RS232 serial cable connections are used to connect many different peripheral devices to computers. Some examples are surveillance cameras, laboratory instruments, barcode scanners, and electronic production-line monitoring sensors. Many computers have an RS232 serial port, with the exception of Mac machines which do not include one. Serial over network adapters can be obtained to allow serial devices to be connected to the remote machine.
The flexibility of the RS232 communication protocol has led to its wide popularity. There are many software and hardware solutions that have been developed for the protocol, ensuring that it will be in use for the foreseeable future.
Traditionally, communications between a serial device and a computer’s serial port required a direct, hard-wired cable connection. Serial over network communication was not an option. This simplistic connectivity model poses a number of limitations. The distance between your devices is dependent on the length of your cable.
Connecting multiple devices to a computer requires a separate cable and serial port for each one. Attempting to connect a serial device to more than one computer would lead to a tangle of cables and is almost impossible without a serial over network solution. Here is the list of the best serial over network solutions designed to streamline your work with serial devices.
1. Serial over Network sharing options
The engineers at Eltima Software developed Serial to Ethernet Connector to be a complete serial over network solution. It is a mature software application that has been on the market for many years. This software tool allows you to create multiple virtual serial ports on a computer that has no physical serial ports. It also lets you maintain serial over network communication with multiple devices no matter where they are located.
The number of virtual serial ports you can create is only limited by your system’s capacity. Serial over network communication is realized as data is transmitted to serial devices over the TCP/IP network. A program can then be connected to work with a serial device locally or by another program somewhere on the network.
The shared virtual COM ports that you create act identically to physical network serial ports for compatibility with all of your serial applications. This serial over network application is the perfect solution if you need to share a serial port over the network.
A simple solution that has a number of uses for working with the RS232 or TCP/IP protocol is TCP/COM. For example, it can be used to make your computer into a Serial Device Server. You can use it to send and receive information with any serial application that is using TCP/IP. Other uses include the ability to open remote COM ports as if they were local, sending data to multiple RS232 serial apps from a single physical serial port, and mapping one TCP/IP port to another one. Windows systems from 98 to Windows 10 (32 and 64 bit) are supported by TCP/COM.
If you need serial over network capabilities on the Windows OS another option is the application named FlexiHub.
Here is an overview of how to use this serial over network tool:
- Choose the number of connections you want here and launch FlexiHub.
- Сlick the ‘Sign up’ button in the top right corner to go to the Registration page.
- Register a free account by following the provided instructions.
- Open FlexiHub, and sign in with the login credentials you just created.
On the second computer, go to FlexiHub, locate the device you want to access, and click Connect.
You now have serial over network communication as your serial device is connected to a remote machine that can access and manage it as though it were connected locally.
4. Network Serial Port Kit
This is another serial over network software application designed to allow the user to share serial ports and devices either locally or over the network. This serial over network software tool lets you access remote serial devices from any location by enabling a physical COM port to be accessible by any network-connected computer. The program emulates the physical COM port internals so all of your virtual serial ports appear and act as though they were an actual physical port. You can access and share an unlimited number of serial devices with Network Serial Port Kit. The application supports Windows OS 32- and 64-bit.
Serial-TCP/IP is another serial over network program that can be used when you need to extend serial communications over TCP/IP. This tool allows you to access your existing TCP/IP control software remotely. It lets you analyze your TCP/IP network by using a number of built-in options such as "Ping", "Resolve IP Address / HostName", "COM Port State LEDs", and "Data Logging”. This application, similar to the other serial over network tools presented, is a great addition to the toolbox of serial software and hardware manufacturers. You can only use this software to test and debug your serial projects on Windows 8, 7, Vista, and XP (32 and 64 bits).
6. Advanced Virtual COM port
Advanced Virtual COM Port is a serial over network communications software application that offers features for working with network and local virtual COM ports. Your serial apps will be compatible with the virtual ports created by this app as they fully emulate physical ports. Up to 255 virtual ports can be created and monitored, and dynamic creation and deletion of ports can be accomplished without the need to reboot your machine. Advanced Virtual COM port supports Windows 2000 - Windows 8.1 (32 and 64-bit) and Windows Server 2012 R2. It also supports Windows CE versions: CE 5.0 (x86), CE 5.0 - 6.0 (arm), Mobile 2003 SE, and Mobile 5.0 - 6.5.
The Bottom line
Based on your individual needs for serial over network communication, one of the programs listed above may work for you. Some are freeware and some are commercial products that come with a cost. When using software tools, free is not always the best way to go. There are advantages to commercial products in that updates are regularly provided and technical support is available to help you use the serial over network software to its fullest potential.
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