A KVM (keyboard, video and mouse) switch is a device that allows a user to switch between two or more computers and control them by using a single keyboard, monitor and mouse. KVM switches are usually found in data centers or ITS departments and allow an administrator to switch between different servers with the click of a button or via some keyboard commands. Using a KVM device reduces the cost of hardware as each server does not need dedicated hardware for input.
With the increase in the number of employees telecommuting, the KVM is an important piece of hardware that allows the owner to save space, remove clutter and save money by being able to share the home hardware with a work laptop.
Types of KVM switches
Single User KVM switches allow for control of two or four computers with more advanced switches allowing for connection to more computers.
Multiple User KVM switches allow multiple users to access multiple computers from several consoles. These are used in data centers where multiple administrators have access all servers. The data center is smaller and more efficient.
PS/2 KVM switches allow older keyboards and peripherals that have the ps/2 connection to control multiple computers.
USB KVM switches allow modern keyboards that use the standard USB connector to control multiple computers. USB KVM switches can also use wireless peripherals.
Benefits of KVM switches
A KVM switch reduces the space technology uses as only one set of peripheral devices is required to control multiple computers.
It is easier to work with multiple computers as only one set of peripherals is required.
The cost of hardware is reduced as less peripherals are required.
Alternatives to KVM switches
KVM switches work well but can create additional wiring problems. The effectiveness of the KVM switch can be reduced as you increase the number of computers. There are quite a few companies that offer a software alternative:
Synergy is open source piece software that allows you to control multiple computers.
Share Mouse is professional software that provides the same functionality as KVM and has advanced features that allow sharing clipboards, transferring files etc.
Mouse without Borders is a Windows only free application that has similar functionality as Share Mouse.
The KVM switch is a useful peripheral that can be used in the home or in a professional network to share hardware. Most allow sharing of the mouse, keyboard and monitor. Advanced switches allow sharing of audio and other hardware devices. They are easy to install, save space and reduce costs.