The cost of remotely controlling servers is now as low as £25 per KVM port, claimed ATEN as it introduced two low-end KVM (keyboard/video/mouse) switches aimed at SMBs.

The eight and 16-port devices use standard CAT5 cable to carry signals to and from servers, enabling multiple machines to be controlled from one desktop. ATEN said that the switches could also be daisy-chained, allowing a single administrator to run up to 512 servers.

Unlike remote-control software, a KVM switch gives full control of the remote machine, even before its operating system has booted. And of course it is OS-independent, able to control PC-based servers, Macs, Sun servers and other terminal-driven systems.

The admin can select which remote system to control via port selection switches, hot-keys or the KVM switch's on-screen display, said ATEN president Kevin Chen. He added that the switch supports video resolutions up to 1280 by 1024 and has two levels of security, for user and admin access respectively.

Other KVMs support higher resolutions and ranges - up to 1600 by 1200 pixels and over 200 metres reach for some CAT5 systems, and almost unlimited range for KVM-over-IP. By comparison, these ATEN KVMs are limited to a maximum cable length of 40 metres.

ATEN's big advantage looks to be pricing: the eight-port KH1508 lists at £235 and the 16-port KH1516 at £353. That's half the cost of higher-spec enterprise KVM-over-CAT5 and a quarter the cost of some KVM-over-IP gear.

However, organisations considering any KVM technology also need to figure in the cost of the adapters needed at each server. These plug into the KVM connection on one side and the server's keyboard, mouse and video ports on the other.