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KVM over IP vs. Remote Access Software – A Comparison

With many IT departments operating in down-sized environments as well as under-staffed employees being forced to manage an exceptional amount of mission-critical server room equipment than what they can handle; the ability to remotely monitor and repair computer problems on the go is an important task in today’s modern data center. Two remote monitoring options available for controlling computers over IP means will allow network administrators to view computers and access problems as they arise. Following we compare and contrast the two most popular methods of remote access computer management in the industry today. Both hardware and software based remote computer management solutions offers users valuable remote IP access when needed; however, each solution holds their own when comparisons are drawn between these unique solutions. Although, they each share one main feature – hardware based KVM over IP devices and Remote Desktop client based software perform as though you are sitting directly in front of the target system, manageable from anywhere in the world with an internet connection. A closer look behind the hardware component of KVM over IP and the software driven Remote Desktop makes them appear as two very similar remote access methods.

In order to truly understand the key features as well as the crucial limitations of the two remote IP management products, here is a quick break-down of each individual solution. KVM over IP Remote Access Management KVM over IP is a hardware based solution which allows users to gain both in-band and out-of-band access to all the servers either connected to your KVM switch or directly connected to a single computer. Late night trips to the data center to reboot one server have become a thing of the past because of this simple yet robust hardware component. KVM via IP front-end devices such as the Raritan Dominion KX101 will connect directly to a computer or a KVM switch and permits remote users to gain secure BIOS-level access to manage mission-critical servers. Remote IP management with products such as the Raritan Dominion KX or the Avocent DS Series is conducted through a standard internet browser session.

Front-end IP products work their magic by allowing remote users to gain full Keyboard, Video Monitor, Mouse access of the attached computer(s) from any location with internet connectivity. Raritan's client software is automatically downloaded from the KX101; eliminating the need to install "client" software on each user desktop. Furthermore, Raritan’s client software supports most major Web browsers including; Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Netscape and Safari (Macintosh).  Using the Raritan example once more, up to 8 users can remotely access the same server for teamed troubleshooting approach. Remote Access Software Remote Access Software programs takes advantage of easily loading software on the local computer or, in some cases, both local and remote computers, and allows users to view and take remote keyboard, mouse and video monitor to view and access servers in the data center from any location with internet capabilities. Types of remote management software include VNC and PCanywhere. The PC based PCanywhere can only be used on windows based computer systems. VNC on the other hand can be used in most operating system environments across the board. Although most Remote Access software is simple to load and is free in most cases, you must install the remote management software on every machine in the data center that needs remote connectivity. Also, the bottom line regarding Remote Access Software is the fact that such a heavy focus is placed on having the remote operating systems up and running at the application level for the remote session to work properly.

If the operating system crashes on the remote computer during remote connectivity at any time, users will be forced to take alternative ways to activate the remote computer. This will result in needing to physically reboot the remote server from a cold start in most cases. Using a platform independent software approach, VNC or Virtual Network Computing, for example, requires users to load software both client and server computers. In addition, the local and remote computers do not need to be running the same operating system.


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