Making the switch from analog to digital video in your KVM environment

Video standards are changing rapidly, from analog to digital. Are you beginning to see more DVI-based monitors in your workplace? What’s the right way to make certain that you’re using this new technology correctly, and getting the greatest advantage from it?

There are some very clear advantages to switching to digital. We can help you make the most of DVI technologies, by providing you with the technical resources to avoid costly pitfalls, and the solutions that enable you to implement DVI to your best advantage.

Digital provides sharper, less vulnerable images
Digital signals are more accurate than analog because the square digital wave shape offers multiple places to read the signal and is more accurate than the sine-like analog signal. Digital signals are also far less vulnerable to EMI and RFI interference, especially when fiber cable is used to transmit the signals.

As a result, all types of systems and KVM switches are moving from HD15 or VGA connectors to DVI connectors. The DVI connectors can support either digital-only or analog-and-digital signals, depending on the pinning. DVI-I supports both analog and digital signals while DVI-D supports digital only.

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5 ways to get more mileage from your existing infrastructure

#1. Repurpose unused phone wires for Ethernet.
Campus phone systems are usually built around 25- and 50-pair trunk cable. Most of these wire pairs are redundant and not used as phone lines. These spare pairs can be commandeered for Ethernet through the use of Ethernet extenders, which not only transparently establish a network connection on phone cable, but can also extend links farther than the usual 100-meter limit for Ethernet on copper. Ethernet extenders are an ideal solution for linking isolated workstations without laying new cable.

#2. Upgrade to fiber on your existing copper ports.
Fiber optic cable has many advantages, including speed, distance, and resistance to EMI/RFI, plus it’s now usually less expensive to install than the equivalent copper infrastructure. What usually stops the installation of fiber is the prospect of having to replace expensive network switches with fiber switches and having to install fiber NICs in PCs.

Media converters are a simple way to convert the RJ-45 ports on existing equipment to fiber. Because media converters are transparent to data, they’re “invisible” to the network—literally plug-and-play. In the data center, modular media converter systems feature powered chassis that house and power multiple media converters—a whole switch’s worth of copper ports can be converted to fiber without cluttering the rack. On the desktop side, tiny USB-powered media converters bring fiber to the desktop without the driver issues and incompatibilities created by fiber NICs. Continue reading

The importance of superior patch cables

When most people think of counterfeit and substandard cable, they think of bulk cable and their backbone and horizontal runs. But don’t underestimate the importance of patch cables in your channel. Patch cables are the most overlooked component of the channel link. Remember the saying, “A chain is only a strong as its weakest link?” The same principle applies to the channel link. If a patch cable is non-compliant, it can ruin expensive electronics, invalidate warranties, cause poor network performance, and lead to a loss in productivity. Risky business.

The CCCA did large-scale performance testing of Category 6 copper patch cords. Test results showed an 85% failure rate in cables produced offshore by companies who are largely unknown in North America. 78% of the failing samples failed NEXT tests by a margin of 3 dB or more. A second sample set of Category 6 copper patch cords produced by multiple, well-recognized manufacturers was also tested and showed a 0% failure rate.

Other patch cord issues include non-compliant plugs that don’t meet requirements. Problems can include substandard gold plating on the contacts, plating that erodes and corrodes, and contact spacing and dimensional issues that can cause intermittent connections and link loss. If you have poor network performance, the cost to identify the problem and to replace all your patch cables could be quite expensive indeed.

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Four myths about fiber optic cable

Thought you knew your fiber stuff? Check out these four myths:

Myth #1: Fiber is too expensive.
Fiber used to be more expensive than copper. Today, however, because manufacturing costs are down and terminations are easier, fiber is often less expensive than the equivalent copper installation. Once installed, fiber optic maintenance costs are significantly less than copper ones.

Myth #2: Fiber is difficult to install.
In the old days of grind-and-polish connectors, installing fiber optic cable was a difficult, precise business that required a specialist. But improvements in fiber optic terminations and technologies have made them as easy to terminate as CATx connectors, and now many technicians prefer to install fiber because of its smaller diameter, lighter weight, and ease of testing.

Myth #3: Fiber is fragile.
Although terminating fiber cable does require some care to avoid breaking the glass core, in other respects, fiber is actually more robust than copper. Fiber optic cable can withstand a higher pulling tension than copper, is rated for larger temperature ranges, and is immune to EMI/RFI interference. In fact, one of the reasons the military prefers fiber is for its ruggedness and survivability.

Myth #4: Fiber is impossible to hack.
Because a copper cable “leaks” electromagnetic signals, a hacker can read data nearby without actually touching the cable. A fiber cable, on the other hand, uses light that stays within the cable, so a hacker must physically tap into it to gain access to data. So it’s true that fiber cable is more secure than copper cable, but it’s not true that it’s impossible to hack—all that’s needed is a network tap and physical access to the cable. For this reason, it’s important to secure fiber optic cable by protecting it from unauthorized tampering and by encrypting data that must be kept private.

Do you know who’s on your network?

In this day of BYOD—bring your own device—it’s challenging to know what kind of devices want access to your local area network (LAN) and how to protect your corporate network from non-corporate assets who should still should be able to access the Internet.

Your organization has a firewall to stop hackers, viruses, and malware at the network’s edge. A firewall is vital to safe network operation, but because it operates at the edge of your network, it can only protect you from threats coming from outside your network.

NAC devices, on the other hand, protect your network from threats originating on the inside. Unauthorized devices connected to your network make your organization vulnerable to malware, viruses, and even internal spying and data theft. This is what a NAC device is designed to prevent, whether the vulnerability is a LAN port in a lobby or conference room, or a wireless access point.

In this age of BYOD to work, it’s even more difficult for your network to know what devices should be blocked. Most of the time, BYOD users are employees, guests, or contractors who need access to certain network areas, but as non-corporate assets, they should be steered away from others. A NAC that works with your network infrastructure can easily address that concern.

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