KVM Switch Buying Guide

What is a KVM Switch?

A KVM (Keyboard, Video, and Mouse) Switch is a device that allows you to control multiple computers from a single keyboard, video monitor and mouse console. This can be particularly beneficial when there is insufficient room for multiple monitors and keyboards, such as in a server room rack or on a small desktop.

How does a KVM Switch work?

Computers that you want to control are connected to the KVM Switch using Cat5 cabling or special KVM cable kits. A keyboard, monitor and mouse console are then connected to the KVM Switch, or in some cases the console is built in to the KVM Switch. Control is switched from one computer to another by the use of a button, On-Screen Display (OSD) controls, or hot keys on the keyboard, with the KVM routing signals between the computers and the keyboard, mouse and monitor console.

KVM Switches differ in the number of computers they can control, ranging from two up to 32 computers. Enterprise-level KVM Switches can also be daisy-chained or cascaded to allow even greater numbers of computers (over 500) to be controlled from a single keyboard, monitor and mouse console.

What are the most common KVM Switch applications?

Space-saving, convenient and economical, a KVM Switch is flexible enough to meet the needs of any home office, small/mid-size or enterprise application. Plus, a KVM Switch is easy to install, configure and operate. KVM Switches are popular among users who have upgraded their home computer systems and want to still use their old computers but do not want to invest in a second keyboard, monitor and mouse. KVM Switches are also used by businesses to save money when one person uses more than one computer and in server rooms where it is only necessary to periodically access each server one at a time. They are frequently used in data centers where multiple servers are placed in a single rack with a single keyboard, monitor and mouse. A KVM Switch then allows data center personnel to connect to any server in the rack.

When selecting a KVM Switch, there are a few questions that need to be answered.

What type of KVM Switch do you require?

KVM Switches are available in rack-mount, rack-mount console and desktop design. Desktop models are best used when controlling up to four computers by a user-supplied keyboard, monitor and mouse console. Rack-mount and rack-mount console models are ideal for conserving space within rack enclosures that typically contain multiple servers and other networking equipment. In addition, rack-mount console models include a built-in keyboard, LCD display and touchpad console that collapses when not in use to maximize space.

How many computers do you want to control from a single KVM Switch?

KVM Switches are available with up to 32 ports for controlling up to 32 directly connected computers.

How far away do you need to control the connected computers (maximum distance from the connected computer to the KVM Switch)?

For shorter distances up to 25 feet, a KVM Switch that uses standard cable kits is suggested. If your connected computers are over 25 feet from the KVM Switch, a KVM Switch that uses Cat5 cabling is recommended for distances up to 1,000 feet.

The type of computers you need to connect: PS/2, USB or Cat5 connectors?

If connecting to computers using standard KVM cable kits, you need to determine the connection types so that you can choose the right cable kits (PS/2 or USB) or Cat5 network cabling.

The type of monitor you want to connect: VGA or DVI?

This must be determined so that your KVM Switch is compatible with your monitor/LCD display.

Desktop KVM Switches

Tripp Lite B004-DUA2-K-R KVM switch

Direct-Connect

Control up to 32 USB or PS/2 computers from just a few square inches of desktop or shelf space in home and small offices.

Tripp Lite B002-DUA4 NIAP-certified secure KVM switch

NIAP-Certified Secure

Safely switch between up to 4 computers with different levels of security. NIAP-certified Secure KVM Switches offer superior data protection for government / military agencies that require absolutely secure networks.

Network KVM Switches

Tripp Lite B064-032-04-IPG KVM switch

IP Network

Control your network from anywhere at any time with integral IP Remote Access. IP Network KVM Switches enable monitoring and control of PCs and servers either locally on the network or remotely over IP.

Tripp Lite B020-008-17 console KVM switch

Console

Store your complete workstation in just 1U. Console KVM Switches include a full-size keyboard, touchpad, 17- or 19-inch color LCD and 8- or 16-port KVM switch, all in a sliding 1U rack drawer.