The idea of being able to switch between multiple computer systems on the fly is not a new one. In the server world, most IT shops have used technology like this to control multiple servers in rack configurations for many years. The benefit of this is that it only requires one keyboard, one pointing device, and, of course, one monitor. Besides the obvious benefits of reducing costs and taking less physical space, switching also reduces costs not normally considered, such as reduced energy usage.
The days of this switching technology, or what is called KVM (Keyboard/Video/Mouse) technology, being exclusive to IT shops is over. Many home PC users are now looking for a way to use both their new and old systems without having to purchase an additional monitor, keyboard, and mouse.
The two biggest traditional complaints about switching technology have been that it doesn't work very well and that it costs too much. However, when compared with the cost of adding a second monitor, keyboard and mouse, today's KVM switches overrule these issues.
Many of the fancy bells and whistles that IT folks have come to expect with high-end KVM switches are now making their way into the commercial arena. These new KVM switches even include a few new features that are targeted at the home user or power user. Best of all, the prices have come way down. Previously, it was not uncommon to spend about $350+ for a fully equipped KVM switch, but now it can cost about half of that amount.
The technology that goes into making a good KVM switch isn't that advanced. The factor of keyboard powered units vs. external powered units didn't really make that much of a difference in our testing. Resolution limitations of some KVM units might pose a problem if you don't get a KVM unit that supports the resolutions that you require. However, many companies claim that their units will handle resolutions far beyond the specs claimed on the box.
In our testing, we found that it was more important to use good quality cables and follow the instructions in the manual to the letter. I could go into a long winded explanation of how KVM switches work, but, to be honest, I found this to be boring, and I am sure that most of you would, too, so I will spare you the explanation.