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What is Remote KVM?

Matt Brady
Matt Brady

A remote KVM, short for keyboard, video, and mouse, is a method of controlling multiple computers from the luxury of a single console. This is accomplished using a KVM switch, a device that provides the capability to toggle control from one computer to the other using only one keyboard, monitor, and mouse. Remote KVMs come in many forms with as many functions. One remote KVM may be used as a decluttering tool, streamlining a single user's set of computers to one space-efficient area, while another makes it possible for a business to control multiple servers across different locations from one central hub. Remote KVMs may be thought of as energy-savers as well as space-savers, as all energy consumption is whittled down to a single monitor.

The most basic kind of remote KVM is a single-user analog KVM switch, which provides the user control of two or more computers. With these set-ups, cables are routed from each computer to the switch, whereby signals are passed through the switchbox and back out to a remote keyboard, video, and mouse set. These types of single-user switches used to rely mainly on coaxial or cat-5 cables, but over time the universal use of USB cables has led to the availability of many USB-friendly KVM switches. Once everything is routed, all one need do in order to alter control from, for example, a home PC to a laptop, is to flip a switch.

Cat 5 cable with RJ45 plug.
Cat 5 cable with RJ45 plug.

From the simple single-user remote KVM, the technology becomes far more sophisticated and — like everything else in the technological landscape — more remote with the ever-expanding horizon of a wireless world. A digital KVM, or remote KVM over Internet Protocol (IP), enables access to multiple servers and computers across great physical divides. Whereas analog technology can only expand a KVM's influence as far as the longest cable, digital KVMs are capable of providing global access to servers using IP networks. With this technology, it is possible for one to tap into and remotely manipulate a KVM switch purely by using an Internet browser, a novelty that greatly enhances any operation's mobility and flexibility.

Remote KVMs are not only limited to single users. The aptly named multi-user KVM switch gives numerous individuals control of a network of computers. Another variation of remote KVM is the multi-platform switch, able to handle a variety of technologies, such as the ability to switch from a PC to a Mac®. Initially, remote KVMs were limited to a niche business market, but over time have been made more accessible to the general public. As a result, KVM switches grow more and more affordable and easy to use.

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    • Cat 5 cable with RJ45 plug.
      Cat 5 cable with RJ45 plug.