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What is a KVM switch? Everything you need to know

remote working
(Image credit: Shutterstock / maryna rodyukova)

KVM switches could change how we work from home for the better and should be part of a standard work from home setup. There are benefits for both the employee and employer, from better utilization of desk space, increased security through easier adherence to security policies, and cost savings of not having to buy two of each computer peripheral device.

With the increasing number of work from home situations and the ongoing issues of computer security and data privacy, KVM switches for home workers just make sense so they can best separate their personal and work computer usage.

About the author

Aaron Johnson is a Senior Product Manager at ATEN Technologies

What does KVM stand for?

For those who are unfamiliar with KVM terminology, KVM stands for Keyboard, Video, and Mouse. A KVM switch allows for switching of the keyboard, video, and mouse between multiple computers with a push button, shortcut key, mouse button, or selector.

Today, KVMs are used in datacenters, manufacturing lines, and control rooms. Individuals also use a KVM switch for CAD, graphic design, and stock trading setups for controlling multiple computers at once. A KVM can be used to control two computers or hundreds in the space of a few feet or miles away.

Why would a remote worker want a KVM switch?

It’s an easy way to allow remote workers to save space in their home office by only having one keyboard, monitor (or multiple monitors), and mouse set up to control both their personal and work computer, and now with the integration of USB C into KVM switches (also known as “Hybrid KVM switches”), you could switch between your, laptop, mobile device, and tablet as well. This would allow you to have your mobile device being charged while not being attached to your work computer or company network.

A desktop KVM switch means more desktop space and fewer wires through splitting and managing your keyboard, video, and mouse signals. This means more space for sticky notes, coffee, and a random assortment of paperclips, pushpins, and posted notes. Now you can switch your keyboard, mouse, and monitors between personal and work devices and computers at a moment’s notice with a simple button, hotkey, or mouse button. The workweek you and weekend you can now use one desk set up to manage all your computing needs. There won’t be a need to compromise your setup by splitting it between your work and personal computers and no need to switch wires after the end of the workday so you can relax, check your personal email or read the news on your computer. Bottom line a desktop KVM switch will make you more productive and a more comfortable worker.

Why should a company want remote workers to have a KVM Switch?

You don’t want remote workers using their work computer for personal tasks. While you can lock down the network, prevent the installation of new software and filter out personal websites, it’s not going to change the convenience factor of having one computer set up to do everything. Usually, companies have a strong policy against the personal use of company computers. Remote workers should be able to comply with this policy without unplugging monitors and keyboards to switch to their personal computers.

Secondly, any seasoned IT professional will tell you that workers will find a way around most computer policies or find work-related needs for personal computing. So, giving them an easy simple alternative to switch to their personal computer for their personal use can alleviate some of the employees wanting to use their work computer for personal business. Less personal usage on the company network means better data privacy and less exposure to viruses and this gives the remote workers an easy way to adhere to company policy. There is also the other way around of using personal computers to access company cloud systems without being on the company network. Therefore, a desktop KVM switch will promote better adherence to company IT policy and less risk to loss of data, exposing logins, and better network security.

Another benefit of a desktop KVM switch is you allow remote workers to combine their personal company computer accessories both into their work and personal computing life. The desktop KVM will allow remote workers to take their personal investments for better computer paraphernalia such as ergonomic mice or mechanical keyboards for use in their work setup. A remote worker could use their personal second monitor in the setup without feeling the company should pay for it, as they would still be using it for personal use. This will lead to a more capable workspace and a more comfortable workforce for greater productivity.

A KVM with USB-C power pass-through would allow workers to charge their mobile phone or tablet without necessarily putting on the computer network. Keeping their mobile phone off the company network as a separate device and not plugged into a company computer.

Is investing in KVM switches for remote workers worth it?

With the growing data privacy regulations, the increased importance of network security, and the growing remote workforce, the answer is absolutely. A small one-time investment for better computer and network security seems like an easy benefit proposal and with the variety growing number of options for desktop KVM switches, you could meet the needs of any employee in a cost-effective manner.

This is a perfect solution for any company that wants to keep its network safe and employees happy. IT and remote workers should team up to advocate for desktop KVMs as part of their standard remote office support kit. To save IT nuisances and increase worker efficiency for a one-time cost is a great benefit to the company over the long run and making for a very happy workforce.