An IP KVM device might seem like a luxury, but it can be essential for monitoring mission-critical systems. I recently encountered a Windows server that was intermittently responding to pings during off hours. I tried troubleshooting the server remotely, but the Remote Desktop connection didn’t respond. When I connected via IP KVM device, I was able to see the system halting and I could troubleshoot the issue before heading into the office.
Accessing systems through an IP KVM device such as Lantronix’s SecureLinx SpiderDuo gives you full BIOS-level control of the destination computer. This is helpful when you’re trying to view the screen contents of a machine stuck on a startup sequence, change BIOS options remotely, or make configuration changes to a PC via the OS.
SpiderDuo is a unique IP KVM device because of its small size, zero-U rack mounting, expansive configuration options, and optional Internet accessible service (accessmydevice.com). It supports virtually all versions of Windows, UNIX, Linux, and Mac OS X 10. Figure 1 shows the SecureLinx SpiderDuo.
Figure 1: SecureLinx SpiderDuo
Setting Up the Device
SecureLinx SpiderDuo setup is a three-step process. You connect the cables, locate the device on the network, and connect through a browser to the destination computer.
Using the Quick Start Guide makes cabling setup fast and easy. I attached SpiderDuo’s mouse, keyboard, and monitor connections using the supplied female USB connectors and female HD15 monitor connector. Then I connected one USB cable and one monitor output USB cable to the PC. Finally, to set up the device, I connected the attached serial port to a PC and fired up a free terminal emulation program called PuTTY. After configuring the default serial settings per Lantronix’s instructions (9,600 bits per second, 8 data bits, no parity, 1 stop bit, and no flow control), I was unable to view the configuration prompts. (I later discovered that the default value for speed was set at 115,200kbps.)
I was disappointed that the configuration prompts weren’t viewable, so I switched to plan B and plugged an Ethernet cable connected to the network into the SpiderDuo’s Ethernet port. I installed the SecureLinx Spider View utility from the supplied CD-ROM. This enterprise-grade software product lets you manage any number of SpiderDuos. Using the Spider View interface, which automatically found the SpiderDuo, I was able to open the Java-enabled web-based Spider Manager to access and change the default DHCP settings to a fixed IP address so that I could easily manage the unit on my network. Using this setup method is easier than using the serial port method mentioned in the Quick Start Guide.
Using the SpiderDuo
Access to the SpiderDuo is easy on the local LAN. Simply open a Java-enabled web browser, navigate to the Spider Manager using the IP address of the device, and log on to the device. The web-based Spider Manager has a plethora of useful options, including an exclusive-access feature to limit access to only one user, event logging of user logon activity, authentication via Active Directory (AD) or Remote Authentication Dial-In User Service (RADIUS) servers, and a handy Wake on LAN (WOL) feature for remotely waking up any computer with the requisite BIOS settings. Video performance of the IP KVM device is acceptable, especially when using the automatic configuration mode. However, mouse scrolling is slow, which is a common problem with many IP KVM devices. Compared with remote desktop connection on Windows systems, the mouse performance isn’t nearly as responsive.
The optional Internet accessibility feature, accessmydevice.com, is available only on SpiderDuo products purchased directly from Lantronix. This service lets you access the IP KVM console web interfaces through an encrypted web session from any PC, regardless of whether it’s on your network. The service is straightforward and easy to use. Simply navigate to accessmydevice.com, enter a supplied user ID and password, and either open the management interface or directly access the computer via the IP KVM device. Select access my computer to connect to your internal SpiderDuo IP KVM console web interface, assuming the SpiderDuo IP is connected to a switch port that allows TCP connections to ports 80 and 443. The system works just like you’re accessing the SpiderDuo over the internal LAN.
The device has a small footprint for tight spaces, or it can be mounted on the rear of a server rack. Overall, it overall performs quite well, making it a solid addition to any IT toolkit. SpiderDuo is helpful for troubleshooting systems and for connecting to locked-down computers that don’t allow software-based remote access.