM over IP switches can be especially useful if you are not on site with your servers, as you can connect to them and configure them all from anywhere in the world with one IP address! KVM over IP solutions can range in size from a 4 port KVM over IP switch or up to 1,000's of servers. There are also management appliances for KVM over IP that can be used to have global control over many KVM switches, KVM gateways, and any other devices on your KVM network. With KVM over IP you use a client such as VNC viewer, or a webbased Java client. These give you connection the server in the KVM over IP switch, and allow you to have communication to the USB or PS2 attached servers.
You can use DVI or VGA video with KVM over IP switches. You can also give IP access to an existing non IP KVM switch. This can be especially useful if you wanted to keep a legacy KVM switch in place and still have IP connectivity to your servers. You would need a KVM gateway to attach to the console side of your KVM switch, and that acts as a buffer between your switch and the internet. I see KVM over IP as a rising technology and I think in our fast paced world you will see more and more KVM switches migrating over to KVM over IP.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

KVM extenders and KVM switches

If you are trying to locate your keyboard and mouse a great distance away from your PC or KVM switch, a KVM extender can help you. A PS/2 KVM extender gives you the ability to go further than the typical 20-25 ft limit for PS/2 cables. A USB kvm extender would allow you to go further than the 16 ft. USB limit. A KVM extender can run over cat5, cat5e or cat6 copper cable. They can also run over fiber optics and are called Fiber optic KVM extenders. These fiber optic KVM extenders run over singlemode or multimode fiber. You can achieve distances of up to 1000 ft typically with the copper KVM extenders and the fiber KVM extenders will take you kilometers.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

KVM switches

A KVM switch (with KVM being an abbreviation for Keyboard, Video or Visual Display Unit, Mouse) is a hardware device that allows a user to control multiple computers from a single keyboard, video monitor and mouse. There are many different technologies involved in KVM switching, such as KVM switching over IP (ethernet), USB KVM switching, and USB and DVI KVM switching . You can have ps2 KVM switches or a USB KVM switch. KVM switches commonly come with VGA analog video outputs, but with DVI becoming more popular the industry is adapting.