Normally we would not cover something like the TK-IP101; it is more of an enterprise class product. However, I recently ran into a situation where I needed to run a reinstall of a system and was not able to be directly in front of it for the duration of the install. Remote desktop would not work as there was no OS; I could not run a monitor and keyboard out to where I was, so in the end I had to run back and forth between locations which caused both projects to take much longer than needed. I started looking for a solution. I found it in the TRENDNet TK-IP101 IP KVM.
The TK-IP101 is an IP accessible KVM that serves multiple functions; it allows for console access to any system connected directly to it and can also connect to standard KVMs to allow it to control multiple systems. Access is secured by SSL certificates (including the ability to import Certificates from outside) and user authentication.
With its ability to show the full console over a LAN or even WAN connection, the TK-IP101 looks like a great device for the enthusiast on the go and when coupled with a 4-port KVM (the TK-423K) it only adds to its usage. TRENDNet was kind enough to provide us with both the TK-IP101 and a TK-423K for our testing, allowing us to show you the full range of features. Let's see if we can pull these products out of the enterprise segment and get them to work for the enthusiast.
The TK-IP101 comes in a decent and sturdy looking box; the front clearly shows an image of the product with some details to get you looking closer.
The back of the box gives even greater detail showing off the ports and where the TK-IP101 fits into your network.
Inside the box we find everything we need to get the TK-IP101 running with a single system; including KVM cable, power supply, USB cable (for a USB KVM or USB connection to a computer), three Serial Console (PPP) adapters, a quick start guide and CD-ROM with full manual and utilities.
TRENDNet also sent along their TK-423K four-port USB/PS/2 KVM Switch Kit with audio. This comes in a much larger box (complete with handle). The TK-423K follows the same type of packaging as the TK-IP101. We get a nice clean image of the device with pictures of the accessories included.
The back of the TK-423K's box shows us the diagram and related products.
Inside the TK-423K's box (okay, is it just me or do you hear the storm trooper in the first Star Wars here? - "TK-423K, why aren't you at your post?") you get a ton of extras. These include four full PS/2-USB KVM cables, four USB to PS/2 adapters, four audio bridge cables (both mic and speakers) and of course a power pack and quick-start guide.
The TRENDNet TK-IP101 is a small unit; not much more than 8-inches long and barely 3/4 of an inch high. On the front of the TK-IP101 TRENDNet has put two PS/2 ports as well as a serial console RJ-11 port. Also on the front are four indicator lights; these let you know if you have any issues with connectivity and include, link, 10/100 LAN connection, video and power.
Flipping around to the back, you have the rest of your connections including VGA (for up to 1600x1200 resolutions), LAN (10/100), serial for power and other functions, and an output for your PC or to a bridge KVM. One other port of interest is the USB port. On paper this is to allow you to connect to a USB KVM or to connect to a PC via USB.
While I was able to connect to a single Windows PC using USB, I was never able to get this to work with the USB capable TK-423K. The keyboard and mouse indicated they had power, but would not respond on any connected PC.
A power port is located along the right side of the TK-IP101.
The four-port TK-423K is a much larger device; measuring almost 12-inches in length and roughly 2.5-inches in height. It has four buttons across the front with red LEDs next to them; these are for the individual systems. The selected system will light up solid red if it is on and connected properly. If the system is off or there is a problem with the connection, it will blink red.
The back side of the TK-423K is the business end; here you have all of your connectivity.
There are four system connection banks for your systems. These include a single connection for KVM out as well as audio (mic and stereo speakers). For input to the systems you have options for PS/2 or USB keyboards and mice, stereo speaker and mic inputs and VGA monitor out with supported resolutions of up to 2048x1536, which is pretty impressive for a VGA only KVM.
Setup and Installation
The TK-IP101 and TK-423K combination is not difficult to setup, but it does take some time to make sure it is done properly. When first setting up the two KVMs, you want to plug in your keyboard, mouse and monitor to the TK-IP101, then connect that to your extra KVM (in our case, the TK-423K). Next, attach your systems to the individual ports.
After connecting everything, plug both KVMs into power. Then connect the TK-IP101 to a single system for configuration.
The TK-IP101 comes with an IP address of 192.168.1.200 (subnet mask 255.255.255.0). You will need to give the system you are using an IP address in this subnet (192.168.1.x).
Once you have done that, connect a LAN cable between the two. Open up your favourite flavour of internet browser and browse to 192.168.1.200:5908. If this will not connect, just put https:// in front of the IP address and it should. Ignore warnings about the certificate for now and dive in.
The first screen you come to during the setup is the home screen; here you see the general layout of the server web setup. Your next setup step should be to click on the "Main" button and head for the LAN TCP/IP page.
On the LAN TCP/IP page you will want to setup a Static IP Address that matches your network. You can also add in your domain name and other LAN information. Click Store Settings and you are ready to move on.
The next stop on your setup should be the Date/Time page. If your date and time are too far off, you will not be able to connect. After clicking Store Settings you can move to the next step.
The next stop when doing your initial setup is to hit the Main Setting Page, under the KVM server section. Here is where you can setup your connected KVM. In our case we setup the TK-423R as it was the closest to the TK-423K we had. You also have video quality settings and scan settings (it will check the attached systems to make sure they are there).
The final step is the KVM Switch Database. Here, as with the Main Settings page you need to select your KVM attached. You can also setup the Escape Hot Key Sequence. This is to setup the hot key sequence to switch between systems; make sure you know the correct sequence for your KVM. Click Store Settings one more time and then click the Apply Settings button.
Once you have done this the TK-IP101 will reboot and you can connect it directly to your LAN.
Web Based Interface
Although we briefly covered this in the setup and installation, there are more options in the TK-IP-101's web based interface that are worthy of discussion.
Under the KVM server button are a few handy links such as the ability to name the individual systems attached to your TK-IP101/Attached KVMs. Here you can also select advanced options such as power on and off (if the system supports this). You can also exclude the attached system and set it up to generate alarms if it is not found.
Also under the KVM Server is the Video Mode Database. This will allow you to setup resolutions that you do not want to allow or that you commonly use with attached systems.
Another handy spot is the View Connection page (also under KVM Server); here you can name the TK-IP101, setup the country you are in, set the largest resolution allowed in the viewer and the mouse resynchronization key sequence.
Under Maintenance you can upgrade your firmware and also backup your settings.
In the Users section you can setup different levels of users from Super Admin to just plain users that can only view connected systems.
Under The Users menu you can also setup both Radius and LDAP servers for authentication.
There is also a place to see who is logged onto the servers at any one time.
In the Downloads section you have your different viewers; there is one for Windows and two that are Java based. This means that Linux, BSD and Mac users are not left out.
Last and certainly not least, you can establish alarm events under the Alarm tab as well as e-mail settings to make sure the alarms get out to you.
The TK-IP101 was tested through a few real-usage setups. The first was simply being able to connect to a system over the LAN and Internet from a client computer. This was very simple using the included Windows Viewer shown below. There is also a good deal of options for connectivity, depending upon your connection point.
The next testing mode was to be able to reboot a system over the TK-IP101 and enter the system BIOS and make changes remotely again from both the LAN and the internet.
Our third testing mode (and the one I saw as most valuable to many enthusiasts) was a complete install from the ground up. I simply dropped the Install DVD-ROM for Windows XP x64 into the drive, powered up the system and left the house.
- Test One
Connecting to the TK-IP101 was very simple. After downloading the viewer directly from the TK-IP101 I opened up the application and typed in the static IP address setup.
From there it asked me for a user name and password. After that, I was in; the TK-IP101 connected me to the same system that the TK-423K saw as active.
As you can see from the image directly above, there is also a small window with four icons; these represent the four system connections we setup in the TK-IP101. You can double click these to change the active system, or you can use the hotkeys that you setup (in the case of the TK-423K; Scroll Lock, Scroll Lock then the number of the port).
I found that choosing the option for no cursor overlay worked best as the two never really synced up properly. With the guest cursor out of the way, navigating the system was easy. When connecting over the internet you will want to make sure you select Fast Internet and not LAN. If you forget, your connection experience will be slow and buggy.
- Test Two
For this test I connected to my i7 system and rebooted into the BIOS. It was very simple and easy to work with; there were absolutely no problems getting into the system BIOS or the RAID BIOS.
- Test Three
This is the one that I really wanted to try. There have been times where I was not able to be present when installing or reinstalling a system. Often I have to put off this task for days until I can sit in front of the system in question. However, with the TK-IP101 I was able to completely install Vista while I was over 100 miles away. It was nice to be able to do that without having to babysit the system during the installation.
- Video Quality
Of course, the quality of the video being displayed will become an issue as the TK-IP101 has a limit of 1600x1200; this is even through the VGA out to the monitor. Now, for most servers this is not a problem, but if you have a high-end system or monitor it can quickly end up being a problem.
I found that on my 24-inch LCD monitor the display looks flat and fuzzy. Most of this was due to the native resolution (1920x1200) for the monitor, but some was the double connection through the two KVMs. With the TK-IP101 connected directly the display was more vivid. Once it was connected through the TK-423K I noticed the drop off in colour and sharpness.
Video quality through the viewer was also a little off with square blocks visible in the reproduced display in the viewer. Much of this can be overlooked if you are simply using it to connect to a server, system based firewall, or even to install a system. There is no way you are going to game over this connection; it was not designed for that and the refresh is simply too slow. You can get the games to launch and they will display, but the speed is comically slow.
The TRENDNet TK-IP101 is an impressive piece of equipment, even with the limitation of a 1600x1200 resolution. When you couple it up with an extra KVM for additional systems, it is even more so. Being able to view all of my systems at the console from out of the house or even from another room is quite a handy feature.
There are some down sides, though. Coming in with a price tag of around $400 (U.S.), it is not a cheap piece of hardware. Granted, it is meant to run in an enterprise environment as an IT connectivity device. However, there is a side market in the enthusiast world as well. As I mentioned above, I found it excellent for performing remote reinstallations as it was able to let me see all of the installation steps. I was also able to install a system without the need to switch back and forth between keyboards and monitors.
If you are in IT then the TK-IP101 is something you should seriously take a look at. If you are an enthusiast (or just a huge geek that needs all the toys) you also may want to take a look at the TK-IP101 as it just may fill a need you have never known about.
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