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KVM Switch or Console Server: Which is Right For You?

Both are tools for simplifying the management of multiple computers; 
the real difference lies in what type of equipment they can manage.

multiple computer and servers management

What is a KVM Switch?

kvm switch

KVM switches allow multiple computers and servers to be controlled from a single keyboard, mouse and monitor. In fact, the name KVM switch is derived from "keyboard, video and mouse". Computers are typically in close proximity to the KVM switch—on the same desktop or server rack, for example.

IP KVM switches function in the same way as local KVM switches, but they can remotely access and control computers and servers from anywhere in the world with an Internet connection.

Use a KVM Switch to manage:

  • Desktop PCs
  • File Servers
  • Domain Servers
  • Print Servers
  • Servers

What is a Console Server?

console server

Console Servers provide secure in-band and out-of-band remote access to serial and network-connected equipment through the device's console port or cellular antennae. Out-of-band access with automatic failover provides a fail-safe alternative channel for managing and troubleshooting critical systems if your local network or Internet connection goes down, eliminating a crucial point of failure.

Use a Console Server to manage:

  • Servers
  • Firewalls
  • PBX Systems
  • UPS Systems
  • PDUs
  • Routers
  • Network Switches

What is a Console Port?

Most switches and routers have a console port. This is used to log directly into the device when a network connection is not available. Use a console (rollover) cable to connect a switch or router to your console server.

remote console switch
Eaton Network Switch (Model Number: NGS8C2)

What is Out-of-Band Management?

In the remote management of network devices, Out-of-Band (OOB) management gives the system administrator access to routers, switches and other infrastructure without using an IP connection. This is especially important for two reasons: for security and to ensure you can still perform basic administration tasks like rebooting a router when the network is down.

To create OOB access, use a console (rollover) cable to connect each device's console port to a console server. Depending on the type of console server, you will be able to access and manage connected devices via a telephone landline, WiFi or LTE cellular gateway.

Side-by-Side Comparison

Allow users to manage network devices remotely over IP network, in-band (via Ethernet)  
Allow users to manage network devices remotely over IP network, out-of-band (via modem/serial port)  
Enables display of BIOS on reboot  
Include expansion capability, allowing multiple users to manage multiple devices
Provide support of virtual media  
Manage "Headless" devices (items without display, keyboard or mouse) such as switches, routers, UPS systems, PDUs, KVMs, Firewalls, some servers, etc.    
Have built-in service processor controls    
Provide a variety of management tools (IMPI, BMC, NUT, Nagios)    
Come equipped with temperature sensors    
Provide secure tunneling connections    
Embedded, programmable Linux    
All Models in this Product Family have this feature
Some Models in this Product Family have this feature

Products Mentioned in this Article

KVM Switches

control computers from a single monitor and keyboard/mouse

Desktop KVMs

Local control of a small number of computers using your own keyboard, monitor and mouse.

efficient server control

Rack Mounted KVMs

Local control of servers, typically in a single rack. Rack mount KVM switches and consoles can be purchased separately, with one console connected to multiple KVMs.

KVM switch with integrated console

Console KVMs

Rack mount Console KVM Switches include a full-size keyboard, touchpad, 17- or 19-inch color LCD. The device folds like a laptop and slides into a 1U rack drawer.

remote access and control from virtually anywhere

IP Remote KVMs

IP Remote Access KVM Switches (also known as KVM over IP) allow you to monitor and control connected equipment over the local network or Internet.

NIAP-certified secure KVMs

Secure KVMs

NIAP-certified secure KVMs allow access to multiple computers with different security levels, protecting data from accidental or unauthorized transfer when switching between systems.

Console Servers

3 to 8-ports

Desktop Console Servers

Desktop console servers are used to quickly resolve network issues in settings such as wiring closets, branch offices, point-of-sale and other remote sites.

16 to 48-ports

Rack Mounted Console Servers

Similar to desktop console servers but with greater capacity, rack mount console servers typically handle access to a single rack of equipment.

4G LTE cellular gateway

Cellular Console Servers

A multi-carrier 4G LTE cellular modem makes these console servers accessible through a wired or wireless network.

Need help with your purchase?
We're always available to help with questions, including product selection, sizing, installation and product customization. Call us at +1 773-869-1776 or email