The top five solutions to share serial port over Ethernet

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There are certain operational scenarios that may require you to convert back and forth between Ethernet IP/TCP packets and serial transmissions from devices using the RS232/RS422/RS485 protocols. To accomplish this feat you will often use a piece of hardware called a serial to Ethernet converter. This small device is also known as a serial device server and models are available in various sizes.

In this article, we will try to figure out how remote RS232 and other serial ports work and talk about the methods to convert RS232 to Ethernet, or in fact, convert any serial port over the network.




Serial to Ethernet converter - who is it for?

A Serial to Ethernet converter is usually used to enable a device with a serial interface to connect to a remote computer over a network. Many industrial and consumer devices are equipped with RS232/RS422/RS485 ports. By using an RS232 to Ethernet converter you can access and control remote printers, barcode scanners, industrial monitoring sensors, and any other network-attached serial device from one central location. This saves time and increases your efficiency.

To conveniently work with such equipment we need to access remote devices, and the easiest way to do it would be to convert a serial port over a network. Serial to Ethernet Converter is an electronic appliance or a specialized software which converts RS232, RS485 or RS422 serial data signals to TCP/IP packets. Both software and hardware Serial to Ethernet Converters works in the same way. The serial port signal goes to the network connection and it is being converted to the dedicated network protocol (TCP/IP/Ethernet). To receive this connection on the remote computer RS232 converter performs the opposite - converts network protocol to the serial signal again.

So, the importance of having RS232 to LAN Converter, when you work with serial devices, is obvious. And there are two ways to complete the remote access for your serial port device or app - software and hardware converters.

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Serial to Ethernet Connector

Connect serial ports over Ethernet
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Serial to Ethernet Connector

When it's not possible to physically connect a COM port peripheral to a hardware serial over Ethernet adapter, you can share the device using a serial over Ethernet software.

The application, Serial to Ethernet Connector, is not limited by the distance. It lets you connect to any number of remote COM ports from your computer regardless of their physical location. To access a serial device over the network, you only need to install the program on the server client sides, and configure connections.

With its help you get access to serial ports supporting various protocols, no matter where they are actually located. Now you can forget your worries about the length of the cable connecting your serial device and computer. Serial to Ethernet Converter allows you to display and access serial ports converted over network, as if they were on your local machine.

Here is your step-by-step guide on COM to Ethernet Converter software use:

  1. Follow this link to download the software, install it on both computers – the one that shares a serial port and the one that needs access to it.
  2. Launch the application on the computer that has the port to share, choose ‘Server’ connection in the app and customize settings, if required. Click ‘Create connection’ and open the port.
  3. Launch the application on the other computer and create ‘Client’ connection. Check that the hostname of the remote computer and the shared port number are identical to those set on the server. Click ‘Connect’.

That’s it, now you have full access to the functionality of the remote devices.

Hardware solutions to convert RS232 over IP

Hardware converters of RS232 over Ethernet are actually compact servers that connect autonomous devices with serial interface to Ethernet.

If you are going to work with serial ports over network protocols, there’s a good chance that you’ll need a special tool called serial to Ethernet adapter (known alternatively as serial over Ethernet connector or device server). This solution is designed to convert data received from a serial port into TCP/IP data. The tool provides users with the ability to fully interact with remote COM ports without having them physically present on their local machines. Any remote serial port can be shared and accessed over the network with the help of COM to Ethernet solution.

Serial to Ethernet Connector

The problem here is that just like any hardware solution, it has certain restrictions:

  • The number of converted devices is strictly limited by the converter’s specification. Manufacturers typically make converters with 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, or 32 ports.
  • Also note that not all converters provide simultaneous support to RS422/232/485 protocols. More often you have to choose one type of serial port protocol.
  • To display a serial device on your computer, you will need additional software to emulate virtual serial port.

  • How to set up RS232 to IP converter hardware:

    1. First, assign a static IP address to your computer.
    2. Prior to using a Serial to Ethernet hardware solution, you will be required to install a software driver on your computer. This driver software, which is often referred to as virtual COM software, is commonly included with your converter purchase. The software creates a virtual serial port that is visible in Device Manager when the converter is connected to the machine.
    3. Connect RS232 to Ethernet IP converter to your computer using either a standard Ethernet cable or crossover or straight-through cable. Connect it to the power supply.
      To check the connection, enter the converter’s IP address in your browser and press Enter. This should take you to Admin’s page, and if you do not see it, redo the setup procedure for the converter.
    4. Launch the software and click ‘Search’. Once your RS232 to TCP/IP converter is found, click ‘Create COM port’ button to create a virtual port.

    Now go to Device Manager on your computer – the newly created port should be displayed there. If it is nowhere to be seen, go back to the setup procedure.

    Choosing a decent network adapter from a wide variety of brands and configurations available today can be rather challenging, so we prepared a list of five most popular serial to Ethernet converters which stand out for their efficiency and ease of use.

    Serial to Ethernet Server by NetBurner

    NetBurner Serial to Ethernet Server is a popular hardware solution for converting serial data to Ethernet. The device comes with a virtual COM port utility that requires no programming experience to use. Designed for Windows OS, the program will help you access remote serial peripherals over the network. Inserted into a remote NetBurner server, a COM port device will appear in the Device Manager of your machine like it was connected to the PC physically. The pre-programmed hardware offers data converting functionality out of the box.
    Serial to Ethernet Server by NetBurner

    RS232 to Ethernet converter by Perle

    RS232 to Ethernet converter by Perle is another hardware adapter widely used for sharing COM ports over IP network. Perle’s Terminal Server will be a good choice for those working with RS-232 ports. The efficient Perle IOLAN converters are available in different cable connector types and offer customizable baud rates.
    RS232 to Ethernet converter by Perle

    SerialLynx solution

    To share serial device over Ethernet, you can also use Serial-to-Ethernet adapter by SerialLynx. The hardware unit of this solution converts serial data going through its COM ports into TCP/IP data, so that the data can be transmitted across wired or wireless Ethernet and received by a remote computer. With SerialLynx solution you can share up to two wired COM port peripherals. Serial communication is possible if a device is physically connected to a serial port of the hardware unit.
    SerialLynx solution

    Lantronix UDS1100 external device server

    UDS1100 is a single-port device server that lets access and control serial equipment over LAN or the Internet. This compact solution can support RS232, RS-422, or RS-485 interfaces and provides fast and reliable connection over Ethernet. Thanks to a built-in web server, the hardware can be configured right from your web-browser.
    UDS1100 external device server

    Conclusions

    Any of the adapters we have discussed will perform the task of conversion between serial and TCP/IP signals. The choice that offers the simplest solution is Eltima’s Serial to Ethernet Connector software. Most COM to Ethernet converters are hardware devices that also require you to install software drivers, complicating your setup. Serial to Ethernet Connector converts your transmission without the need for any additional hardware. Simply install the software and adjust a few settings and you are ready to go. Using this application from Eltima lets you see and access your remote devices as if they were physically connected to your computer.