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Planning a digital signage system.

How to plan a digital signage project. Considering the many available digital signage solutions might seem like an overwhelming task. But taking some time to research and understand your options will... more/see it nowbe well worth the investment for your institution. Follow these key steps: 1. You need to understand and articulate the objective at the start. Clearly define the goals and determine how you will measure and analyze against the goals. Determine what information you want to communicate and for what purpose. You may want it to give you one or more of the following: • Sales uplift. • Brand messaging. • Entertainment for waiting customers. • Better internal communications. • Public messaging. • Third-party advertising. It is not only imperative to understand what you want the signage to accomplish but also how it will be evaluated. In short, “How will the success or failure of the system be judged and by whom?” What metrics of judgment will be used: ROI, ROO, or other qualifiers? 2. Clearly define the content: The success of any digital signage system starts, of course, with the content. It must look fresh, exciting, and professional. Who will create it and how will it be presented? Do you have internal resources and expertise, or will you need to outsource content creation? A good source of creative and editorial help can be found in aspiring graphic designers culled from the student ranks, in addition to your school’s art department, yearbook and newspaper staffs, and TV studio (if you have one). 3. Invest the time to understand your options: Once you’ve decided on content, you need to consider the infrastructure that will deliver it and study your display options: LCD vs. plasma? RSS feeds? Live video? Remote management? Playback verification? The options will seem limitless, so taking time to sort through them is imperative. 4. Involve all the appropriate stakeholders: The communications/information department should be involved at the start, considering that your digital signage will likely be used for external community relations. If it‘s a K–12 application, you’ll need to include not only your district’s superintendent, principals, purchasing personnel, and IT staff, but also quite possibly instructional technology and AV staff, as well as maintenance, curriculum, athletic, and cafeteria directors. 5. Figure out how you’re going to pay for it: Digital signage is often viewed by some as a luxury item? —? particularly in the face of shrinking school budgets. But because it can also be used as a tool for emergency communications and notification, administrators can easily make the case that digital signage is a must-have component of any crisis plan — especially in this day and age when school violence incidents capture news headlines. Consider government sources of funding for your digital notification system (federal funds are available from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for pre-disaster mitigation and preparedness, as well as the U.S. Department of Justice, for instance). Whether it’s earmarked entirely as an IT expenditure or apportioned across multiple departments in your budget, you need a spending roadmap in addition to a developmental one. The hardest part with this may be determining the total cost of ownership over the life of the system, including any nickling-and-diming with ongoing licenses and upgrades. College administrators, however, can easily make the case from a cost-savings perspective. Having to constantly update traditional signage across a campus can be quite costly. Paper signage is expensive to print and replace regularly. With digital signage, no printed material is necessary, so both time and cost savings can be made, and the environmental impact is minimized. 6. Decide how to implement the solution: Based on your deployment size and scope, decide if you can implement it in-house or if you need the help of a professional integrator. A number of “out-of-the box” systems can be set up with relative ease. But the more dynamic and complex the system, the more complicated the implementation and ongoing management? — ?and the more likely you’ll need outside help. collapse


Black Box Explains...FDDI

Fiber Distributed Data Interface (FDDI) is a networking standard for operating at speeds of up to 100 Mbps. The standard FDDI network is set up in a ring topology with... more/see it nowtwo rings that transmit signals in opposite directions to a series of nodes. FDDI accommodates up to 500 nodes per dual-ring network with spacing up to 2 kilometers between adjacent nodes. FDDI uses the same token-passing scheme as the IEEE 802.5 Token Ring network to control transmission around the loop. collapse


Black Box Explains... Digital Visual Interface (DVI).

The Digital Visual Interface (DVI) video standard is based on transition-minimized differential signaling (TMDS). In a typical single-line digital signal, voltage is raised to a high level and decreased to... more/see it nowa low level to create transitions that convey data. To minimize the number of tran-sitions needed to transfer data, TMDS uses a pair of signal wires. When one wire goes to a high-voltage state, the other goes to a low-voltage state. This balance increases the data-transfer rate and improves accuracy.

Although there are four types of DVI connectors, only DVI-D and DVI-I are commonly used for monitors. DVI-D is a digital-only connector. DVI-I supports both digital and analog RGB connections. collapse


Black Box Explains…Liquid cooling.

The trend toward high-density installations with higher-powered CPUs has made heat a critical issue in data centers. Blade servers present a special challenge—a rack of blade servers can dissipate more... more/see it nowthan 25 kW, generating more heat than an electric oven.

Heat-generated problems
The heat generated in today’s high-density data centers can shorten equipment lifespan, negatively affect equipment performance, and cause downtime. Traditional air-cooling methods such as hot/cold aisle arrangements simply can’t keep up with these heat-generating installations. Data center managers often try to compensate for the inefficiency of air cooling by under-populating racks, but this wastes space—an often scarce commodity in modern data centers.

Why liquid
Because of the inherent inefficiencies of air cooling, many data centers have turned to liquid cooling through water or other refrigerants. Liquids have far greater heat transfer properties than air—water is 3400 times more efficient than air—and can cool far greater equipment densities.

Liquid cooling is usually done at the rack level using the airflow from the servers to move the heat to a cooling unit where it’s removed by liquid, neutralizing heat at the source before it enters the room. Liquid cooling may also be done at the component level, where cooling liquid is delivered directly to individual components. Liquid cooling may also arrive in the form of portable units for cooling hot spots.

Liquid cooling options
Types of liquid cooling commonly used in data centers include:

  • Cabinet-door liquid cooling: With this method, cooling units are special cabinet doors that contain sealed tubes filled with chilled liquid. The liquid is circulated through the door to remove heat vented by equipment fans. Because liquid-cooled doors can replace standard cabinet doors, they’re the favored method for retrofitting liquid cooling into existing data centers.
  • Integrated liquid cooling: This consists of a specialized sealed cabinet that has channels for liquid cooling built into it to act as heat exchangers. Fans move hot air past the heat exchangers before sending the cooled air back to the servers. These cabinets are closed systems that release very little heat into the room.
  • Component-based liquid cooling: Some servers are preconfigured with integrated liquid-based cooling modules. After the servers are installed, liquid is circulated through the cooling modules.
  • Immersion cooling: This rather counterintuitive cooling method immerses servers in a non-conductive liquid, which is circulated to cool the servers.
  • Portable liquid cooling: These are small units that operate by blowing air across water-cooled coils. They can usually accept water from any source—including a nearby faucet. They’re generally plumbed with ordinary garden hoses and require no special skills to use. Portable cooling units are intended for emergency cooling rather than as a permanent solution.


Liquid cooling requires a shift in the way you think about cooling. Installation may require that you acquire a new skill set or hire a professional installer. However, the space savings and cost savings gained through liquid cooling more than make up for the inconvenience of installing a new cooling technology.

Not only does liquid cooling enable data centers to operate at far greater densities than conventional air cooling does, it gets rid of the infrastructure associated with air cooling, enabling you to eliminate hot/cold aisles and raised floors. Liquid cooling can support from 25 to 80% more equipment in the same footprint, resulting in significantly lower infrastructure costs.

Add to this the fact that cooling is often the majority of a data center’s operating cost, and it’s plain to see why an investment in the efficiency of liquid cooling goes right to the bottom line. collapse


Black Box Explains...Electronic vs. manual switches.

What’s the difference between electronic and manual switches? Are the benefits of electronic switches worth the price increase over manual switches?

As you might imagine, the inner workings of manual switches... more/see it noware far simpler than those of electronic switches. When you turn the dial of a manual switch, internal connections are physically moved. This is great for less complex applications, but it can cause voltage spikes that can damage particularly sensitive equipment such as laser printers.

Because electronic switches do their switching with solid-state components, you have more control in advanced applications. For example, our AC-powered, code-operated, and fallback switches offer numerous options for out-of-band management of critical network resources. They give you the remote control your operation may need. You can control your high-end applications and sensitive equipment via computer, modem, or even touch-tone phone—a convenience simply not available with manual switches. collapse


Black Box Explains... Digital Optic Cable

Many new, high-quality Mini Disc, pro-audio, DAT (Digital Audio Tape), CD, DVD, and laser disc players, as well as digital amplifiers, DSS satellite receivers, and computer sound cards, are manufactured... more/see it nowwith digital optical output connectors.

These connectors attach to optical cables, which are constructed with a PVC jacket and a plastic core. The cables transfer information accurately over short distances via digital light signals with low loss and no distortion.

Digital optical cable with plastic-core construction is less expensive than fiber optic cable with a glass core, but it still provides the benefits of optical transmission over short distances.

Digital audio makes it possible to use high-quality digital-to-analog converters, which help to maintain the integrity of sound signals from high-end electronic devices.

The two types of connectors associated with digital optical transmission are TOSLINK®, a Toshiba® trademark, and the 3.5-mm Mini Plug connector. collapse


Black Box Explains...NEBS Level 3.

Network Equipment Building System (NEBS) standards set requirements for telco equipment. The standards are maintained by Telcordia Technologies, Inc., formerly Bellcore. Bellcore Special Report, SR-3580 defines three distinct functional levels... more/see it nowof NEBS compliance. The third of these levels, NEBS Level 3, is the most stringent, certifying carrier-class equipment intended for long-term use in variable environments.

NEBS Level 3 certifies that a piece of equipment can be safely used in an extreme environment. To become certified at NEBS Level 3, a device must meet strict physical, electrical, and environmental requirements to prove it will operate safely and reliably in extreme conditions. It must pass a series of tests that include extreme heat, humidity, fire, earthquakes (Zone 4), light, and noise. collapse


Black Box Explains...KVMoIP access technology.

KVMoIP access technology extends keyboard, video, and mouse (KVM) signals from any computer or server over TCP/IP via a LAN, WAN, or Internet connection. Through this KVM over IP (KVMoIP)... more/see it nowconnection, remote users can access and control a number of servers simultaneously from wherever they are, inside or outside the organization, and anywhere in the world. This technology works in diverse hardware environments and is ideal for managing multilocation data centers and branch offices.

These capabilities translate into real savings for companies having to deal with the proliferation of servers in many offices, particularly for corporations and government agencies required to deliver 24/7 uptime and real-time access to mission-critical servers 365 days a year.

KVMoIP products combine the advantages of remote access software with the benefits of KVM switching technology. Like most KVM switches, KVMoIP products don’t require any software to be loaded on the host computers. They interface directly with the keyboard, monitor, and mouse connectors of the host computer or KVM switch. Circuitry within the KVMoIP device digitizes the incoming video signal and processes it into digital data that is communicated to a viewer program running on a remote client computer over a LAN/WAN or the public Internet.

By addressing network issues from a remote location, you can simply manage issues from your desk, or even save yourself the hassle of traveling to a site in the middle of the night. Use a browser-based connection, even a cell phone or PDA, to reboot or administer a roomful of servers remotely—a real convenience.

KVMoIP products that feature virtual media technology take that convenience further. They enable a remote user to effortlessly move files from a mass storage device—a USB flash drive or CD-ROM drive, for instance—from your location to the computer on which you’re working. Cost savings are realized through reduced downtime and less travel. Plus, in some cases, there‘s no to need replace existing KVM switches with proprietary ones to get a KVMoIP server-control solution.

The Black Box difference
Black Box® ServSwitch™ KVMoIP solutions go further than many other KVMoIP products on the market. They not only enable you to access remote servers, but they do this at the BIOS level—important when you go need to troubleshoot from off-site and don’t want to a dispatch a technician. Install or recover software applications and install OS patches from your location anywhere in the world. Plus, this BIOS-level control is possible regardless of the server’s brand or model and even works if the operating system is down.

The ServReach™ system is also designed for IT managers seeking global centralized KVM management in a world of mushrooming servers and complexity. This global platform works by consolidating all server access and devices via locally connected KVMoIP devices. All this hardware is then united under a single management appliance or software “umbrella” providing global, yet fully secure, out-of-band control.

The ServReach system works seamlessly with more than 500 variations of analog KVM switches from a multitude of vendors and manufacturers. Because it’s vendor independent, you don’t need to replace your data center’s entire KVM infrastructure. ServReach simply grafts global centralized KVM management onto the existing server room/data center, aligning with third-party KVM switches already in place. This is done with the ServReach KVMGate (KVIP1000A), an IP gateway device designed to connect to each of the legacy KVM devices to provide global centralized KVM management for a fraction of the cost of competitive systems, ensuring a faster and greater ROI.

If you’re planning on opening or acquiring a new data center or a large number of new servers, the ServReach KVManager (KVMGR) is the answer. It can provide any-by-any access via the ServReach KVMCube (KVIP1001A), a compact, rackmountable, digital matrix IP device that gives fully secure, non-blocking access for any of the users to any of the servers simultaneously.

In addition, the servers controlled by legacy KVM switches via KVMGate can still be managed by the ServReach KVManager at the same time as the new servers controlled through a gateway. With all the servers under the same KVManager umbrella, data centers can now easily acquire new servers and devices without having to worry about how to incorporate the new infrastructure with the old. For more information on Black Box KVMoIP solutions, visit blackbox.com/go/ServReach. Find out more by watching a KVMoIP demo and accessing related white papers. collapse


Black Box Explains...Digital Visual Interface (DVI) connectors.

DVI (Digital Video Interface) is the standard digital interface for transmitting uncompressed high-definition, 1080p video between PCs and monitors and other computer equipment. Because DVI accommodates both analog and digital... more/see it nowinterfaces with a single connector, it is also compatible with the VGA interface. DVI differs from HDMI in that HDMI is more commonly found on HDTVs and consumer electronics.

The DVI standard is based on transition-minimized differential signaling (TMDS). There are two DVI formats: Single-Link and Dual-Link. Single-link cables use one TMDS-165 MHz transmitter and dual-link cables use two. The dual-link cables double the power of the transmission. A single-link cable can transmit a resolution ?of 1920 x 1200 vs. 2560 x 1600 for a dual-link cable.

There are several types of connectors: DVI-D, DVI-I, DVI-A, DFP, and EVC.

DVI-D (digital). This digital-only interface provides a high-quality image and fast transfer rates between a digital video source and monitors. It eliminates analog conversion and improves the display. It can be used when one or both connections are DVI-D.

DVI-I (integrated). This interface supports both digital and analog RGB connections. It can transmit either a digital-to-digital signal or an analog-to-analog signal. It can be used with adapters to enable connectivity to a VGA or DVI-I display or digital connectivity to a DVI-D display. If both connectors are DVI-I, you can use any DVI cable, but DVI-I is recommended.

DVI-A (analog) This interface is used to carry a DVI signal from a computer to an analog VGA device, such as a display. If one connection is DVI and the other is VGA HD15, you need a cable or adapter with both connectors.

DFP (Digital Flat Panel) was an early digital-only connector used on some displays.

EVC (also known as P&D, for Plug & Display), another older connector, handles digital and analog connections.

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Black Box Explains...DS-3 and DS-4

Digital signal (DS) speeds are used to classify the capacities of lines and trunks as designated by the Trunk (T) carrier systems. The most well-known T carrier system is the... more/see it nowNorth American T1 standard, which was originally designed to transmit digitized voice signals at 1.544 Mbps (DS-1). T carrier systems now carry digital data as well as voice transmissions.

DS-3 lines offer the functional equivalent of 28 T1 channels, operating at 44.736 Mbps (commonly rounded up to 45 Mbps). These lines handle up to 672 voice conversations and are used in high-speed interconnect and DS cross-connect (DSX) applications.

DS-4 offers 274.176 Mbps transmission—the same as 4032 standard voice channels—and has 168 times the capacity of T1. This performance level is generally used for carrier backbone networks.

Products offering DS-3 and DS-4 functionality comply with T3 and T4 standards, respectively, and with Bellcore GR-139-CORE specifications. collapse

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