Sep 27, 2016 Dennis Behrens
Communications technology is constantly evolving. A one-size-fits-all technology approach suited the needs for voice communications between employees in an age when the number of buttons and size of the phone was a status symbol. Fast forward to now, where employees have a myriad of options for each communication transaction – traditional to collaborative, landline to mobile, company-provided to consumer. The most empowering organizations focus on the experience of their users and clients, enabling choice.
These Unified Communications and Collaboration (UCC) solutions:
- are software driven
- can involve a single vendor or multiple technologies carefully stitched together, and
- can include the right mix of mobile, video, and software-based endpoints
However, at the core, many of the same communication building blocks of the past still exist. Specifically, we all have phone numbers so that we can be reached ubiquitously by anyone (sure – additional technologies can layer on top, like WebRTC, SIP URIs, and more).
When an organization chooses to migrate to a new UCC platform, typically a new underlying phone system is implemented. Although this new system promises to enable the new modern communication experience, the manner by which we get there has remained unchanged in decades.
That is, until now.
Traditional Approaches: Inconvenient, Inflexible, and Inefficient
The traditional approach to a phone system transition can happen in one of two manners:
- a flash cut, or
- a migration
A flash cut is quite simple – typically reserved for smaller solutions, the new system is configured and made ready. At that point, all users get moved to this new system in one event. Afterwards, the old system gets removed.
The migration approach can be more complex. It involves integrating the new and old systems, moving users in batches from old to new, and then removing the old system after all of the moves are completed. Moving the users becomes a focal point in the work effort. In most migration situations the following occurs:
- the vendor and client teams identify EXACTLY what devices are going to be part of a move
- the user data gets configured into the systems
- phones get installed in parallel (which can be mobile clients or softphones)
- the engineers that understand both systems perform a cutover and test over a weekend or evening
- the old phones get removed during another visit to each workstation
This age-old approach works. We’ve all been conditioned to accept it as the norm, the way consumers accepted the need to rewind VHS cassettes in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s. This approach of restarting a video still technically works, but is outdated in the world of Blu-ray and Netflix.
Black Box felt it was time to innovate.
bMigrate: Cutting-Edge System Migration
Why not perform cutovers for individual devices? Wouldn’t this reduce a significant amount of the planning, inflexibility, risk, and delay associated with telephony migrations? These are the exact questions that Black Box has answered with its bMigrate approach and software. bMigrate simplifies migration—providing an on-demand method for moving between phone systems by utilizing software automation to perform the migration work predictively. This approach transforms the experience for end users and technical teams alike:
- the technical teams no longer need to be EXACT about what devices are going to be transitioned and when
- the engineers that know both systems don’t need to be engaged for coordinated cutovers
- the end user no longer will have phones installed in parallel, reducing confusion
- testing can be performed AT THE ENDPOINT to assure everything works the first time
- endpoints can be installed at any time of the day and the cutover will only affect that specific user (This is especially helpful in 24x7 environments or where a user already has an IP phone.)
If your organization is considering an upcoming transition to a new UCC platform, how would you like it to be performed? Would you consider renting and rewinding a VHS video instead of streaming with Netflix?
It’s time to evolve.
To download more information about how bMigrate can work for you, visit our website.
Sep 15, 2016 Black Box
The benefits of collaborative work environments are countless—from saving time to more effective outcomes. Many organizations struggle trying to find the right solution for removing collaboration barriers and improving meeting effectiveness. Here are seven tips that may help your organization.
- Select a tool that is easy to use. Systems that are hard to set up and difficult to use will lead to system abandonment. Often, the first 5 or 10 minutes of a meeting is spent setting up. To avoid this costly time robber, look for a product with an intuitive user interface (UI) that requires little or no training to use and enables sharing within seconds.
- Be sure your solution can support any type of device. In a BYOD world, all types of devices can be found in a corporate conference room. Live stream desktop, apps, docs, images, and videos may be shared from any laptop, tablet, iOS, or Android device. This is particularly important as millennials enter the workforce.
- Offer both wired and wireless connectivity. Some devices require a wired connection while others can connect wirelessly. A solution that allows for both wired and wireless connectivity at the same time will eliminate any connection guesswork.
- Enable collaboration with people outside of your organization.
In many instances, people from outside of your business will want to share and collaborate with your team. To ensure the highest levels of security, look for a collaboration tool that has dual-network support. This means that internal team members are connected via your corporate network and visitors are connected via a guest network.
- Don’t limit the number or type of things can be shared. There may be times when the group needs to share multiple items at the same time for comparison. Being able to share an unlimited number of items is a great feature to look for when selecting the collaboration tool.
- Allow for an unlimited number of participants.
If your meetings typically have more than two to four people, you’ll need to look for a system that allows an unlimited number or users.
- Provide for meeting moderation.
In some instances, a team member may need to be able to manage the meeting and control who shares what and when. There are collaboration tools with multiple-use modes that enable different types of meeting moderation including open, password, screen key, and line of site.
Black Box can help you design a collaboration system that will create a collaborative environment and enhance meeting efficiency and effectiveness. Contact us today to find the solution that’s right for you.
- Select a tool that is easy to use. Systems that are hard to set up and difficult to use will lead to system abandonment. Often, the first 5 or 10 minutes of a meeting is spent setting up. To avoid this costly time robber, look for a product with an intuitive user interface (UI) that requires little or no training to use and enables sharing within seconds.
Sep 6, 2016 Kathy Brahan
Software Defined Networks, the Internet of Things, Big Data—these technology trends are taking the business world by storm. How do they fit into your comprehensive IT strategy?
We can help you figure that out.
For the last 40 years, Black Box has guided and enabled our customers to stay ahead of the information technology curve while growing and adapting with the times—providing state-of-the-art solutions for positive business outcomes. But many Black Box customers who leverage our solutions don’t know about our rich history, and only know about some of our areas of expertise.
Whether deploying agile, mobile-first networking solutions, providing secure, unrestricted access to the Cloud, harnessing the power of the Internet of Things (IoT), or enabling virtual collaboration, Black Box partners with our clients to set the pace in the IT world. We’re helping clients connect their things in IoT networks—improving efficiency in manufacturing, reducing medical errors in hospitals, and enabling comprehensive management of anything connected to a network. Our Federal Team works closely with government agencies to develop SDN solutions that are receiving recognition for being innovative and effective. Our state-of-the-art display technology is used by customers in all industries to support Big Data visualization—communicating complexity through real-time, high-definition video walls.
To learn more about how this small start-up has grown to be a major force in delivering IT solutions—and how we can work to advance your IT strategy—watch our latest video, Leave the Tech to Us, and visit us at www.blackbox.com
Aug 30, 2016 Black Box
If you’re in need of a rapid deployment or are concerned about the quality of your field terminations, pre-terminated fiber may be something to consider. Here are the top five advantages of using pre-terminated fiber:
- Lower Total Cost – Our studies have shown that a pre-terminated fiber assembly can reduce overall installation costs by nearly 50% (or more) for (1) 12-strand pre-terminated fiber assembly. By eliminating rework, realizing termination efficiencies, eliminating transmission testing, and all but eliminating the need for termination equipment and consumables, pre-terminated fiber can drastically reduce the overall cost of installation.
- Quick-Turn Manufacturing - Quick turn manufacturing can get you a pre-terminated fiber assembly within one or two days. Pre-terminated fiber is great to help meet short project deadlines and increase the overall speed of deployment. Eliminate 3rd party suppliers and go to THE SOURCE. You no longer have to wait one, two, or even three weeks to get your custom fiber assemblies.
- Faster Deployments – Designed for rapid deployment, pre-terminated fiber cabling eliminates the need for field terminations. This reduces the labor required which in turn enables you to complete the job sooner. You’ll need to do some up front planning, but once you receive your cable, you’re ready to go.
- Proven Performance – Mission critical fiber optic networks require the highest level of care when it comes to cable assembly. Field terminations often compromise the overall quality of the cable because of poor air quality, inefficient end face polishing, and poor cleaning and testing protocol. Pre-terminated fiber assemblies should be manufactured in a clean room and go through a series of inspections, including multiple end-face inspections and certification to specific insertion loss/return loss thresholds.
- Online Configuration - Ordering a custom pre-terminated fiber cable can be surprisingly easy. Most manufacturers of pre-terminated fiber cable, including Black Box, offer online configurators and SKU building tools. While you’ll need to plan ahead in terms of lengths, connectors, and other options, you can actually plug in what you want and get a SKU in a matter of seconds. One of the advantages of Black Box’s online configurator compared to other configurators is that you actually get a price and can order right then and there instead of calling in and requesting a quote. If you need help configuring a pre-terminated cable, please take advantage of Black Box’s free 24/7 tech support.
Aug 26, 2016 Black Box
What are Industrial Switches?
Industrial Networking Switches are computer networking devices aimed at establishing inter-connectivity between industrial devices such as PLCs, HVAC equipment, security cameras, and control room computers or servers. These types of switches are built for mission‑critical applications and are designed to withstand extreme temperatures and harsh conditions in a multitude of environments from factory floors to traffic controls. Typically they feature compact panel mount or DIN rail mount packages with convection cooling rather than fans, and low voltage DC rather than AC power.
Managed Industrial Switches
Managed Switches are oriented towards redundancy, offering real-time targeted communications through built-in protocols that enhance determinism and provide stable and consistent flow of data. These switches provide QoS (Quality of Service) which can prioritize bandwidth for data subsets, allowing more bandwidth to be allocated through the network to ensure IP data comes in smoothly, obtaining the sensor data without an interruption using minimal bandwidth. Managed switches also provide additional protocols like RSTP (Rapid Spanning Tree Protocol) allowing alternate cabling paths to prevent loop situations, which are usually responsible for network malfunction.
Benefits of Managed Switches
These switches excel for a vast array of features such as PoE capabilities, extended temperature ranges, DC power, and additional flexible SFP-slots with DIN rail mounting options. In short, they add value in:
- Network redundancy (network back-up plan):These switches offer the ability to run redundant power supplies, so that when a surge takes out one of the power supplies, the switch keeps on running as if nothing happened on the second power supply, suppressing any down time. By offering resilient ring protocols, it allows for alternate data paths if a link or node goes down.
- Remote management: Mission critical networks demand remote configuration, monitoring/traps, reboot, and re-imaging of OS. If there is a network issue, operators prefer to remotely diagnose and fix the problem, maximizing uptime. The SNMP protocol allows you to visualize and maintain an entire network remotely, providing real-time data at every node. With SNMP, it’s possible to collect, organize, and modify information from each switch to change the device’s behavior without having to go through a web console or to conduct mass firmware upgrades.
- Security and Resilience: Limiting network access to trusted devices prevents users from setting up unauthorized sub-networks. Managed switches enable complete control of data, bandwidth and traffic control over the Ethernet network, allowing you to set IP/port restrictions on actual physical ports. This means you can setup additional firewall rules directly in the switch. In all, managed switches support protocols which allow operators to restrict and control port access, like the 802.1x port based network access control. In addition, managed switches support protocols to limit management plane access via user authentication such as RADIUS, LDAP and others.
- RSTP (Rapid Spanning Tree Protocol): Managed switches incorporate RSTP which provides path redundancy in the network and prevents loops, allowing one active path at a time between two network devices so that there is less downtime.
- SFP (Small Form-Factor Pluggable): The benefit of having multi-rate SFP slots is that the possibility of flexible network expansion allows users to use 100Mbps and 1Gbps SFP Modules for either multi or single-mode fibre optic or copper cable and mix and match as needed. If requirements change, the SFP module can be replaced and easily protect your investment.
- Support multiple VLAN as per requirement: Managed switches allow for the creation of multiple VLANs where 8-port switch functionally can become two 4-port switches (where ports 1-4 are VLAN 1 and ports 4-8 are VLAN 2). It’s possible to allow VLANs to talk to the router/NAT, while preventing them from talking to each other. You could lock down the wireless VLAN to only allow port 80/443 or similar so they can browse the web but nothing else.
- Prioritize bandwidth for data subsets: The switches are able to prioritize one type of traffic over another allowing more bandwidth to be allocated through the network (voice and video streaming, for example).
- Resilient ring protocols: Allows alternate data paths in the event a link or node goes down.
In applications such as an IP security camera backhaul, it is not practical nor economical to deploy hub and spoke topology since each node has a direct connection to the core aggregation node. With a ring network topology it’s possible to allow a loop to be constructed and avoid additional fiber trenching costs.
When and Where to use Industrial Managed Switches?
Managed switches are suitable for networks that have applications with fast response time requirements at companies that need to allowing engineers to reach optimal reliable network performance and maintenance by managing and troubleshooting networks remotely and securely.
These switches are robust and appropriate for Industrial Network settings, made to stand up to harsh applications like extreme temperatures (-40 up to +75°), vibrations and shocks while contributing to a cost-effective, reliable, and secure network. Managed switches should be used on any network backbone switch so that segments of network traffic can be monitored and controlled such as:
- Defense/government applications
- Water/waste water
Black Box Industrial Network Switches
Black Box Industrial Network Switches are designed for the far edges of an industrial network, delivering an easy and cost-effective way of integrating legacy networks and eliminating the need for additional configurations and modifications which reduces deployment time. These switches allow redundancy in mission-critical systems by rerouting the traffic over a backup link within milliseconds overcoming situations like interruption of traffic control system communication in some infrastructures.
Additionally, they are characterized by a DIN rail feature which is an effective mounting option that offers a metal rail of a standard type widely used for mounting circuit breakers and industrial control equipment within equipment racks.
Our customers are very satisfied with the Industrial Gigabit Ethernet Switches. Uses include strengthening substations’ network connections, effectively increasing electric energy distribution, and monitoring and controlling security camera functions in the field.
These switches are extremely easy to install, however if you should need help, our specialized technical support staff can advise you with individually optimized applications, completely free of charge. Learn more about our Tech Support Center by visiting our Black Box Tech Support Center page.
To find out more about our industrial switch solutions, please visit our online store.
Aug 15, 2016 Harry Ostaffe
Five Types of Video Walls for Control Rooms
The majority of control rooms have some sort of large display wall, whether a single or multiple screens, tiles, or projectors. This helps to create large-scale visualization and a common operating picture for everyone in the control room.
There are several ways to implement video walls for control rooms depending on the level of complexity and budget. The purpose of this post is a focus on the video processing aspects of the video wall, not on the display technologies. To help put different options in perspective, the following descriptions are provided for comparison.
Basic Video Walls
The Monitor Wall is the simplest form of video wall as it is just a collection of individual monitors. Each piece of content is limited to a single screen and cannot be scaled across multiple screens. A monitor wall can be driven by dedicated sources, or it could be front-ended with a matrix switch (AV or KVM) to switch content on the screens. Alternatively, an IP-based matrix can provide significant scale for switching the number of potential inputs in a distributed manner while avoiding a centralized matrix chassis.
A Quad-Screen Wall is a 2x2 video wall on which a single input is scaled across all four monitors. The wall could be front-ended with a matrix switch (AV or KVM) or even just a small presentation switcher if the number of inputs is limited. Alternatively, an IP-based matrix can provide significant scale for switching the number of potential inputs in a distributed manner while avoiding a centralized matrix chassis.
Intermediate Video Walls
A Multi-Window Video Wall can support content that scales across multiple screens, can be larger than a 2x2, but the content windows are limited to screen sizes. For example, with a 4x4 wall, up to four 2x2 windows could be displayed, or a 3x3 window with 7 additional single screen windows, or the entire 4x4 could be a single window. Or, there could be two 2x2 windows with eight additional single screen windows. An IP-based matrix solution is a very easy and low cost way to implement this type of video wall.
Multi-View Video Wall
A Multi-View Video Wall is driven by a multi-viewer, which is a video processor that provides a limited number of pre-designed layouts for a single output. Options typically range from 4-8 windows. A multi-viewer can be used when the number of windows and scalability of a larger video wall processor is not required. A multi-viewer can also be coupled with a projector or quad-screen wall processor to increase the viewing size.
Advanced Video Wall
An Advanced Video Wall is one that supports a large number of screens of different form factors (e.g. 2x2, 3x2, 6x3, etc.) and offers a canvas-type display interface on which numerous content windows can be dynamically moved or resized. Advanced video wall processors support dozens of screens and numerous types of video inputs. The processor can also support native decoding of IP streams for displaying large numbers of streams from IP-based security cameras, and can also support encoding of video sources for sharing to additional sites or users. Advance wall processors can typically drive more than one video wall from the same system.
Below is a summary of several features and capabilities of the different type of video wall processors used in control rooms.
Control Room Video Wall Types
Multi-Window Video Wall
Multi-View Video Wall
Advanced Video Wall
1 per screen
One for the entire wall
Multiple sizes, typically limited to 4x4
Only limited by practical viewing size
Limited to single screens
One image across all screens
Limited to screen boundaries
All windows on a single video output, but can feed into other wall processors.
Windows can be freely moved and resized anywhere on the screen
Yes, limited to screen boundaries (e.g. increase a 2x2 to 3x3)
Yes, typically based on pre-set window layouts but PiP and Windowed views can be scaled.
Yes. Any window can be any size.
Video Input Types
Limited. Monitor inputs type limit options unless driven by a flexible matrix switch.
Limited. Typically a single video type such as HDMI, DVI, or DispalyPort
Limited, but modular processors typically support multiple input types.
Limited, but modular multi-viewers typically support multiple input types.
Typically support all standard video types including VGA, Component, Composite, DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort, SDI, and IP.
Black Box Product
With the range of capabilities for video wall processors, it may be difficult to distinguish which type is most appropriate for your needs. In addition, there may be some other components needed to create a complete solution. Black Box provides expert engineering support to design a solution that meets your technical and budgetary requirements. Contact our technical team today for a free, customized system design.
Jul 13, 2016 Robie Szyper
28-AWG cable has been gaining many fans and is becoming a more popular choice, especially in high-density data centers and telecom rooms. It offers users a number of advantages, but also comes with some disadvantages, which I will review in this post.
First, what is 28-AWG cable? It’s patch cable made with thinner, 28-AWG, stranded copper conductors as opposed to traditional patch cables made with thicker 24- or 26-AWG conductors.
Here are some of the advantages as to why you may choose 28-AWG cable as well as some of it disadvantages.
Advantage 1: Space savings. With a typical diameter of only 0.161” (4.1 mm), 28-AWG cable is almost half the size of a typical 24-AWG cable at 0.22” (5.9 mm). This gives you a lot of extra space in cable managers and in pathways. The difference can be dramatic, as shown in this photo of a bundle of 28-AWG cable compared to a bundle of 24-AWG cable.
Advantage 2: Improved airflow.
28-AWG cables are much thinner than traditional 24-AWG cables, so they take up less space in front of patch panels and network equipment resulting in improved air flow and cooling on equipment.
Advantage 3: Easier handling. There’s more space between patched 28-AWG cables, so the cable is much easier to handle. You will find there’s more space for your fingers when doing installs and MACs. Also, it’s much easier to identify port assignments on equipment.
Advantage 4: Fewer cable managers. 28-AWG cables are much less bulky and offer improved flexibility compared to 24-AWG cables. Because of that, you can reduce the number of horizontal cable managers you need, or possibly eliminate them entirely. You will also gain up to 50% more space in vertical cable managers.
Advantage 5: Conserve rack space. You will be able to put more cables in high-density 1U or 2U patch panels freeing up valuable rack units.
Advantage 6: Price 28-AWG cable has less copper in its conductors, so it should cost less than traditional 24-/26-AWG cable, at least Black Box cable costs less. This can add up to significant savings when setting up and patching high-density telecom rooms and data centers with hundreds of cables.
Disadvantage 1: 568-C.2 Currently, 28-AWG cable does not comply with the TIA 568-C.2 standard. The standard specifies 22-AWG to 26-AWG conductors. When the standard is next revised, this may change. When thinking about purchasing 28-AWG cable, check and see if it complies with the standard’s performance requirements, which Black Box’s cable does.
In terms of performance, thinner 28-AWG conductors will increase insertion loss, which is not a good thing. Thinner conductors actually increase NEXT and PS-NEXT because there is less copper in the jacket. Higher NEXT is a good thing in terms of cable performance. Here’s the formula for cable performance.
Bandwidth = NEXT - Insertion Loss
Disadvantage 2: A shorter channel. 28-AWG cable does not support the 100-meter channel as specified in 568-C.2. The overall channel is shorter, but not by much. For example, if you have 90 meters of 23-AWG horizontal cabling, you need to reduce your patch cords on each end to three meters instead of five meters, for a total channel of 96 meters. If you keep the five meter patch cords on each end, you’ll need to reduce your horizontal cabling to 83 meters.
There is a channel-length formula you can use to calculate the maximum overall channel length.
(Patch cable length x De-rating of patch cable) + (Horizontal cable length x De-rating of horizontal cable) = <102 meters
- 28-AWG stranded = 1.9
- 24-AWG Stranded = 1.2
- 24-/23-AWG Solid = 1.0
Because of this, you are better off trying to keep your patch cable lengths as short as possible.
Disadvantage 3: Heat build-up. Heat can build up more easily in 28-AWG cable bundles because the cables are thinner. To counteract this, you’ll need to reduce the size of your cable bundles to stay within the 15° C temperature rise outlined in TSB-184.
Recommended cable bundle sizes are:
IEEE 802.3 af/at (PoE, PoE+): Up to 48 cables
IEEE 802.3 bt (PoE ++): Up to 24 cables
Disadvantage 4: Traditional RJ-45 plugs not supported. 28-AWG patch cable has a thinner, smaller internal insulated wire. That means standard RJ-45 plugs will fit more loosely under the gold-blade contact. Pre-terminated patch cables, such as Black Box’s, use a custom RJ-45 plug to provide a snug fit. We do not recommend modifying or re-terminating this cable.
Summary 28-AWG cables offer a great alternative to traditional 24-AWG cable, especially in high-density telecom rooms and data centers where rack space is at a premium. The thinner, .161”diameter is almost half the size of a 24-AWG cable so it’s ideal for saving space, reducing clutter, and improving airflow. It’s easier to handle, so the need for cable managers can be reduced or eliminated. It also costs less than traditional cable.
With almost 50% more space between cables, you’ll like working with 28-AWG cable. It’s much easier to get your fingers in between the cables for patching; easier to identify port designations; and easier to route cables.
While 28-AWG cable is not supported in the TIA 568-C.2 standard, it is a smart alternative for short patches. You can also use 28-AWG on one end and 24-AWG cable on the other end.
Black Box offers 28-AWG cable for CAT6 and CAT6A in seven lengths and seven colors.
Jul 5, 2016 Harry Ostaffe
For emergency situations, response time can literally be a matter of life or death.
For example, a study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) concluded that mortality risk was more than three times higher (1.58% vs. 0.51%) for patients whose response time exceeded five minutes vs. those whose response time was under five minutes.
Having access to the right information, being able to make good decisions, and taking prompt action are vital for 911 emergency response operators. There are over 6,000 Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) in the U.S., and unfortunately, there are far too many 911 operations centers with sub-optimal operator (call taker) set-ups. With the need to access so much information, 911 operator desktops typically have four or more monitors at their workspace. These monitors are often connected to local desktop PCs, with each monitor and PC having a separate keyboard.
This type of set-up is inefficient, distracting, and a source of unneeded fatigue for the operator by:
- Creating confusion as to which keyboard and mouse to use for which system.
- Interrupting the workflow by having to physically switch to a different keyboard and mouse.
- Delaying response by having to swivel, roll, or reach in order to access the correct keyboard and mouse.
- Creating unneeded distraction by having additional noise and heat sources nearby from the local PCs.
So, how can this situation be improved? There are two separate issues that can be solved with KVM technology – the operational impact of having multiple keyboards, and the distraction of noise and heat from the local PCs.
Single Keyboard and Mouse Solution
One way to have a single keyboard and mouse is to have just one PC with a multi-head graphics card that can output to four or more monitors. While this may be a low cost and relatively simple solution to implement, the challenge with this situation is that all applications are running on a single PC, which can reduce performance for all applications and also cause the loss of all applications if (when) the system needs to be rebooted. The worst time of course would be from a system lock-up during a live call.
It’s far more common for 911 call takers to have multiple PCs, one for each application. This reduces the risk that should any particular PC lock up or fail, the other ones will still be operating. This set-up typically results in the 911 call taker having multiple keyboards and mice on their workspace.
A possible solution is with special software installed on each computer in a multi-PC set-up. In this scenario, one PC acts as the primary and the others as secondary systems. This approach can be risky due to the inter-dependency created between PCs and potential for lock-ups that require rebooting. This type of solution may be suitable for low-performance and low-use applications, but definitely not for a 24x7 mission-critical operation like a 911 call center.
Traditional desktop KVM switches are an improvement over software-based solutions, but typically require the operator to push a button to switch between systems. While this is an improvement over physically switching keyboards and mice, it still introduces delay to the operator workflow.
For multi-PC set-ups, the most efficient solution is to use a dedicated external KVM switch specially designed for high-performance applications like control rooms and operations centers. The Black Box Freedom II desktop KVM switch enables a single keyboard and mouse to operate all systems, even if they have different operating systems, or different versions of the same operating system (e.g. a combination of Windows 7, 8, and 10). The Freedom II switch provides instantaneous switching from system to system just by moving the mouse from screen to screen. There are no buttons to push, no switching delays and no software to install. Operation is seamless. Since there is no dependency between systems, a solution with Freedom II also enables operators to have a PC connected to the internet for outside information that is isolated from the critical 911 systems, but also accessible from the same keyboard and mouse. This “air-gap” approach prevents outside threats from impacting internal systems.
The Freedom II switch not only supports a combination of screen layouts such as 1x4 across or 2x2, but also different screen sizes (e.g. one large on top, three smaller on bottom). An optional LED light kit helps the operator to easily identify which screen contains the cursor should they stop using the mouse for a period of time. There is simply no better solution for improving 911 operator multi-PC desktops than the Black Box Freedom II switch.
Click here to watch: http://www.slideshare.net/blackboxns/freedom-multipc-desktop-kvm-switch
Removing the Heat and Noise Distractions
911 operators are under tremendous stress and additional distractions could lower performance. Two distractions that are easily removed from the operator workspace are heat and noise from local PCs. Locating PCs in an area removed from the users requires KVM extension since native video and USB signals have limited distances. With KVM extenders, PCs can be removed from the operator’s workspace and placed in a secure server room. This not only removes the heat and noise generated by the equipment, but also provides the IT team with a more accessible way to perform some types of system maintenance. KVM extenders can use dedicated CATx or fiber cable to carry the signals, or the signals can be extended over Ethernet (LAN).
Read our latest case study about how a 911 call center simplified desktops and improved operator response times.
Please visit our website to learn more about solutions for 911 call centers and emergency operations centers. Black Box can help you design a control room for your application.
Jul 1, 2016 Kathy Brahan
First in a two-part series
With today’s BYOD, virtual office, and millennial expectations, many companies are realizing that it is in their best interests to install their own facility-wide Distributed Antenna System (DAS) for employee, vendor, and customer smarthphones, and other wireless devices. This capital-intensive project should following a set of well-defined practices to insures your company’s IT investment is well spent. But where do you start?
Staking Claim: DAS Needs, Wants, and Must-Haves One of the best places to start conceptualizing a DAS is with the people who will depend on it. Internal and external stakeholder input will help you identify any real-world problems immediately--helping to define the parameters and specifications for your system.
Critical company users need to have their wireless needs fulfilled. For employees, these can range from “my cell phone always drops in the cafeteria” (most likely a coverage problem) to “my cell phone makes calls fine in my office but data is always so SLOW” (possibly a capacity problem) to “my colleague’s phone works great, but mine doesn’t” (lack of multi-carrier support).
Specific needs should also be considered:
- How will customers, patients, travelers, and others interact with the wireless network and what are their expectations for supported commercial carriers (AT&T, Verizon, etc.), compatibility and usability?
- Does Operations have a private radio system that needs to be supplemented in certain areas?
- Does a new construction project require public-safety coverage to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy?
- Is there instrumentation (e.g. heart monitors, wireless kiosks, registers) that needs to be monitored wirelessly in the facility?
- Are there IT or sales and marketing programs that need to be promoted using the system?
By evaluating all stakeholder needs, your DAS solution can be tailored to address existing and future coverage, capacity, and criticality demands. This is an important investment. Your company should get the biggest bang for its buck.
Faces of Change: Leaders and Champions A well thought-out DAS solution is not a quick undertaking. It will take a committed leader within the organization to oversee the project, and most likely, a corporate sponsor to interface with multiple internal groups and to move the project through all necessary approval gates. The project leader can come from any part of the business, but generally he or she is in the Facilities or IT department. Both the project leader and sponsor will need to focus on continued stakeholder communications—like status updates and progress reports—to ensure success and buy-in.
Dollars and Sense Available capital will impact the type of solution you choose. Once your true wireless needs for the building are identified, the total price of that solution can be calculated. Like other IT investments, the initial monetary outlay may be higher than initially anticipated.
So, what if the price of the desired solution is more than your available budget? Here are several options:
Scaling: Consider scaling back the project. Has your team specified a Cadillac when a Chevrolet would be fine? Be realistic and be practical. See if scaling back services will get you back to your available budget. For example, think about supporting two, instead of all, commercial carriers.
Phasing: Look at staging the project in phases. If the services required are too expensive to do throughout the total coverage area, examine doing the most critical areas of the building first. Then provide additional coverage as funds become available. An alternative to this phased-in approach may be to stage services within the entire structure. For example, a business that needs public safety in a new structure might do that layer first, and follow it up with commercial carrier services at a later time, as the budget allows.
Working with a qualified system integrator is key to making tradeoffs for both scaling and staging.
Partner-Picking Protocol The right integration partner will make a project go well, while the wrong integration partner can make a project challenging. A good partner should not rush your decision, but rather, be available to answer all of your questions and provide a comprehensive assessment of your needs. Your integration partner should have experience and knowledge addressing all requirements: commercial carrier services, public safety, private radio networks. This includes interaction WI-FI.
References are very important. The scope and resources involved warrant a thorough vetting of the partner you select. It is a good idea to ask for references from other clients who have installed similar solutions in the same vertical industry. IT solutions ideal in a healthcare environment differ vastly from those required in retail. It is important that your solutions partner understands your specific business/implementation or technology requirements. If a reference from your vertical is not available, get two:
- one that generally aligns with your business needs to confirm that implementation requirements are well understood, and
- one that required similar technology (commercial, private radio, public safety, and Wi-Fi) to assure technical requirements are understood and supported by the partner
Avoid Last-Minute Surprises: Carrier Requirements Vary Any enterprise customer may purchase and install a DAS, but to rebroadcast the signals of the commercial wireless carriers, the enterprise must have the commercial wireless carriers’ expressed permission. To obtain that permission, all of the commercial wireless carriers will expect the DAS to meet minimum performance measurements to insure their subscribers’ experience on the enterprise’s DAS is consistent with their own network standards.
Unfortunately, there is no universal answer to what those standards are. You can think of a commercial wireless network like a constantly growing and evolving organism. Requirements in one location may be entirely different than those in another location – even if the sites are only miles apart. These variances are due to terrain, building structure, proximity to cell sites, building capacity, and host of other factors.
A good systems integrator will confirm specifications and requirements with each wireless carrier. This critical step helps to ensure that commercial wireless carriers will allow the rebroadcast of their signals when the time comes. Otherwise, a costly and lengthy process—including substantial rework of the DAS—may be required to meet the specifications post-development.
So... A well-planned and executed DAS is a long-term project that requires assistance and buy-in from many internal groups. Major considerations include budget, users’ needs and expectations, partner capabilities, and carrier considerations. But we’re not done yet. Stay tuned for Part 2.
Jun 22, 2016 Robie Szyper
ISTE, the premier Ed Tech conference and expo, with 16,000 attendees and 500 exhibitors, will be here before you know it. We thought we would give you a sneak preview of the new and exciting solutions Black Box will be showcasing. All of our smart IT solutions are designed to move classrooms into the future.
Black Box’s award-winning Charging and Storage Carts for iPad® tablets and Chromebook™ laptops will be on display. Black Box offers the Ed Tech community one of the most affordable solutions for mobile-device management, with carts that start at $799.
New options on display include the Intelligent Charging System, which reduces energy costs and device charge time. The new Basket Distribution System provides portable, convenient and quick device management and distribution.
For the upcoming school year, Black Box offers the industry’s largest selection of in-stock carts at the most competitive prices. All are ready to ship and include free shipping
Learn more about the carts. Watch these demo videos.
Black Box offers other resources for storage-device rollouts, including tips, guides, white papers, and an online selector.
Need fast delivery? Check out this success story on how we delivered 1,300 carts over the summer to the 18th largest school district in the country.
Classroom Collaboration Solutions
Black Box continues to expand its digital classroom portfolio with the following Ed Tech solutions.
Coalesce™ Wireless Collaboration System
Encourage involvement and idea sharing with Coalesce™ Wireless Collaboration System. It enables an unlimited number of students to share an unlimited number of ideas from any device—wirelessly and simultaneously. It’s easy to set up and even easier to use. With touchscreen simplicity and simultaneous wired and wireless connectivity, you’ll be able to share ideas without barriers. Bring your own device and try it at the Black Box booth: 1141.
Best-in-Classroom Presentation Switchers
Easily connect, extend, and switch any wired video device to any classroom or auditorium display with Black Box Presentation Switchers. These all-in-one switchers/scalers support resolutions up to 4K (UHD), upscale/downscale video to match the display resolution, and support all standard video formats, including DisplayPort, HDMI, DVI, and VGA.
Classroom/Auditorium Room Control Solutions
ControlBridge gives you one touch control of classroom and auditorium AV and room equipment. With a touch of a button, lower a project screen, dim the lights, and close the window shades. Stop by the booth at ISTE and see how easy it is to use.
Try Black Box Solutions at ISTE
To save time, schedule an appointment at ISTE with one of our technical experts. Call 1-877-877-2269 (BBOX) or set up a demo.