Tripp Lite
1111 W. 35th Street
Chicago, IL 60609
+1 (773) 869-1776
+1 (773) 869-1329
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KVM Switch Buying Guide

Control Multiple PCs and Servers from a Single Keyboard/Video/Mouse Console

This buying guide will help you:

  • Understand what a KVM switch is and its key features
  • Compare the different types of KVM switches available
  • Know the key questions to ask before selecting a KVM switch
  • Find the right KVM switch for your application
kvm switch

KVM Switch Basics

What is a KVM switch?

A KVM (Keyboard, Video and Mouse) switch is a device that allows you to control multiple PCs, servers and other devices from a single keyboard, video monitor and mouse. 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.

desktop kvm switch
remote kvm switch

How does a KVM switch work?

PCs and servers that you want to control are connected to the KVM switch using network cabling or special KVM cable kits. A keyboard, monitor and mouse are then connected to the KVM switch, or in some cases the console is built into the KVM switch. You can switch 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 connected devices and the keyboard, mouse and monitor console.

KVM switches differ in the number of computers they can control, ranging from two to 64 directly connected computers. Enterprise-level KVM switches can also be daisy-chained or cascaded to allow over 1,000 devices to be controlled from a single keyboard, monitor and mouse console.

Where are KVM switches used?

  • Home offices
  • Small offices
  • Network closets
  • Server rooms
  • Data centers

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.

home office network closet data center

Top 5 KVM Switch Features

1. Multiple PC and Server Access

Access and control PCs and servers from a single keyboard/monitor/mouse console.

2. Password Protection

Multilevel password protection and advanced encryption keeps network connections secure.

3. Multi-User Support

Remote authentication and access rights management facilitate secure access for multiple user groups. Detailed activity logging provides an audit trail for regulatory compliance.

4. Control Over 1,000 Computers

Consolidating server access through a single console eliminates the cost of additional workstations and the energy, space and resources required to support them.

5. Choose from a Variety of Configurations

Choose from desktop models that simplify access to multiple devices to more advanced rack-mount models that let you manage many more network servers.

Types of KVM Switches

Desktop KVM Switches

These KVM switches are designed for desktop use in small office and home office environments and include up to eight ports for convenient switching between connected computers.

desktop kvm switch

Rack Console KVM Switches

Rack KVM consoles offer a built-in high-resolution LCD display, keyboard and touchpad in 1U of rack space and include up to 16 ports designed for controlling multiple servers. Select models also offer remote access and daisy-chaining/cascading capability to control over 1,000 servers.

rack kvm switch

Rack Consoles (No KVM Switch)

These rack consoles are similar to rack KVM consoles, but do not offer KVM switch functionality to control multiple servers. They include a built-in high-resolution LCD display, keyboard and touchpad in 1U of rack space.

remote console

Rack-Mount KVM Switches

Rack-mount KVM switches are designed to control up to 64 servers from a connected keyboard, video monitor and mouse while occupying only 1U of rack space. Select models also offer remote access and daisy-chaining/cascading capability to control over 1,000 servers.

rack kvm switch

IP Remote Access KVM Switches

IP remote access (also known as KVM over IP) allows you to access your connected servers over the local network via LAN/WAN or the Internet. Whether you’re in the next room or halfway around the world, you’ll be able to monitor and control servers through a standard Web browser or multi-platform client software. Select models without built-in IP remote access allow you to add an optional IP Remote Access Unit. For further reading, see Benefits of KVM IP Remote Access.

remote kvm switch

NIAP KVM Switches

NIAP KVM switches are designed for desktop use in network environments that demand data security. They are recommended for any government, military, financial or healthcare environment where tight security of sensitive data is of utmost importance in a world of constantly changing cyberthreats.

NIAP KVM switches include up to eight ports for convenient switching between connected computers. For further reading, see NIAP-Certified Secure KVM Switches.

niap kvm switch

Cat5 KVM Switches

A Cat5 KVM switch uses inexpensive, user-supplied Cat5/5e/6/6a network cabling to connect PCs and servers located up to 100 feet away from the KVM switch. This efficient network cabling reduces clutter, improves airflow in rack enclosures and leverages existing resources. Some Cat5 KVMs also provide built-in IP remote access and other models can support remote access by using a server interface unit sold separately.

Cat5 kvm switch

How to Choose a KVM Switch: Key Questions to Ask

When selecting a KVM switch, there are some key questions that need to be answered.

What type of KVM switch do you require?

KVM switches are available in desktop, rack-mount and rack-mount console designs. Desktop models are best used when controlling up to eight computers by a user-supplied keyboard, monitor and mouse. NIAP desktop KVM switches are also available for network environments where data security is required.

1U rack-mount, rack-mount console and rack console (no KVM switch) 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 that fold down when not in use to maximize rack space.

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

KVM switches are available with up to 64 ports for controlling up to 64 directly connected PCs and servers. Select models also offer daisy-chaining/cascading capability to control over 1,000 connected PC and servers.

How far away do you need to control the connected computers?

For shorter distances up to 25 feet, a KVM switch that uses standard cable kits is suggested. If your connected PCs and servers are over 25 feet from the KVM switch, a model that uses Cat5 cabling is recommended for distances up to 100 feet.

What type of connections are on the computers you need to connect?

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: VGA, PS/2, USB, DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort or Cat5 network cabling.

What type of monitor do you want to connect?

This must be determined so that your KVM switch is compatible with your monitor/LCD display: VGA, DVI, HDMI or DisplayPort.

Do you need remote access?

Select KVM switches offer remote access to connected servers 24/7 via LAN, WAN or Internet.

Do you require secure data?

NIAP KVM switches are available for use in network environments that demand data security. They are recommended for any government, military, financial or healthcare environment where tight security of sensitive data is of utmost importance in a world of constantly changing cyberthreats.

More Features Explained

Password Protection

Multi-level password protection on select KVM switches allows for the creation of administrator accounts with full access and user accounts with limited access.

Multiple Users

Multi-user models allow concurrent users to access connected servers with up to five simultaneously active connections. Whether users access them locally or remotely, these KVM switches support multiple levels of password security to accommodate user and administrator accounts.

Each user can be granted full access or varying levels of restricted access, depending on the privileges defined by the administrator. Remote access is further protected with technologies such as advanced encryption, remote authentication and detailed activity logging.

Multi-Platform Support

Connect KVM switches to multiple versions of PCs and servers with multiple platforms in any combination, including UNIX®, Linux, Windows®, Mac OS®, Solaris and more.

PDU Support

Select KVM switches also allow users to remotely control connected IP Power Distribution Units (PDUs). Individual ports on the KVM switch can be assigned to a port on the PDU, allowing you to power cycle or power ON/OFF connected servers without leaving the KVM session screen.

TAA-Compliance

Select KVM switches qualify for GSA schedule purchases and other government contracts that require KVM switches to comply with the Trade Agreements Act (TAA).

On-Screen Display (OSD)

An on-screen display (OSD) is included with a console KVM switch and allows for easy access and control of multiple network devices.

IP Remote Access

IP remote access lets you control multiple computers directly from the next room, next door or the next continent via LAN, WAN or the Internet.

Cable Kits

A cable kit allows you to connect a USB, VGA, SVGA, HDMI or DVI computer to a Tripp Lite KVM switch for optimal cable management and performance. 2-in-1 and 3-in-1 cable kits are available depending on your specific application.

Daisy-Chaining

Daisy-chain cables are available to conveniently connect multiple computers or servers to KVM switches in a direct-connect or cascading configuration for optimal computer monitoring and control.

Choose a KVM Switch

Select the ideal KVM switch that suits your specific application.

control computers from a single monitor and keyboard/mouse

Desktop KVM Switches

Local control of a small number of computers using your own keyboard, monitor and mouse.

KVM switch with integrated console

Rack Console KVM Switches

Rack mount Console KVM Switches include a full-size keyboard, touchpad, 17- or 19-inch color LCD. The device folds like a laptop and slides into a 1U rack drawer.

Rack Consoles (No KVM Switch)

Control an entire network in just 1U of rack space; includes keyboard, 19" LCD screen and touch pad. Connects to a PS/2 or USB server or KVM switch.

efficient server control

Rack-Mount KVM Switches

Local control of servers, typically in a single rack. Rack mount KVM switches and consoles can be purchased separately, with one console connected to multiple KVMs.

remote access and control from virtually anywhere

IP Remote Access KVM Switches

IP Remote Access KVM Switches (also known as KVM over IP) allow you to monitor and control connected equipment over the local network or Internet.

NIAP-certified secure KVMs

NIAP KVM Switches

NIAP-certified secure KVMs allow access to multiple computers with different security levels, protecting data from accidental or unauthorized transfer when switching between systems.

Cat5 KVM Switches

Cat5 models use efficient Cat5/5e/6 cabling that reduces clutter, improves airflow in rack enclosures, leverages existing resources and allows local server connections to extend up to 165 ft.

KVM Switch Glossary of Terms

B

Backward Compatible
Backward compatibility is a property of a system, product or technology that allows for interoperability with an older legacy computer system, or with input designed for such a system, especially in telecommunications and computing.
BIOS-Level Control
BIOS (Basic Input Output System) control allows you to control any brand and model computer or server, regardless of the condition and network connectivity.

C

Cable Kits
A cable kit allows you to connect a USB, VGA, SVGA, HDMI or DVI computer to a Tripp Lite KVM switch for optimal cable management and performance. 2-in-1 and 3-in-1 cable kits are available depending on your specific application.
Cat5 KVM Switch
A Cat5 KVM switch uses inexpensive, user-supplied Cat5/5e/6/6a network cabling to connect PCs and servers located up to 100 feet away from the KVM switch. Some Cat5 KVMs also provide built-in IP remote access and other models can support remote access by using a server interface unit sold separately.
Console Servers
Console servers provide secure in-band and out-of-band remote access to serial- and network-connected servers, routers, network switches, KVM switches, firewalls, PBX systems, UPS systems, RPC units, PDUs and other devices. Console servers allow you to manage diverse server and device platforms using a local console, network connection or dial-up connection.

D

Daisy-Chain Capability
Daisy-chain cables are available to conveniently connect multiple computers or servers to KVM switches in a direct-connect or cascading configuration for optimal computer monitoring and control.

E

EDID-Compliant
Extended Display Identification Data (EDID) is a metadata format for display devices to describe their capabilities to a video source (e.g. graphics card or set-top box). The data format is defined by a standard published by the Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA).

F

Fixed Firmware
The KVM switches firmware cannot be reprogrammed and prevents attempts to alter the logic of the unit.

H

Housing Intrusion Protection
If the housing is opened, the KVM switch becomes inoperable and the LEDs flash repeatedly.

I

IP Remote Access
IP remote access (also known as KVM over IP) allows you to access your connected servers over the local network via LAN/WAN or the Internet. Select models without built-in IP remote access allow you to add an optional IP remote access unit sold separately.

J

Java-Based Application
The Java-based application allows Windows computers to control a target server via a web browser from any location over a secured IP connection.

K

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/touchpad console.

M

Multi-Platform Support
Connect multiple versions of PCs and servers with multiple platforms in any combination, including UNIX®, Linux, Windows®, Mac OS®, Solaris and more.
Multiple Users
Multi-user models allow concurrent users to access connected servers with up to five simultaneously active connections. Whether users access them locally or remotely, these KVM switches support multiple levels of password security to accommodate user and administrator accounts. Each user can be granted full access or varying levels of restricted access, depending on the privileges defined by the administrator.

N

NIAP-Certified Secure
NIAP secure desktop KVMs meet the high standards for security set by the National Information Assurance Partnership (NIAP), so data stays safe and in the right hands.
Non-Browser Client
A non-browser client allows Windows computers to remotely access the KVM switch without the need for a browser and without the need to install Java.

O

On-Screen Display (OSD)
An on-screen display (OSD) is included with a console KVM switch and allows for easy access and control of multiple network devices.

P

Password Protection
Multi-level password protection on select KVM switches allows for the creation of administrator accounts with full access and user accounts with limited access.
Pat. No. US 9,417,720
Fast virtual media KVM system patented under Pat. No. US 9,417,720 for secure transfer of data.
PDU Support
Select KVM switches also allow users to remotely control connected IP Power Distribution Units (PDUs). Individual ports on the KVM switch can be assigned to a port on the PDU, allowing you to power cycle or power ON/OFF connected servers without leaving the KVM session screen.
Plug-and-Play
A reference to plug-and-play setup that does not require software installation.

R

RoHS-Compliant
RoHS applies to any business selling or distributing electrical and electronic products, sub-assemblies, components or cables to EU countries or to third parties that in turn sell that businesses' products to EU countries. By removing or restricting the amount of hazardous substances in electric and electronic equipment, RoHS-compliant products protect the environment and ensures the substances do not pollute the air, landfills or waterways.

S

Safe Buffer Design
The KVM switch does not have a memory buffer, and the keyboard buffer is automatically cleared after data transmission, preventing transfer of keystrokes or other data when switching between computers.
Steel Housing
Heavy-duty steel housings on most KVM switches stand up to frequent use in harsh environments.

T

TAA-Compliant
GSA schedule purchases and other government contracts require products that comply with the Trade Agreement Act (TAA).

V

Virtual Media
Virtual media allows an .iso file to be mounted to a target server and accessed as if it were directly stored on the server.

1

1 Local + 1 Remote User
1 local + 1 remote user can access different KVM ports concurrently and up to five users can share a single remote session

The Tripp Lite Difference

We know you have many brands to choose from. On the surface, they may all seem alike. It's what you don't see that makes the difference.

With Tripp Lite, you get solid engineering, proven reliability and exceptional customer service. It's the way we've been doing business since 1922. It's the Tripp Lite difference.

Many of our ideas and innovations spring from collaboration between our product managers and engineers. Some of these ideas go on to become successful products with thoughtful, user-friendly features. We constantly refine our designs and manufacturing process to offer our products at the best possible value. At Tripp Lite, we believe you should not have to sacrifice features and performance for a cost-effective solution.

It's not a coincidence that Tripp Lite products are known for reliability. Adherence to ISO 9001 quality management helps us make the most dependable products in the industry. All of our products undergo rigorous quality control before they are offered for sale, and we test to make sure they will withstand the demands of everyday use. In addition, primary or third-party agencies verify that our products meet or exceed the latest safety and performance standards. Our commitment to quality allows us to back our products with industry-leading warranties.

Along with a warranty, every Tripp Lite product comes with our promise to help if you need us. Our Chicago-based support team is comprised of product experts who provide free assistance before and after your purchase. Whatever your question, help is just a call or a click away.

Tripp Lite offers quality products at a good value with responsive customer service. It's the Tripp Lite difference.

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Tripp Lite
1111 West 35th Street
Chicago, Illinois 60609
United States

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Need help with your purchase?
We're always available to help with questions, including product selection, sizing, installation and product customization. Call us at +1 (773) 869-1776 or email presaleshelp@tripplite.com.