KVM Switches are used in IT environments across a wide range of industries for benefits ranging from reducing desktop clutter to enabling remote access of network devices. If you haven’t integrated KVM Switches into your data center design, it’s time well spent to consider how you can use them to improve your operations.

The Many Uses of KVM Switches

In brief, a KVM Switch is a device that allows you to control multiple computers from a single keyboard (K), video monitor (V) and mouse console (M). They allow access and control of both local and remote network equipment with KVM extension solutions. IP KVM Switches can remotely access and control devices from anywhere in the world with an Internet connection. Most models without built-in remote access allow you to add an optional IP remote access unit.

KVM Switches are flexible enough to meet the needs of any home office, small/mid-size or enterprise application. They are very useful in enterprise data centers where multiple servers are placed in a single rack cabinet and allow data center personnel to connect to any server in the rack. Enterprise-level KVM Switches can be daisy-chained or cascaded to allow even greater numbers of computers (over 1,000 with multiple users) to be controlled from a single keyboard, monitor and mouse console.

While the most touted benefits of KVM switches include saving space, reducing hardware costs and streamlining a data center design, they indeed have many more benefits. One less talked about benefit is their energy efficiency enhancements. By reducing hardware redundancy via KVM Switches, less power will be consumed due to the lower total electrical load. Moreover, the use of KVM Switches can reduce the number of server rack cabinets (and cable clutter), floor space, and the size of cooling systems.

The remote access of network equipment is an especially useful benefit for network administrators who can’t be tethered to the data center. Whether you’re in the next room or halfway around the world, you’ll be able to access your servers through a standard Web browser or multi-platform client software. KVM over IP Switches provide secure BIOS-level remote access of servers and other network devices to help you solve complex problems efficiently and restore service before downtime hurts productivity. Multi-user KVMs allow multiple, concurrent users to access connected servers through a single gateway.

But the benefits of KVM Switches extend well beyond the world within a data center. Let’s consider a busy hospital or medical center for a moment. Patients’ vital statistics need to be monitored frequently. Remote terminals connected via KVM Switches allow nurses to conveniently monitor a patient’s vitals anywhere on the hospital’s floor. Another medical application of KVM switches is the sharing of medical images at multiple locations.

Industrial applications of KVM Switches are as much about saving space and improving efficiency as they are about environmental control. Paper mills are dirty and dusty environments not conducive for sensitive computer equipment. To deal with this environment, computers are placed in protected control rooms and KVM Switches enable the remote monitoring of many production processes. The semi-conductor industry uses KVM Switches to ensure that dust-collecting computer equipment does not contaminate the clean, sterile environment required in a fab plant.

In the commercial aviation industry, air traffic control towers use KVM Switches to not only save space, but also to provide system redundancy to mission critical applications. They are used to quickly access a backup system enabled via KVM on the controller’s desk in the event of a failure of a primary system.

In the military/defense industry, NIAP-certified KVM Switches are used to provide secure and reliable access for desktop environments that require security by providing safe switching between computers operating on different networks. In this type of KVM, hardware security is provided by tamper-evident tape, chassis intrusion detection and tamper-proof hardware, while software security is provided by restricted USB connectivity. An isolated channel per port makes it impossible for data to be transferred between secure and unsecured computers. By combining physical security with controlled USB connectivity, secure KVM Switches consolidate multiple workstations of various security classification levels with one keyboard, monitor and mouse (KVM) console.