It can be difficult if not impossible to locate a serial port on most modern computers and laptops. The majority of computer manufacturers opt to supply their customers with USB interfaces. Unfortunately, you may run into situations with specialized or legacy applications that require access to a serial port. In these cases, serial over Ethernet communication may give you the necessary connectivity.
What is Serial over Ethernet?
Serial over Ethernet is a technology in software and hardware products that enables the distant connections between RS232, RS422, and RS485 interface devices over Ethernet. It is achieved by converting and encapsulating serial data to network packets and transmitting them over Ethernet to the remote computers.
How to share serial ports over Ethernet
FlexiHub is a software solution that provides the ability to access COM ports and their connected devices over an IP-based network. It offers users high-speed connections and secure data transfer, putting it a step ahead of competing applications. It is an effective method of implementing serial communication over Ethernet without the addition of extra hardware or extensive cabling.
Windows XP (32-bit and 64-bit),Windows Vista (32-bit and 64-bit),Windows 7 (32-bit and 64-bit),Windows 8 (32-bit and 64-bit),Windows 10 (32-bit and 64-bit),Windows Server 2012,Windows Server 2016,Windows Server 2003,Windows Server 2008,Windows Server 2019
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All types of IP networks are supported by FlexiHub such as WiFi, Ethernet, the Internet or your LAN. It allows users to easily access serial devices that are physically located down the hall or on the other side of the world.
Advanced port redirection technology is at the heart of FlexiHub and is the key to sending serial data over Ethernet. It virtualizes COM ports, making them available to network-attached users. The program features a user-friendly GUI that makes it easy to use for individuals with any level of computer experience.
FlexiHub supports all major operating systems and is capable of sharing serial over Ethernet on Linux as well as Windows and Mac, and between them.
Here’s how this serial over Ethernet software works:
First, you need to register your FlexiHub account. Once that is done, install the program on the computer that will share a device (server) as well as all of the machines that need access to the peripheral (clients).
Launch the serial port over Ethernet application on the server and log into the FlexiHub account.
Now, start the program on the PC that requires remote access to the shared device. Log into FlexiHub using the same credentials used when sharing the equipment. A list of available remote devices is presented and you simply need to click “Connect” to gain access to your selection.
Alternative ways of sharing serial over Ethernet
Serial to Ethernet Connector is an excellent solution for sharing serial ports and devices over Ethernet on Linux and Windows.
Its virtualization technology enables you to use serial devices with computers that do not possess any real COM interfaces. You can add as many virtual ports as you like to your computer, enabling you to access serial equipment remotely. Once connected in this way, the user obtains the full functionality of a direct physical connection to the device.
There is both a server and client component to Serial to Ethernet software. The server part is used to present shareable local and virtual serial ports to remote client machines.
Start the program on the server PC and select New connection -> Server connection. Provide a name for the connection in the subsequent window as well as the serial port that will be shared and the TCP port used to listen. Click “Create connection”.
Now, install the app on the client machine that will remote access the shared serial interface over Ethernet. Select New connection -> Client connection and enter the server’s IP address and TCP port defined in the previous step. This is also where you create a virtual port. Simply provide the port name and select the “Create as virtual port” option.
Click “Create client connection”.
After the client connection is established, data transmitted from the physical serial port of the server is forwarded to the virtual port on the clients. This communication works in both directions.
Serial over Ethernet has many applications for both home and business users. Network connectivity between workstations and many types of peripheral devices can easily be implemented with FlexiHub.
Here are a few examples of where Serial over Ethernet can be extremely useful:
1) Accessing serial ports in virtual machines
Accessing the local serial ports of the host machine from within a virtual environment can be notoriously difficult. The complicated configuration is necessary to enable the redirection of serial communication with Hyper-V, VMware, and other virtual guest operating systems. FlexiHub removes those complications and offers a streamlined method of attaching locally-attached peripheral devices to virtual sessions in just a few clicks.
2) Improving industrial automation processes
Industrial automation makes extensive use of serial devices. Enhanced productivity can be achieved by connecting the devices to a network where they can be monitored and controlled from a centralized, remote location. Both improved employee safety and reduced costs can be the result of implementing the connectivity of a facility’s RS232, RS422, and RS485 devices. Using serial over Ethernet technology, all of the robots, controllers, sensors, and actuators can be redirected over Ethernet to the main data server.
3) Configuring IT equipment via Ethernet
Wireless access to remote IT equipment is another valid use of serial over Ethernet software. Using this technology, devices with serial ports can be accessed remotely for the purpose of uploading firmware updates or making configuration changes. Traditionally, this needed to be done with a direct connection and console cables. By virtualizing the physical serial ports of routers, switches, and hubs, the devices can be accessed by a computer with serial over Ethernet capability. Time savings can be enjoyed by the technical staff who can make their required changes without physically visiting the equipment.
4) Redirecting medical equipment over Ethernet
Many healthcare facilities make use of cabled connections between medical equipment and monitoring devices. This can result in a mass of cables and is not the most efficient method to provide the required connectivity. Wireless access to critical medical equipment is preferred and furnishes more flexibility in the placement and utility of the devices.
With a wireless implementation, information from anywhere in the facility can be collected in a central location where it is available to the complete medical staff. With FlexiHub, a complete picture of the patient’s medical condition can be compiled by gathering data from the various monitors, nurses’ stations, and laboratories that are providing their care. All data is securely transmitted over Ethernet, keeping confidential information safe.
The hardware solutions 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.
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 wired 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 allow 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 security and encryption to meet all data center compliance policies.
Requirements: Windows XP/2003/2008/Vista/7/8/10/Server 2012