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Buyer’s Tips:
KVM Switching Systems

Buyer's Tips: KVM Switching Systems

Three common mistakes made when purchasing a KVM switch

  1. Not considering future requirements
    The biggest mistake you can make when purchasing a KVM switch is buying on lowest cost as the only factor, without considering future needs. The KVM switch will solve your problems for today. When this occurs, users will come back complaining that they bought a new system XYZ with enhanced feature sets A, B, C, D, and E. However, the KVM switch was not designed to support D and E. This type of issue will cause the admin to either buy a new separate KVM solution or set the system up as a separate entity.

  2. Forgetting about required accessories
    On more complicated systems that require Server Access Modules (adapters that hang off the back of each PC or server) and various types of accessories for mounting and access, users may mistakenly read a marketing article that tries to sell them a switch only and does not mention that the user is required to have the additional accessories to make it work. When purchasing more complicated systems, keep in mind that KVM switches that use any sort of CATx cable will ultimately force you into buying another device that connects to both ends to encode/decode the signals.

  3. Compatibility issues
    Another very common mistake is purchasing different types of equipment from different manufacturers (KVM switch from vendor A, KVM extender from vendor B, and a KVM tray from vendor C). This often leads to problems. When performing the initial installation and configuration, 90 percent of users will realise quickly that they will have many compatibility issues on their hands. At Black Box, if we suggest a solution that includes connecting more than one system, we make sure to have it fully tested and qualified so you will not have to struggle to make it work.

  4. What are the most important elements to look for when buying KVM switching systems?

    1. User requirements
      IT managers need to consider video type and resolution. What type of USB devices will be connected — HID devices such as keyboards and mice? If specialised keyboards are required, the KVM switch must be able to pass the proper emulation to CPUs. Another question to ask is whether you need connect audio as well.

    2. CPU requirements
      The types of computers you would like to use with the KVM switch, and how they connect (DVI, VGA, PS/2, USB, audio, etc.) are important elements. Knowing the types of computers you plan on buying in the next five years helps you choose a switch that will future-proof your investment. When looking at KVM switches, think about how many more computers/servers you plan on adding in the coming months and years. You don’t want to fully populate a KVM switch right away and discover you have to get the next size up or find a completely different solution.

      Also consider how far away the computers/servers/users will be located from the centralised KVM switch. If any system/user will be further than 5 metres, consider using a CATx-based solution where all computers/users will be interconnected via standard CATx cables. Suppliers need to ask these questions to the end users to figure out what they really need and try to suggest options that would potentially save them money down the line.

    3. What are the most common options available, and how do you decide which option is best?

      Desktop KVM switches have the most common options. The market supports many systems from various manufacturers. However, the switches do not all operate the same way. The most difficult thing to understand when looking at these types of switches is the difference in price between various four-port desktop switches. Prices can range from €60 all the way up to €450.

      When looking at these types of options and trying to compare the price difference, you will begin to notice major items that may not be immediately identified. Some of the differences between these types of switches are the way video is supported, having a built-in EDID channel, or the ability to program your own channels. Programming your own EDID channel in a lower-end switch, you can easily encounter KVM switches that will not render the video correctly (e.g. shifted video, horizontal/vertical bars, no video/no signal, etc.).

      Between these two types of switches, you will also need to identify the type of USB operation the application requires. The €60 KVM switch may only support USB HID keyboards and mice, and if you try to plug in a USB flash drive, external storage device, or any other type of USB 2.0 device, it won’t function. On the other hand, the €450 KVM switch should offer the full USB spectrum functionality, and may even support true USB emulation.

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