In the business world, it is a common practice to share data among individuals or teams. In some cases, this data is stored on media that requires access to a USB device. Sometimes the actual device can be shared, but this requires a lot of work to connect and disconnect the device to all users’ computers. Due to the number of machines or their locations, this can be very inefficient or impossible.
A better solution is to find a way to share a smart card reader or another type of peripheral using USB over Ethernet technology. By using the network to share USB devices, you eliminate the need for cabling and physically moving the equipment within range of users’ machines. Both software and hardware products will allow you to share a smart card reader over Ethernet. We are going to take a look at a few of them so you can see which one works in your particular situation.
Sharing a smart card reader with USB sharing software
USB over Ethernet Connector is a software solution that enables you to share any kind of USB device over an IP-based network. The application, which is also known as USB Network Gate, enables a computer’s USB ports to be shared over a network. This lets you share any attached peripheral such as a smart card reader over Ethernet connections.
USB Network Gate can be used in Remote Desktop (RDP) sessions to attach to USB devices remotely. Once the connection is established, the RDP user has full control over the attached peripheral and can use it like it had a direct, physical connection. USB Network Gate also provides the capability to use devices connected to a host machine’s USB ports from within a virtual session.
USB Network Gate
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Here are the details needed to share a smart card reader using USB Network Gate:
Download the application and install it on the computer that has the USB smart card reader attached to it. This will be known as the server. The app also needs to be installed on each client machine that will remotely access the peripheral device. The program will display two tabs once it’s installed: Share Local USB Devices and Remote USB Devices. Clicking the gearwheel icon next to Share enables you to modify the port number being used, implement encryption, and make other configuration changes for the connection.
When the installation is completed you are ready to share devices. You need an external IP address if you plan on sharing the equipment over the Internet. On the server machine, select the ‘Share Local USB Devices’ tab and locate the device you want to access. Immediately upon clicking the Share button the card reader will be recognized across the network and be made available to the remote client computers.
USB Network Gate can be used to enable a user in an RDP session to access the shared smart card reader. Since you are sharing the USB port and not the actual device, any peripheral attached to the interface can be used in the Remote Desktop session. Usually, when you connect to an RDP session you lose connectivity to the USB devices connected to the local machine. You can solve this problem with USB Network Gate.
The application needs to be installed on the two machines that will be sharing the device. The local machine which has the Microsoft RDP client protocol needs the server portion of USB Network Gate installed. The Remote Desktop connection acts as the client for the RDP protocol. The server component is Terminal Server which should be active on the remote machine that will share the card reader. The USB Network Gate client component needs to be installed on this computer. Connectivity can now be established from within the RDP session to access the shared USB port.
Sharing the smart card reader from within a virtual machine is also easily accomplished using USB over Ethernet software. This can be very helpful when you run into limitations in the number of USB ports available to the VM. The host machine’s USB interfaces are made available to the virtual session with USB Network Gate.
All you need to do is download and install USB Network Gate with the server portion on the physical host machine and the client in the virtual session. Then, simply share the device from the server and use the client to establish a remote connection.
Windows, Mac, and Linux versions offer a true cross-platform solution for sharing USB devices remotely.
Easily access USB devices remotely over a network or from within RDP or virtual sessions.
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USB Network Gate is a paid solution. You can take advantage of a 14-day trial version that lets you determine if the app’s functionality is what you need before committing to purchasing the product.