How to share serial port over Ethernet

Olga Weis

This article is dedicated to serial ports: we’ll find out what serial ports are, what they are used for, and how they can be shared over network. We will consider software, as well as hardware solutions for Windows and Linux.

Shall we start?

A convenient way to share COM port over Ethernet on Windows

There are basically two forms of data communication – serial and parallel, the latter being a relatively recent invention. Although parallel communication works much faster than serial, its use is not always practical, especially for long distances. Serial transmission is typically used between two computers or from a computer to an external device located some distance away. Parallel transmission either takes place within a computer system or to an external device located a close distance away.

A serial port is a serial communication physical interface through which data is transferred. Serial ports have been an indispensable part of computers for more than 20 years, and only recently USB connections have started replacing them. Serial ports are still used in applications such as industrial automation systems, scientific instruments, point of sale systems and some industrial and consumer products.

FlexiHub

Windows, macOS, Linux, Android
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In this section we will tell you how to share Serial over Ethernet on Windows. To do it the easiest way you will need an app called FlexiHub.

Below we will tell you how to make use of it.

  1. Firstly, register a FlexiHub account on a website or later right in the app.
  2. Download and install FlexiHub both on the computer with shared serial ports and the computer that will remotely connect to them. Do not worry about version’s compatibility - FlexiHub supports all Windows versions.
  3. Select the quantity of connections and start a FlexiHub trial.
  4. Sign into FlexiHub using your login credentials on both computers.
  5. Locate a required serial port in the app's windows on the remote computer and click "Connect".

Share COM port over Ethernet on Windows and Linux - for more experienced users

To share COM port device on Widnows or Linux (Ubuntu, Fedora or CentOS), you can use Serial to Ethernet Connector as well.

Serial to Ethernet Connector is a professional solution that enables sharing serial over Ethernet – any number of serial ports, both physical and virtual. The computer a shared device is inserted into acts as a server. Other computers connect to the server as clients.

How to use Serial to Ethernet Connector for Windows

Windows version of the software requires slightly less steps for installing and starting using the application:

  • Firstly, you will need to download and install the application (using the standard Windows installer) on all computers that will share and connect to the shared COM port devices.
  • To start sharing the devices, select the “Create Server Connection” option in the app’s main window.
  • Then, configure required connection parameters.
  • Lastly, create a client connection on a remote computer in the similar manner by selecting the "Creat Client Connection" option.

How to install Serial to Ethernet Connector for Linux

  1. Download archive of the latest version from here and extract the files
  2. Launch the installer script. Carefully read the License Agreement, tick the "I agree" checkbox and click "Next" if you comply with the terms.
  3. Serial to Ethernet Connector installation requires certain external programs. If you don’t have them on your computer, you will be prompted to install them. Once their installation is complete, click "Next".
  4. The installation path is predefined. Although it is recommended not to change the default directories, you can still change it if required. Click "Next" to continue.
  5. There are different ways to control the daemon – System V (or other compatible systems) daemon control style or manual. Choose one and click "Next".
  6. Users who launch the installer are automatically added to evesec group, the latter have a complete control over Serial to Ethernet Connector using DBus.
  7. In order to install Serial to Ethernet Connector you need to have "sudo" program on your computer. The user who launched the installer must be authorized to use "sudo". To confirm the right to run the program with root privileges enter the password. If you have "NOPASSWD" attribute in /etc/sudoers file, uncheck "Use password" box. To start installation click "Install".
  8. To finish installation click "Finish".
  9. The daemon will be launched automatically. To verify if the daemon is running, execute the following command in Terminal
  10. ps -e | grep evesecd.bin | grep -v grep

How to share serial port with Serial to Ethernet Connector for Linux:

  1. Create a connection and specify the following attributes:
    • serial port name, in case of a virtual port it is a symbolic link name
    • serial port type: real or virtual
    • network side type
  2. Setup connection, network and serial port parameters.
  3. Start the connection by calling start method

There are three access levels to properties and methods: no access, read-only access and full access that allows you to read and write. Once the connection is shared, you can change access level, if required.


What is serial (COM) port?

Serial ports are also known as COM ports, they are bi-directional. This means that devices connected to these ports can receive and transmit data simultaneously. Full-duplex communication, i.e. information can travel in both directions at the same time, is enabled by use of different pins.

To function properly serial ports rely on a special controller chip, the Universal Asynchronous Receiver/ Transmitter (UART). The chip takes the parallel output of the computer's system bus and transforms it into serial form for transmission through COM port. A buffer built in most UART chips enables caching data coming in from the system bus while the chip is processing data going out to the COM port.

Data buffered can be anything from 16 to 64 kilobytes. Majority of standard serial ports transfer data at 115 Kbps (kilobits per second), high speed serial ports, such as Enhanced Serial Port (ESP) and Super Enhanced Serial Port (Super ESP), can reach data transfer rates of 460 Kbps

What are serial ports for?

As we mentioned above, serial ports are used for various equipment and devices to communicate with computers and servers.

Here we are listing some of these devices:

  • Mouse. Typically computers with no PS/2 or USB port make use of a serial port to connect to a mouse. Some special mice also connect to a serial port;
  • Modem. Mostly older computers, although some find it easier to use modem via serial port even if their computers are equipped with a USB port.
  • Network. This is what serial ports were originally used for – to connect computers and allow large files transfer between them.
  • Printer. Older printers and plotters
  • Telecommunication equipment. For debugging, watching the boot up messages, kernel upgrading using PPC boot, and especially for problems with Ethernet.
  • Temperature measuring devices. They connect only via RS-232 ports.
  • Diagnostic tools
  • Credit card readers, etc.

Hardware solution types for serial port sharing

Serial to Ethernet hardware solutions are referred to as Terminal Servers, Device Servers and Console Servers. Let us figure out together what Terminal and Console Servers are, read on.

Terminal Servers

These servers enable connecting devices with RS232, RS422 or RS485 serial interface to Ethernet LANs.

To check what their technical parameters are we will take as an example ConnectPort® LTS 8/16/32 by Digi International. This device handles wire and wireless connections simultaneously. It has Dual GB Ethernet ports for routing, an SD memory slot for data storage, a large LCD screen for easy configuration, monitoring and diagnostics. This server is equipped with 8, 16 or 32 serial ports, USB 2.0 ports for expandability, internal secure modem, and an XBee® interface for ZigBee communication.

Console Servers

Console servers allows smooth device-switching, authentication and encryption with easy access to remote locations. They are known to provide secure remote access to Unix Servers, Linux Servers, Windows Servers and any device on the network with a console port. We will see what parameters such servers have taking as an example IOLAN SCS8C DC 8-Port Secure Console Server 48v DC power by Perle.

The server’s built-in dual Ethernet and Redundant Path technology provides serial console port access, thus offering a good solution for managing data center and remote branch equipment. IOLAN range supports Next Generation IP (IPv6) thus ensuring investment protection. The equipment has 8, 16, 32 or 48 RS-232 serial port interfaces, PCI Slot for integrated out-of-band access. It supports Dual 10/100/1000 Ethernet and advanced AAA security and encryption to meet all data center compliance policies.


Best hardware appliances to share serial ports over Ethernet

Another method that is commonly used for sharing serial devices over Ethernet is a hardware serial device server, also known as a Serial to Ethernet connector or converter. This compact device allows connecting RS232, RS485, and RS422-based equipment to your PC across a standard Ethernet or LAN network.

Hardware serial over Ethernet solutions are often delivered together with virtual COM applications. The dedicated software helps you create virtual serial interfaces which are recognized by your system and serial devices as standard ones.

If you think that a hardware serial to Ethernet converter will perfectly fit for your workflow, we’d like to tell you about the four most popular serial port extenders available today.

  • NetBurner serial to Ethernet server
  • Perle solution
  • SerialLynx software
  • External device server by Lantronix

Serial to Ethernet Server by NetBurner

NetBurner Serial to Ethernet Server is an efficient solution for communicating with COM port devices over Ethernet network. This hardware serial port redirector can easily share up to 4 COM port devices. In order to configure your network connections, you should use a software app which comes included with the hardware. Here’s how it works: you simply connect your serial port device to the NetBurner Serial to Ethernet device server and access it over LAN as though the device were physically attached to your remote PC.

RS232 to Ethernet converter

Perle has developed a great RS232 to Ethernet converter that ensures reliable data transmission over an IP network. This hardware is a simple way to remotely access your RS232 devices. The converter offers intelligent packet structuring and forwarding of data, so you can control the way your data is sent over Ethernet. The key advantages of this convenient tool is the ability to match the communication specifications of your serial devices and a built-in serial line trace capability.

Serial-to-Ethernet Adapter by SeriaLynx

If you need to get remote access to serial devices like scoreboards, time clocks, and wind gauges, it will be a good idea to try Serial-to-Ethernet adapter by SeriaLynx. The solution enables wired or wireless connections to two serial devices over a LAN using TCP-IP mapping. You can attach up to two serial devices to the adapter’s COM ports, connect the hardware to Ethernet via a wired Ethernet port, or share the devices over the network with the help of an antenna for broadcasting over an 802.11 wireless network, and that’s it! You gain access to the remote devices from any computer connected to the same network.

Lantronix UDS1100 external device server

UDS1100 is a small hardware converter able to redirect one serial device over LAN or the Internet. The converter can be configured via HTTP, DHCP, Telnet, serial or Lantronix DeviceInstaller app. The solution is fast, reliable and easy to install. By using this tool you can share, monitor and control RS232, RS422 and RS485 equipment over Ethernet quickly and effortlessly.

FlexiHub

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