What Are KVM Switches and When Should You Use One?

If you enjoy stock trading, content creation, programming, or systems administration, you probably use or consider two or more computers to increase productivity and separate your work and private life. The problem with using two or more computers is that it is expensive, takes up a lot of space and is difficult to wire.


A KVM switch can make your multi-computer setup cost-effective and take up less table space, while also making it neat and easier to manage. So, what are KVM switches and why should you use one?


What are KVM Switches?

KVM switches are electronic devices that can save you money, space, and provide a tidier setup by allowing you to control and interact with multiple computers using just one keyboard, mouse, and monitor.

KVM switches are basically central hubs that you connect computers and computer peripherals to. The most common KVM switch configuration supports switching between two and four computers, with computer peripherals linked via HDMI, DisplayPort, VGA, and USB.

The purpose of using a KVM switch is to have a smooth and effortless way to switch from one computer to another. Depending on the KVM, there are several ways you can switch. The most popular ways are by pressing a hotkey on your keyboard, clicking your mouse wheel, using an on-screen display (OSD), using a remote control, or simply using the KVM’s push buttons.

To make sure you get a KVM that switches quickly and supports your preferred switching method through your setup, you need to know the four switching technologies used in modern KVM switches today. They are:

USB hub based KVM

These types of KVM switches require your computer peripherals to undergo a USB count every time you switch computers. This is equivalent to removing your peripherals from one computer and then plugging them into another computer when you switch.

As a result, these switches have the longest latencies (a few seconds) when switching from one system to another. They also don’t support hotkey switching, meaning you can only switch via the KVM’s dedicated push buttons.

Emulated USB KVM

Unlike USB hub-based KVMs, emulated USB KVM switches don’t have to do a USB count every time you switch. These KVMs use dedicated USB console ports to emulate your computer peripherals as if they were already connected to all of your computers.

This significantly shortens the switching time to almost instantaneous. They also support keyboard shortcuts, but no special keys or switching between mouse functions.

Semi-DDM USB KVM

It uses Dynamic Device Mapping (DDM) to switch as fast as an emulated USB KVM, but with support for hotkeys, special keys and mouse functions.

DDM USB KVM

By using dedicated DDM USB console ports, these types of KVM switches offer no latency, meaning switching happens instantaneously. Dedicated ports also allow users to switch between computers via all USB-HID class devices.

Benefits of Using a KVM Switch

There are many benefits to integrating a KVM switch into your multi-computer setup. Here are a few:

  • Fast and convenient: You don’t have to switch every time to use other computers – just press a hotkey to open them.
  • Saves money: You can save money with just one set of computer peripherals.
  • Neater and cleaner: Without all the extra wires, it’s easier to manage your multi-system setup to look neater and also easier to clean.
  • Saves space: without having to use peripherals, you save space.
  • Additional USB HUB: KVM switches usually provide multiple USB ports, which you can use as a regular USB hub.

Should You Use a KVM Switch?

With various types of KVM switches available in the market, if you are working in a home office, small business, surveillance room, data center or server room, you should use a KVM switch. Individuals who use multiple devices such as a desktop computer, a laptop, and a game console can also benefit from using a KVM switch.

Using a regular KVM switch in your home office can increase productivity by allowing you to use multiple computers without wasting too much desk space. They are also great for separating your work and private life by having their own designated computers.

Data centers and server rooms can greatly benefit from KVM over IP switches, which allow remote access to servers over IP. Racked-type KVMs are also great for system administrators who want to work more securely in server rooms.

KVM switches also support multiple monitors, which is useful for security personnel working in surveillance rooms.

KVM switches can also switch between PCs and game consoles, which is great for gamers who like to use one monitor for gaming, work, and other personal activities.

Multi-system configurations take advantage of KVMs

KVM switches are great devices for multi-system setups. They can improve your settings by saving you time, money and space. The different KVM configurations also give you access to servers over IP, switch between game consoles and desktop computers, and have different working monitors to make CCTV surveillance easier.

With the many benefits that KVM switches offer, you should consider buying one if you have a multi-system setup.

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